I felt like a teenage girl breaking up with her boyfriend just before they both leave for college. I was uncomfortable and stared at the ground, saying, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” When I looked up at my sweet director, I saw tears beginning to well up in her eyes...just a little. Maybe in my eyes, too...just a little.
It was May, and the school year was wrapping up. About a month prior, I’d gotten an email about a teaching job I had applied for months ago. I was surprised – mainly because I had forgotten that I’d applied for it. They asked me to come in for an interview, and then for another after that. By mid-May, I had accepted a job offer and was ready to give a one-month notice to my school. After talking to myself on my morning commute each day for a week and rehearsing with my teacher friend several times, the moment of truth arrived. I walked into my director’s office, talked about something unrelated, and then got the courage to drop the bomb. I explained that I was getting older, and I couldn’t wait for opportunities to come along years from now. The new job was closer to my home. I was in graduate school at ACE, and my coursework and research helped me realize that literacy education was where I wanted to be. I had many good reasons, yet I still felt like I was abandoning my family, even though I knew deep down that I needed to go and that they would be just fine without me.
When you’re a teacher, and you feel connected to the faculty and families at your school, when and how do you leave? Here are just a few things to consider as you progress through your teaching career.
1. Time moves quickly. I swear I was 35 years old a few months ago. Then I woke up one day this year and I was 45. OK, 50. Fine – 50ish. Time moves quickly, and although it is important to weigh the pros and cons for every potential job change, you may need to take a leap of faith when an opportunity comes along. Because it might not come around again later.
2. Your career focus may change. I had been a Montessori teacher for years, and it never occurred to me that I would be anything else. But you can learn new content and a new school’s procedures and culture. When you’re a teacher, you’re a teacher. You can go outside your comfort zone, and you might just find that you like it out there.
3. You have a personal life, too. There are many reasons to leave a job. For me, the main reason was work-life balance. If your commute is frustrating you or something else is not quite right in your professional life, it is OK to put your own needs first. Actually, it’s more than OK – it’s healthy.
4. Your work might just be done there. I have always considered it one of my main goals to prepare my students to leave me. I don’t want to keep them forever, no matter how much I love them. My job is to help get them ready for the next lesson, the next level, the next grade. Sometimes teachers need to move on, too, just like our students.
5. New beginnings can be exciting. When I tell people I like change, I am often met with the response: "Oh, gosh! I don’t!" Yes, it’s true, change can be tough. Moving to a new home, watching your children grow up and leave home — I get it. But if you are feeling stuck, maybe change is just what you need. Who’s to say that your life’s greatest career adventure isn’t right around the corner? Give yourself permission to round that corner and go wherever that path it takes you.
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