Ready to Quit Teaching During the Pandemic?

Ready to Quit Teaching During the Pandemic?

Teachers are quitting in record numbers

Thinking about quitting? You are nowhere near alone. Even the most passionate and committed teachers feel burned out and stressed from time to time. It's perfectly normal to feel like quitting your teaching job. It does not mean that you are a bad teacher or that you are any less committed to your students or to education. You may even be feeling guilty about leaving. The truth is, the U.S. was already dealing with a national teacher turnover rate of 16% annually, with about half of those leaving citing stress as the main reason for their departure.

Covid has created a more complex situation. We are living in a pandemic-survival mode that is becoming more and more difficult to tolerate. According to a 2021 RAND study, pressure during the pandemic hit educators so hard that one in nearly four teachers reported being likely to quit by the end of the 2020-2021 school year. This is a significant increase from the average of one in six teachers who were likely to leave the profession prior to the pandemic.

Covid created a more stressful work environment for teachers

Challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic have led to increased stress among teachers. Having to quickly develop new virtual teaching skills overnight was just the beginning. Returning to face-to-face learning amidst health and safety concerns caused many teachers anxiety. Positive covid cases impacting the entire system on any given day have made the situation extremely volatile. Many educators across the country have noted an uptick in more severe student behaviors. It is not surprising that a greater proportion of teachers experienced higher levels of work-related stress and symptoms of depression than the general adult population.

Take these 5 steps before you quit:

There is nothing wrong with feeling like it's time to call it quits. Just be sure you are making a well-thought-out and sound decision. Going through a few simple steps may help.

1. Assess the Situation

Think about what is making you feel unhappy with your position and what you can do to alleviate that feeling. Is it something about your specific school or is it the educational system as a whole? Is it a temporary issue brought on by the pandemic or is it a deeper, longer-term problem that has no end in sight? Leaving the profession altogether may not be necessary. Identifying the root causes of your concerns can help you determine whether or not you are able to solve the problem or if it is beyond your control. If you are teaching in person and do not feel secure with the school's covid protocols or how student discipline is handled, perhaps you can transfer to another school or district. Remember that widespread teacher shortages also mean widespread vacancies.

2. Check on Your Mental Health

Stress has always been the number one reason teachers choose to leave the profession. The pandemic during these last two years has brought many teachers to their breaking point. Teaching is an emotionally draining job so there may be a benefit to developing a network of support and mindfulness strategies to ease stress and burnout. Before you leave due to stress and mental health concerns, consider talking with a health professional or seeking the support of a therapist. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a provision available to all eligible employees in the U.S. who need to take care of personal medical issues or care for a loved one. This includes mental health care. If you're facing depression, anxiety, or high levels of stress, consider talking with your doctor about taking a medical leave of absence or obtaining an early release from your contract.

There are many support groups for teachers online. A quick Facebook search will yield several groups that support teachers by providing a safe space to vent and some comic relief. Remember - you are not alone so don't try to manage these feelings alone!

3. Be Real About Your Finances

Even if you are planning to change jobs, it's a good idea to check your financial situation before you quit. Creating a budget, tracking your spending, and taking an inventory of your debt will let you know where you stand. By doing so, you can create an emergency fund and reduce unnecessary expenses where you can. Aside from your monthly debt, you'll want to plan ahead for future expenses. The average duration of unemployment in the U.S. between 2020 and 2021 is 30 weeks. Calculate how much you need to stay above water if you find yourself unemployed for a long period of time. You'll be happier and less stressed when you've made the right financial decisions.

4. Explore Alternative Teaching Opportunities

Have you considered teaching virtually? While switching to online teaching was a challenge, many teachers actually developed useful skills during the pandemic. COVID-19 has accelerated access to legitimate, alternative, teaching opportunities that still include full-time benefits while providing the flexibility of working from home. Many districts now offer a consistent virtual learning program. There are also quite a few well-known virtual schools that have been pioneering the online learning space for several years, such as and Connections Academy. Tutoring and online course creation are great opportunities to explore who you are as a teacher outside of traditional education. Outschool, for example, is a platform that allows teachers to create their own schedule of courses and sign students up for topics as diverse as drawing anime characters, understanding the stock market, and managing emotions.

Last year, the e-learning market hit $250 billion and is on track to reach $1 trillion over the next six years. One silver lining of covid virtual learning is that you may be more comfortable making videos and developing digital learning materials than ever before. Use this new skill to your advantage. Creating an educational YouTube channel, a podcast, or an online course could be a great next step if you're looking for freedom and flexibility. This can also help breathe new life into your teaching practice.

5. Inventory Your Skills and Interests

It's time to take a look at the next phase of your career. You've spent a great deal of time, effort, and money preparing to be a teacher. Take a moment to list the skills and knowledge you have gained over the years. As a teacher you've learned to manage people, negotiate, be patient, show emotional intelligence, problem-solve, and many other marketable skills. Research other career fields you are passionate about and remember that it's never too late to explore a new path. There are several platforms that will support you in "upskilling" for free or at a low cost, such as Coursera and Udemy.

Deciding to leave a job you've held for some time can be very overwhelming and stressful. If your dream job has become a nightmare, you owe it to yourself to explore new avenues. Just be sure to read through your employment contract carefully before making any final decisions!


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