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nikkimx

Guilt about quitting my teaching job

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I am a full time teacher at a small charter school, but I am too much of an out-of-the-box thinker to be completely happy teaching at the K-12 level. I want to do research and teach college. I feel super guilty, though, because my school has had a terrible turn over rate for English teachers, and I really care about my students. I have already been accepted to 2 of the 3 graduate programs I applied to, though, and I'm going. Is anyone else in a similar position? How are you breaking the news to your principal and department head?

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@nikkimx hello! I'm in a related situation, and while I haven't figured out how or when exactly to tell my department that I'm leaving, the best way to alleviate the guilt is to do my best with transitioning/passing on knowledge to whoever would come after me. I had absolutely no information, manual, or records to look through when I started my current position...so I aim to have good records and a manual of sorts to help out whoever they hire for my position next. 

Congrats on your acceptances! Hopefully your workplace will be supportive, but even if they are less than supportive, you can still be really proud of your accomplishments. You sound like you're going into your PhD program thoughtfully and will make a great impact on your future students! And who knows, maybe some of your current students will end up going to wherever you end up teaching later on :) 

i would also greatly appreciate insight in this issue, so if anyone has actually gone through "breaking the news" please share!

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2 hours ago, nikkimx said:

I am a full time teacher at a small charter school, but I am too much of an out-of-the-box thinker to be completely happy teaching at the K-12 level. I want to do research and teach college. I feel super guilty, though, because my school has had a terrible turn over rate for English teachers, and I really care about my students. I have already been accepted to 2 of the 3 graduate programs I applied to, though, and I'm going. Is anyone else in a similar position? How are you breaking the news to your principal and department head?

I am almost legitimately in the exact situation, but as a mathematics teacher. I also hate the fact that I feel that I am reiterating the issue with Teach For America as a Corps Member, but I just can't be content giving impact to students simply. I really want to have a more global impact, and believe that I am more capable doing this in a different capacity (in research / politics / innovation). But, I haven't gotten into a PhD program yet (but have received an interview / practically an acceptance to an ed analytics firm). That being stated, I don't have as much letting my school administration know (since they have not been that supportive) but will have a lot of difficulty saying it to my students.

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The real question to ask yourself is 'How can I bring about more positive change?'. If it's by getting a Ph.D.? If so, there should be no guilt. Your job feels like the world to you now, but the world is actually larger. 

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In my experience as a teacher you always feel guilt when leaving your students, whatever the reason is (new job/career/maternity leave - you name it). You simply have to come to terms with this fact and accept it. I think that the same is true of any profession where you feel you are aiding people and responsible for improving their lives (social workers / doctors for instance), but truthfully the guilt you feel is a marker of the respect and love you have for job, colleagues, students, so actually not feeling guilty would be a more worrying sign.

My advice is to make the most of the time you do have left - as I am sure you will. I have seen some teachers mentally check out on students and I think this is the most unfair thing, I intend to 'go out with a bang', as they say, and make sure I do my utmost in the last few months for the students. This helped somewhat in my last school with the guilt aspect and I also requested an exit interview with the head teacher so that I could ensure I passed on what I believed were the good/bad practices in place and concerns I thought he may be in a position to remedy (or at least should be aware of) that way I left knowing I had done everything I could for the kids.

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I am in the exact same position as well. Like most of us, I adore my kids and would do anything for them, but I'm itching to do research and have a broader impact. I teach at the same low-income and underperforming high school I attended, though, so I am hoping my matriculation to a really good PhD program will inspire my kids to reach for their goals, as well. I am also going to give them my contact information so they can keep in touch and let me know if they need any encouragement. 

I'm probably going to print out my admission letter to the program I'll choose to attend and say something like, "It has been an absolute honor to begin my career in education at this school. I want to continue to do great work in education, and the right path for me to do that is to take the next step into a PhD program. Unfortunately, it breaks my heart not to renew my contract this year, but I am going to do everything I can to ease my transition out of here and to do right by my students." Something like that. 

Edited by Espeon

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NO!

I was a teacher for about 10 years before going to grad school. I know the guilt that you feel, and that has to do the way schools make us responsible for things we are not or expect us to put everybody else before our own happiness. I could give you a ton of examples when my department chairs or school principals passively aggressively suggested that I wasn't doing my job properly for taking days off when sick/sitting for an exam (totally legal here). 

Anyway, do not allow outsiders make you feel guilty about your own happiness. They have a bad time getting teachers? Their problem. Honestly. 

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Hey, everyone! Thanks for your words; it's nice to know that my guilty feelings are at least normal. I am feeling jaded with teaching at this level already, and I'm itching to make a bigger impact. Grad school is calling me! I'll think more about what to say to my principal. When are you all going to bring it up to them?

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@nikkimx Great thread. I think it's in the blood of teachers to feel responsible and guilty, which is why we are able to connect suggest students against all odds and mandates; teaching is truly a labor of love. 

Lots of amazing things have been said already. To add to all of it, I think one of our biggest hurdles in education reform is stagnant thinking. How many other professions have workers who stay in the same cubicle for  35 years? In the exact same role for 30? Very few.

If we had more movement--if we had a system that, say, encouraged teachers to go to graduate school or work in business, and then return new ideas to our field--we'd be further down the path towards a system that prepares children for jobs of the future, instead of an assembly line model of education that prepares kids for compliant factory jobs which are, largely, gone. Ours is also a system in which innovation and creativity are quickly squashed, and hence those of us who think big, or outside the box, have trouble finding an intellectual home. At least I have. 

I have been pretty transparent about my PhD application process from the get go--my administrator helped me by writing a letter, and I've kept my leaders updated on my acceptances, as well as dates for visit weekends. I have not told my students yet as I want to make a final decision before making any formal announcements.

I feel your guilt, but I also think our system needs shaken up, and that we can (hopefully?!?) have more of an impact from outside the system. 

My biggest concern is actually becoming a disengaged academic, whose research is only appreciated by other AERA attendees, but never creates change at the K-12 level. @Espeon love your idea of keeping in touch with students. 

As we get closer to April 15, would love to hear how others share the news to kids and parents. 

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I was in pretty much the exact same situation!  A couple of things that helped me...

1) The school I was in didn't do a real good job of providing teachers with reasons to stay.  There was a large turnover rate not only in my department but in the whole school.  You can't help it if the school you're at isn't doing a good job at making you want to stay (not saying that this is the case for you, but it helped me).

2) I absolutely LOVED my kids, but I knew they would be fine without me.  Honestly, and this may again not be the case for you, but I knew that my students would "get over" me fairly quickly.  They're just kids, after all, and though I had a good relationship with mine, they ultimately are quick to move on to the next exciting thing.  Also, if you want to work with students at the college level, you can look forward to developing relationships with them and improving their lives, just in a different setting.

3) Because you know your students will be successful even with a different teacher, you should be comfortable in making yourself your #1 priority.  This is your life, your career, and it's your time and effort that you will be dedicating.  Would you be able to live the rest of your life as a K-12 teacher and feel content?  It seems like the answer is no, which is perfectly fine!  You're allowed to be selfish.

4) I was REALLY nervous to tell my supervisor and everyone else, but it wasn't nearly as big of a deal as I expected.  Honestly, my supervisor seemed really indifferent to me leaving and was anxious for me to submit an official resignation letter so he could start to look for a replacement.  They want their lives/jobs to be easy, too, so don't be too upset if they get over losing you quickly.

Again, this was purely from my experience and may not be the same as yours, but I thought it might be helpful to share :)  And congratulations on your acceptances so far!

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When to tell schools she tricky, but I would generally say as early as possible to give them the chance to search for a good replacement. With the students I tend to tell them later on but apply the rule of never lying, so if they directly ask me if I'm leaving I say yes and why.

for my current job they ask us in November if we're renewing our contracts and sign them in January, so just by applying for a PhD I knew I couldn't stay on and had made the decision to leave. This has helped make the process easier and means I can talk to my colleagues openly about the process.

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I'm really nervous to tell them, but I think I need to tell them soon because they are already asking to send me to paid training in Atlanta this summer (and we live in CA!). I am really sad to leave, but I want to make more of an impact than I am currently and there are also a few other reasons why it's not working out for me, or it won't at least in the long term.

How did you tell you principals? What did you say to them? Did you ask for a meeting?

Thanks everyone for your help!

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I'm going to meet with my principal as soon as I am pretty certain about which program I'll attend and have documentation of my admission. I'm just going to set up a brief meeting with him, and then I'll meet with my assistant principal and department chair after I meet with him. 

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@nikkimx Don't feel guilty about leaving your teaching job, if college is really what you want to teach. You ultimately have to follow your passion. I understand how difficult it can be emotionally, but, honestly, you have to do it. 

The only advice that I can give you is to be honest, but also grateful, to your principal and your department head. Believe me - principals and department heads understand that not all teachers can stay forever. If you've stuck it out for so long and helped multiple students to make monumental gains in academic achievement, you should be proud. There's a time of service, but there's also a time to leave. You ultimately have to do what's right for you. No matter what advice anyone gives you, I know you'll ultimately say what you want to say. I would strongly recommend you think of what you're most grateful to admin for and why you're leaving (in a way that doesn't trash talk your school, much in the same way that you'd discuss it in an interview). 

Feel free to PM me, if you wanna bounce around any ideas. I'm more than happy to help.

On a side note, congrats on getting into those PhD programs!

 

 

 

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On 2/11/2017 at 1:51 PM, nikkimx said:

I'm really nervous to tell them, but I think I need to tell them soon because they are already asking to send me to paid training in Atlanta this summer (and we live in CA!). I am really sad to leave, but I want to make more of an impact than I am currently and there are also a few other reasons why it's not working out for me, or it won't at least in the long term.

How did you tell you principals? What did you say to them? Did you ask for a meeting?

Thanks everyone for your help!

I told my supervisor first, went to teach a few classes, and then my principal asked to meet with me.  I walked into the meeting intending to tell him, but my supervisor had beat me to it!  That meeting went even quicker than the one with my supervisor.  I sensed he was a little more upset, though, but was very gracious and wished me luck :) 

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Thanks, everyone! I told my department yesterday during our collaboration meeting, and my principal (as he often does) was outside the door listening to our conversation. So, he came to me after school to talk about it. He took it really personally at first (What did we do wrong? Did I not give enough to support?) and tried to convince me to stay, but after I told him about research and how I'd like to have conversations in greater depth with my students at the college level, he said, "Well, I guess you have to do what is best for you and your family." It was awkward and didn't help my guiltiness in the moment, but it did help lift the weight of that conversation off my shoulders! 

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On 3/9/2017 at 9:28 PM, nikkimx said:

Thanks, everyone! I told my department yesterday during our collaboration meeting, and my principal (as he often does) was outside the door listening to our conversation. So, he came to me after school to talk about it. He took it really personally at first (What did we do wrong? Did I not give enough to support?) and tried to convince me to stay, but after I told him about research and how I'd like to have conversations in greater depth with my students at the college level, he said, "Well, I guess you have to do what is best for you and your family." It was awkward and didn't help my guiltiness in the moment, but it did help lift the weight of that conversation off my shoulders! 

Good for you!!  You will be much happier.  There are definitely times when I miss my students/teaching, but then I remember I don't have to get up at 5:30am, deal with discipline issues, grade hundreds of exams, etc., and I feel much better :P

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I'm in the same boat. I've been an English teacher overseas for the past 5 years and am just heading into my last week before the end of my contract. I've been given the green light to go ahead and start telling the kids, and I'm really not sure how to go about it. My employer and schools aren't holding it against me, but having classes of kids tell me that they're looking forward to seeing me in April is breaking my heart.

Edited by victoriaaa

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On 3/12/2017 at 9:01 AM, travelgirl125 said:

Good for you!!  You will be much happier.  There are definitely times when I miss my students/teaching, but then I remember I don't have to get up at 5:30am, deal with discipline issues, grade hundreds of exams, etc., and I feel much better :P

Thank you so much for the support! 

On 3/12/2017 at 5:35 PM, victoriaaa said:

I'm in the same boat. I've been an English teacher overseas for the past 5 years and am just heading into my last week before the end of my contract. I've been given the green light to go ahead and start telling the kids, and I'm really not sure how to go about it. My employer and schools aren't holding it against me, but having classes of kids tell me that they're looking forward to seeing me in April is breaking my heart.

I'm sorry you're going through that, and I totally get it. My principal told a parent, so my students are going to find out soon. I feel awful for the students who hang out in my room everyday that I really care about and the ones who look forward to my class in the future!

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@nikkimx I know what you mean about feeling bad for the students you're close to. I quit my teaching job last year *without* even the "excuse" of a fantastic opportunity, and some of my students were really disappointed. But they didn't want to stay at the school forever, either, so they understood that I wanted to find new ways to learn and grow. (It definitely helped that most of my kids were high schoolers & ready to be on to the next thing!)

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Hi, again! 

My principal is guilting me hard core, and it's now making me question my goals. He's hinting at leadership opportunities, offering to give me an extra stipend, and telling me stories of students who say I'm the best English teacher they have had. My best friend also works at the school and is supportive, but I feel bad leaving her to the politics in our department when her and I could really make a difference together. 

My husband is bringing me back to my vision of affecting a broader audience than just the students at my small school in the small town I live in and doing more with my life than the plebian life we're living now. He also keeps reminding me about my drive to do research and how I keep saying I feel my brain going stagnant because I don't have time to read research anymore. 

Is anyone else wavering and questioning their decisions right now? 

Edited by nikkimx

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@nikkimx You need to decide what's right for you. If you want to do research, go for it. If your heart's not fully in teaching, you're only doing a disservice to your students if you stay without your full commitment to the profession.

Don't let anyone guilt trip you, if you know in your heart of hearts that you're doing what you truly want to do. You only live once.

Edited by waterrevolution

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