Why I’m Jumping Ship (Part I)

May 28, 2010 at 12:24 am 3 comments

In my last post, when I announced my resignation from my job, I said (mostly) only good things about teaching, so I felt the need to explain why I decided to leave the classroom.

“Jumping Ship” Image Credit

I’m not a hater.

Ever since I heard the statistic about 50% of teachers leaving the profession with their first five years, I’ve assumed–possibly naively–that it was because of one of two things: the students or the salary.  First there’s disrespectful students.  Distracting students.  Apathetic students.  Students who can barely read, so how can they possibly learn American History/Geometry/British Lit/fill-in-the-blank?

But as I’ve already said, I like my students for the most part.  Actually, I can say with confidence that I LOVE the vast majority of my students.  I’ve dealt with the occasional disrespect, certainly some apathy, and many, many distractions.  And I’ve had some really weak students.  But although most of them would prefer to avoid hard work if at all possible, I’m not dealing with 9th graders cursing me out, threatening me, or skipping class.  I don’t teach at that kind of school (and 9th graders can’t drive, so skipping is a little harder for them).  And even though they tax my patience some days, they’re a lot of fun.  So it’s not the students.

And it’s not the salary either.  I totally agree with those who insist that teachers don’t make enough money for what they’re worth.  It’s true.  But I have to acknowledge that I do make enough money to live comfortably.  It would be harder without Eric’s income obviously, but not that much harder.  So it’s not the salary either.

I want my life back.

Then why am I jumping ship? I have a few reasons, but the one I usually give is just that I want to try other things.  Although I enjoy many aspects of my job, I hate that it takes so much out of me.  It’s draining and so very, very time consuming.

Technically my contract hours are 8:15 to 3:45, which provides a 15 minute cushion at both ends of the school day.  I’m pretty confident that in the past three years, I’ve never once worked those hours.  I’d guess that this year, I could probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve left by 3:45.  And those days I went in extra early to get ahead.  This wouldn’t be such a big deal if I was leaving at, say, 4:00 on most days, or 4:30.  But I’m not; I usually don’t leave until 5:00, and I’m often still in the building until 7:00 or later.  And by the time I get home, I’m exhausted.  (Before I go on, I feel the need to point out that I don’t claim to have the hardest working hours or anything like that.  I have a friend who is in charge of the yearbook, and she’s regularly pulling late hours, and sometimes even comes in on Saturday, which I have never, ever done.  I have another friend who, when preparing for the school plays, sometime stays until 11:00.  At night.  Their meager stipends don’t even come close to compensating them for this insanity benevolence.)

Because of these long and uncompensated hours, I can’t imagine having the time or energy to do the other things I’m interested in.  I’d like to try my hand at freelance writing or possibly open an Etsy shop.  Yeah, right.  Maybe in the summer.  Evenings, weekends, and other breaks are filled with planning and grading, or feeling guilty about not planning or grading.

Even small indulgences, like cooking good, healthy dinners and getting regular exercise feel nearly impossible to squeeze in.  I’m often jealous of my husband’s job, because even though he doesn’t love it and often comes home burnt out, he doesn’t have to even think about work once he leaves at 4:30.  His evenings and weekends are his own.

Teachers get “breaks,” which, don’t get me wrong, are nice, but they’re not (for me at least) a complete break from work.  This past spring break I graded (really graded, with lots of comments and suggestions) over 70 3-5 page research papers.  That was not a “break” the way non-teachers usually imagine it.

I don’t want to live in Richmond forever.

The second reason I usually give (especially when coworkers look at me funny after I explain reason #1) is that resigning now gives Eric and me a lot more freedom in regards to when we move out of Richmond.  Richmond is not our forever home.  We both agree about this.  I’m not sure exactly where our forever home city will end up being, but we’ve been talking for a while about relocating to North Carolina, somewhere within the Research Triangle.  Eric’s degree is in computer science, and although there are many jobs in Richmond that seek employees with that background, Eric tells me they’re more like IT positions than true computer science, which is actually a creative field (who knew??).  Thus, Eric has been interested for while now in “The Triangle,” since it’s the most pioneering region for computer science on the East Coast.

The only problem with all this is that I absolutely refused to move mid-year.  It might be the sin of pride or vanity, but I really believe it would be harmful to my students if I just up and ditched them somewhere in the middle of the year.  Yes, students are resilient.  Yes, I know that no one teacher makes or breaks a kid’s high school experience.  But I also know that unless a really good, qualified replacement is found right away, the year could be completely wasted for that one class, and I happen to think reading and writing are pretty important.  That’s what happened to my brother’s 7th grade year of language arts.  The teacher quit mid-year and then they went through a string of 3 or 4 “long term” subs.  And they didn’t learn anything.  (Okay, they probably learned some things, but they didn’t learn enough.)  It was a wasted year.  I wouldn’t do that to my kids unless it was absolutely necessary, like if I had a baby, for example.

Unfortunately, a summer is actually a really narrow window of time to relocate.  Moving, obviously, is time consuming.  Plus we’d both need to find new jobs, which is tricky.  When, for instance, should Eric start applying for jobs?  He can’t wait until the summer, but if he applies too early, he might not be available for months (my school lets out at the end of June).  But if he holds back, he might not receive an offer until too late, once a new school year has started.

These complications have stymied us, and so neither Eric nor I really got the job search/relocation ball rolling.  It won’t be nearly as big an issue next year though, since I won’t have any students to desert.  I don’t consider giving 2-weeks notice to a company the same as giving 2-weeks notice to a school.  (This might be hiring suicide if I thought there was a possibility of a potential employer reading this blog, but since I have approximately six readers and I’m on a first name basis with all of you, I think I’m safe.)

And one more (secret) reason.

The third reason I’m saving for a separate post.  Partly because this one is already long enough, but mostly because it’s my most controversial reason, and I haven’t really shared it with anyone yet.  I want to take some time to think through it and word in in such a way that it doesn’t hugely offend all of my friends in education (and that’s most of my friends).  I don’t think it should offend anyone, but it could come across wrong if I’m not careful.  So until next time…

What reasons have you had for quitting (or wanting to quit) a job?


Entry filed under: Teaching.

Humph Why I’m Jumping Ship (Part 2)

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Kara  |  May 28, 2010 at 2:32 am

    I resigned from my job and am moving because of my almost-husband’s job and I am surprised at how I’ve come around to the new opportunities this presents for me work-wise. Who knows what I will do? Probably teach/advise, because I do love it, but the idea of doing more writing and less grading sounds like heaven. Or doing anything other than grading papers sounds delightful, really. It’s a shut door/open window situation.

  • 2. Amanda  |  May 28, 2010 at 11:22 pm

    I left my job because I hated having a boss. Any by “left my job” I mean she fired me because it was pretty obvious that I hated it/her. So now I’m a freelance writer, and I love it. It’s much less soul sucking- though I don’t imaging teaching is really soul sucking. But I could be wrong!

  • 3. D@#  |  May 29, 2010 at 11:32 pm

    Your last two blog posts have been especially interesting to me as a colleague, fellow teacher, and someone who will miss the curiosity, creativity, and dedication you have brought to our workplace. (If you’re thinking about pursuing writing as a career, I think you’ve got the cliff-hanger down to a science!)

    I’m intrigued by the way you invite dialogue with your readers by ending your posts with questions. Unfortunately, I don’t have any good answers. But I am looking forward to the next installment–and wish you well whatever happens next!


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