Why I left K-12 Teaching

Now that I’ve been able to mentally and emotionally digest my circumstances, I want to talk about it. Specifically, I want to discuss why I left K-12 teaching. My story is not entertaining or confusing (for one of those, I’ve attached Rebecca Rogers’ Quitting video—YIKES).

Rebecca Rogers’ “Why I Quit Teaching” video. This is not a video by or affiliated with the Rhetoric and Teaching Witch.

Instead, my quitting K-12 teaching experience was quiet and, most likely, more indicative of what is occurring on a national scale in our country. I can say having taught at the K-12 level that I will NEVER go back. EVER.

I know the loss of one teacher (me) doesn’t seem like a concern in the public K-12 sector. But we are losing too many quality teachers. I am concerned. You should be concerned.

The world-wide thing which must not be named exacerbated flaws in an under-funded system. Staff (not just teachers) left in droves. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that “there were 270,000 fewer school staff” from January 2020 to July 20221. There is a 9.3 percent decline in K-12 employment since the Covid pandemic2. Schools don’t have the physical bodies to cover all essential duties. Your child may not even have a physical adult in the room.

I did not want to leave. I still feel guilt about leaving my students and peers. I was in a self-contained special education classroom. Administrators are particularly struggling to fill self-contained classroom gaps. These students need the most support and their behaviors are often a deterrent to new hires.

Work Load

The first reason I quit was the work load. Teachers work hard. Teachers technically have contracted work hours. My contracted hours were 30 minutes before the start of school (6:50 AM) until the end of school (2:20 PM). Other teachers at the same school had different contracted hours (7:00 AM- 2:40 PM). Administration had different hours; staff had even more different hours. Due to the discrepancy in hours, it was common to get meeting requests OUTSIDE of my contracted hours (with no additional pay- but that comes later in this post).

In my off-time, I had to create and grade assignments, complete professional development trainings, plan or supervise school events, and, you know, make sure I do the human things required to keep living (eat, sleep, shower). I also have and like my family. There was never enough time in the day, week, semester to complete all the things. So I learned to say no and things that were not priorities faded away. I feel that the best teachers do this (not that I am the best- 10 years into teaching and I learn every day). They learn to prioritize or else they burnout.

“But teachers have the whole summer off.” No, no we don’t.

PAY.

I’m still salty about this one. The pay was horrendous. My annual pay was $46,000. While terrible, I could live with this amount. The problem came with the fact that I worked at a PUBLIC K-12 school. (This was not the fault of my individual school administration- Florida zones their schools by county and it’s a hot mess).

I had to pay for classroom supplies. I had to buy or provide copier paper. I had to pay for some state-mandated professional development trainings. If I wanted to continue my education (with advanced degrees), that cost would have come from my pocket entirely as there was no employer reimbursement program.

I did not receive a bonus or cost of living adjustment from one year to the next. I did not receive a retirement account contribution match (or any employer input).

Community

I had a great support system in my fellow teachers. We shared resources, ideas, and lives. I miss them terribly. My administration were all kind and helpful, but they had too many duties to provide a sense of community or belonging to the teachers. While I was making my decision to leave, the people (at my work and my Baby’s daycare) were the one factor that absolutely made me want to stay.

Ultimately, I wanted a larger sense of community. I wanted my family and friends back. I moved back to Ohio to see them more often. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for us.

Sources:

1 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. https://data.bls.gov/timeseries/CES9093161101

2 Bleiburg and Kraft. https://edworkingpapers.com/ai22-544

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