Posted in Life, Teaching

Two Years Later: Why I Left Teaching, Why I’m Still Gone, and Why It Sometimes Hurts to Talk About It

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Two years ago today, I let the world know that I was quitting my job as a teacher.

The idea first entered my mind as a serious possibility in October of my last school year, and I talked it over with my husband. At Thanksgiving, I let my family know that I was probably leaving. In January, on the first day of the second semester, I sat down in my principal’s office and told her my plans. In March, when the district offered us our contracts for the following year, I made it official by declining mine with the click of a button.

The district then sent me an exit survey that boiled my thirteen years of service down to ten multiple choice questions. At the bottom, there was a small box that asked if I had any additional comments. I did. And after I submitted them to my district (who never responded in any way), I posted them to my former blog.

Click this link to find out Why I Left Teaching

Badge of Honor

So, two years later, do I have regrets about leaving? No.

Everything I wrote in that post is still true, although my feelings about some of it have mellowed slightly. Since I left, I haven’t heard anything that made me want to jump back in, so while there are definitely aspects of that life that I miss, I haven’t wanted to return to it.

Also, I’ve been extremely fortunate these past two years to have been given the chance to follow my dream of writing. I am grateful for every minute of it. My only regret is I feel like I haven’t produced enough yet, haven’t fully made use of this gift of time. (Fingers crossed I’ll finish my novel by June though.)

I think what I miss most about teaching is sharing the funny/touching/rewarding moments of the job with others. When I worked with seventh graders all day, I was rarely at a loss for dinner time conversation. (Although the actual dinner time was often lost. Dinner sometimes consisted of a sandwich balanced on one knee and a stack of grading balanced on the other.)

Back then, when people asked me what I did for a living, and I told them I was a teacher, they followed it up by asking me if I liked my job or telling me a story about a favorite teacher they had or saying to me, “Well, bless your heart.” I loved these responses. They allowed me to say yes, I did like my job and then elaborate about how much fun middle schoolers are, often boggling the mind of the person I was talking to. Or they allowed me to smile and listen to a description of a great teacher, one more mentor out there in the world for me to aspire to be like. Or they allowed me to laugh and nod my head that yes, it was a hard job, but one that I loved anyway.

I was proud to tell people I was a teacher, and even while I complained about the drawbacks of the job, I defended it, always trying to end the conversation on a positive note.

Until that last year. That last year was different. There’s no need to rehash it—you can read about it in the link above.

The problem now is that I don’t get to tell the good stories anymore. Now, when people find out that I taught for thirteen years, they don’t ask me if I liked it, they ask me why I left. When I tell them, the conversation spirals into everything that’s wrong with teaching. By the time I manage to say that really, it was only the last year that was so bad, that I loved my job for twelve of those thirteen years, they’re not interested anymore. In a way, it’s like teaching was my boyfriend and now that we’ve broken up, everyone’s been given the go ahead to tell me what a jerk they thought he was the whole time we were going out.

But teaching wasn’t all bad, not by a long shot, and I miss being able to share the good stuff.

I keep mementos from that relationship—a shelf of binders full of student work, a crate of lessons I used to teach, a box of random objects acquired over more than a decade of working with twelve-year-olds. And pictures. Photos of the hundreds of students who passed through my classroom.

Teaching and I may never get back together, and I do not regret my decision to leave, but from this point forward, I’m going to steer the conversations about my first beloved career back to the middle ground where they belong. In general, no, it wasn’t perfect. Far from it. But there were many perfect moments along the way, and they deserve to be remembered.

[To read more stories from my teaching career, check out my Teaching Stories page.]

Author:

Carie Juettner is a teacher and writer in Austin, Texas. Her poems and short stories have appeared in publications such as Daily Science Fiction, Nature Futures, The Texas Poetry Calendar, and HelloHorror. She is currently working on a novel for the middle grade audience. Well, CURRENTLY she is drinking a cup of coffee and petting a dog, but she promises to get back to the novel in just a few minutes.

4 thoughts on “Two Years Later: Why I Left Teaching, Why I’m Still Gone, and Why It Sometimes Hurts to Talk About It

  1. Your story sounds like mine, Carie. Finish that novel! It feels wonderful. I’m starting my second one now while I figure out how to sell the first. And you know, I don’t miss teaching at all.

    1. I can’t wait for that finished-book feeling! 🙂 What avenues are you exploring for selling your first book? I just read a great article in Writer’s Digest about the benefits of a hybrid approach– some traditional and some self-publishing.

  2. This is really poignant. I have topics like this too (not teaching). It’s hard sometimes to convey our feelings about something important to us if anything negative has been publicized. That’s just always rough, because people like to focus on the negative. Your passion for the job and tenderness for your students comes through loud and clear, though.

    1. Thanks, Annie. I’m glad you understand. It’s especially hard when people seem to want to tell ME why I left. Does that make sense? Sometimes they think they know what my experience was based on the things they’ve read/heard about education, and it’s hard to get them to see the whole picture.

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