Tired lady slumped against a wall surrounded by toys.

By Daphne Gomez

If you’ve ever found yourself thinking, “I hate teaching, but…” you’re not alone. Many teachers, whether they’ve been in the classroom for just a few months or over twenty years, end up feeling stuck in their careers.

It’s no wonder teachers find themselves struggling with the profession. Teaching has some unique challenges when compared to other careers, including the following.

  • Limited mobility. Once you’re a teacher, you’re likely to stay being a teacher for the long haul. There is limited mobility in the profession, especially if you don’t want to go into administration.
  • Low pay. In the vast majority of districts, there is very little or no monetary incentive to keep you motivated to commit the extra time and effort the job takes.
  • High stress. Teaching is a very stressful job. Teachers are constantly dealing with the ever-increasing pressure of high-stakes testing, complicated teacher review processes, and working with students, parents, and administrators.

Despite these challenges, many teachers continue to push themselves above and beyond rather than seriously considering quitting. Even when workplace stress begins to affect them emotionally and physically they continue to persevere. Within and outside of work, year-round, teachers put the job first. Why?

I Hate Teaching, but I Feel Guilty Even Considering Leaving

On average, people change careers 12 times in their lifetime. In many careers, it’s easy to transfer to a new position. Other employees can change departments, companies, or even leverage their experience into a brand-new role if they’re feeling stuck.

Teaching does not have this same flexibility, and leaving teaching comes with the additional hurdles of stigma and guilt.

Teacher guilt is real and can be very powerful. Whether it’s feeling bad about leaving your students or adding work to the plate of your co-workers, teachers often succumb to this guilt and put the needs of others ahead of their own. The result? Many burn out or stay in a career that is making them truly unhappy.

Guilt-tripping and the “once you start this profession you aren’t allowed to leave” mentality doesn’t happen in other industries. ⁠I know how hard it feels to transition out of teaching. There is so much stigma associated with this huge decision. ⁠

We all know teachers who are miserable and should have left the profession years ago. Teachers that went into the position with the best intentions but are now completely burnt out.⁠

That miserable teacher who needed out was me.⁠

I know how guilty you may feel admitting you want to leave… because I’ve been there too. You feel guilty for imagining a different path for yourself. Other people with good intentions telling you what an “amazing teacher” you are and that you “can’t leave the kids” doesn’t help. You’re afraid of letting your colleagues and students down, so you sacrifice your own wants or needs. ⁠

I kept chalking it up to being a new teacher, but after years of being unhappy, I knew I needed to develop an exit plan.

Teacher with eye closed thinking I hate teaching with his head against a chalkboard.

I Hate Teaching, but I have no Plan B

Early on we are told that teaching is a “calling.” Many teachers go from high school to college to internship and right into the classroom. There was never a Plan B because this was supposed to be your “forever” career.

The goals of getting on the tenure track and working toward your pension start early on. Leaving a tenured position or giving up that pension only adds to the stigma and guilt of leaving. It’s difficult to let go of those kinds of goals. You may feel guilty for even thinking of giving up the kind of long-term security that others around you are working hard to achieve.

You might even feel that you don’t have any other skills. Years of teaching left me with low career self-esteem and feeling devalued as a professional. Impostor syndrome can be STRONG during this time. The fear of facing rejection when applying for roles while battling low career self-esteem leads you to believe that it will “never happen” for you. ⁠

But I want you to hear this:

Life is too short to stay in a career that isn’t the right fit. If teaching isn’t what you thought it would be or you simply need a change, it’s okay to move on. It’s okay to validate those feelings instead of feeling wrong for them. Growth and change, even growing out of a profession that once felt like a “calling” is human nature.

Teacher with head on desk on top of a pile of folders.

I Hate Teaching, But I Don’t Know What Else To Do

Teacher guilt and some serious low career self-esteem held me back from leaving when I knew I wanted something different. It took one final push from a toxic administration for me to finally be brave enough to try.

When I made the final decision to leave, I had NO idea what I wanted to do at first. One summer I Googled “other jobs for teachers” 100 times and NOTHING coming up. I struggled with not knowing what else I could do. However, after a lot of research, planning, and applying, I landed my dream role as an educational consultant.

After I left, I was shocked to see the outpour of former coworkers who reached out and WHO reached out about leaving. Some of the best teachers I knew secretly wanted out. People who had been my mentors and teammates. It was wild because in the time before I left, I felt so incredibly isolated. Guilty for even considering leaving. I’d have teachers following me to my car or coming up after I spoke at national conferences and whispering, “how did you get out?”

It was then that I knew I needed to create the resources and support I wish existed when I was searching.⁠

Calendar with "Quit Job!" written in red pen on one of the dates.

Leaving Teaching: Your Next Steps

If you are considering leaving teaching, there are plenty of other options. You have transferrable skills and can leverage your education and experience. But changing careers is never easy, especially in the competitive job market we are seeing today.

One of the biggest mistakes that I see teachers make is that they put off the research and planning until the last minute. This sets them up for a very stressful application season – trying to juggle teaching, figuring out a resume, researching jobs, and hoping to nail down some interviews before signing next year’s contract. It can be a lot.

You don’t have to struggle through this alone anymore!

Teacher Career Coach

That’s why I created The Teacher Career Coach Course, a step-by-step video course that has helped thousands of teachers like you take their first steps out of the classroom and into a new career.⁠ Inside the course, you’ll have access to video coaching, downloadable resources, and a judgment-free community of over 2,000 current and former teachers for support.

This course, created with the help of an HR expert and professional resume writer with over 10 years of experience, will help you navigate your career transition. You’ll learn everything from how to translate your skills and experience to job searching, networking, resume writing, interview skills, and everything in between. Find out more about the course here: Teacher Career Coach Course.

You were a good person when you decided to become a teacher. You are still a good person if you decide to pursue a new career, and you do not have to sacrifice your entire life for a job. Period.

Looking for ways to deal with the strain of teaching and difficult decisions to stay or go? Do you also find yourself saying, “I hate teaching!” throughout the day? Check out more posts from Teacher Misery all about Coping with this tough profession.

Author Bio

Daphne Gomez, also known as the Teacher Career Coach, left teaching in 2018 and successfully transitioned into instructional design and later educational consulting. Now a full-time entrepreneur and career coach, Daphne creates resources that empower teachers to transform their lives. You can find her sharing career advice and interviewing former teachers on The Teacher Career Coach Podcast and at TeacherCareerCoach.com.

Leave A Comment


Subscribe to the Teacher Misery newsletter to stay up to date on all the misery!

Follow Us On Social

Subscribe to Teacher Misery

Join the Teacher Misery newsletter and never miss a new post, book release, or teacher secret!