If you’re a teacher who has been stressed out to the point of mental and physical exhaustion, quitting teaching mid-year (or even mid-day) may be something that has crossed your mind more than once. But before you grab your favorite mug and head out to the parking lot, there are a few things to consider.
Quitting Teaching Mid-Year
In this post, we’re talking about the ins and outs of what you need to do before quitting teaching mid-year. I do need to make one caveat, however.
Waiting to quit until your teaching contract ends could be a more ideal situation. Allowing your contract to end naturally will save you a lot of hassle and make it easier for your students, team, and administration to adjust. That said, if quitting teaching mid-year feels more aligned with what you need personally, you are not alone. There’s no judgment here.
Let’s dig into developing an exit strategy and talk about the three steps you should take before you walk out the door.
Step 1: Understand Your Contract before Quitting Teaching Mid Year
Fully understanding your contract and the consequences of breaking it will help you weigh the pros and cons and help you decide whether leaving now or sticking it out until the end of the year is the best choice for you.
I’ll start off with an important disclaimer: I am not a licensed attorney nor a legal expert. This is not legal advice. And, I’ve never read your teaching contract.
You must read your contract. Then, talk to people in your district who may be able to support you in understanding what rules or policies are in place. If you have a union representative, they’re going to be the best person to talk to about your specific situation. There may also be an HR representative or other teachers who have been in your position that can give you some insight into the process.
What to Look for in Your Contract
Many districts have “good reasons” to leave teaching mid-year written into their contracts. Some may be physical or mental health concerns, a spouse being relocated for employment, or caring for a sick family member. If you do have something like this written in your contract and the situation applies to you, it may be easier to break contract without any major consequences.
What you aren’t going to see listed as a “good reason” is getting a new job. What that means is that legal action could be taken by the district if you abandon your contract for another position. For this reason, you will want to research upfront what breaking your contract is going to mean.
The repercussions may be different at different points in the year. Specifically, check out how breaking your contract will affect your health insurance, paychecks, and any fines or penalties you may incur – these may be monetary or could even be suspension or loss of license.
Step 2: Plan Your Next Steps
It’s scary to leave the financial security of a job—no matter how unhappy you are. If you’re planning on quitting teaching mid-year, have a timeline and plan in place for what comes after. That may include taking time off, working part-time, or securing full-time employment in a new field.
There are many careers outside the classroom where you can apply your skills and experience. However, if you’ve never applied for professional positions apart from teaching, this may seem daunting. You don’t have to figure it out alone.
The Teacher Career Coach Course (insert affiliate link) is a step-by-step program created to help you transition from the classroom into your new career. This course will help you navigate the path from determining what jobs are suited to your skills and experience to job searching and networking, resume writing, interviewing, and everything in between. Inside the course, you’ll also have access to a community of current and former teachers for encouragement and support.
Step 3: Breaking the News that You’re Quitting Teaching
I urge you to be very mindful of when you start to tell anyone at your district or school about your potential leave. Telling your admin or colleagues preemptively is a risky move that will likely make your working environment even more stressful.
When you do get that new employment contract in hand, it is
time to schedule a tough conversation with your principal. It’s best to do this in person when possible. Anytime you can avoid burning bridges, even in this situation, I recommend it. If you cannot keep it polite, just keep it very short and very concise, informing them of your decision and asking how you can assist in a smooth transition. The best thing that you can do is maintain your class and professionalism as you move on into your new life.
In addition to having that conversation, you’re also going to want to draft a resignation letter, which is the formal way to give notice and break a contract. It usually specifies the date you will be leaving. Some districts request that you formally submit a resignation letter to the human resources department and/or your administrators. Again, go back to your contract, union rep, or HR department to make sure you are taking all the proper steps if you’re quitting teaching mid-year.
Support with Quitting Teaching Mid-Year
I wish I could tell you that your exit timeline would work out perfectly, but often in life, we have to make really difficult decisions in order to get to where we need to be. Teachers who leave mid-year for new roles or mental health reasons are often bullied, gossiped about by their peers, or just labeled in general as selfish. The assumption is they left for better opportunities, or they abandoned their responsibilities, or they took the “easy way out.”
But if you are reading this now, you will probably be able to vouch for this situation not being easy at all. Teachers who leave in the middle of the year are usually at their absolute breaking point. There are so many tragic stories that I’ve heard where waiting until the teaching contract is up just doesn’t apply.
For step-by-step support with your transition out of the classroom, check out The Teacher Career Coach Course. Join thousands of teachers as you take your first steps into a new career.
Still unsure about quitting teaching? Check out this post about The Guilt and Stigma of Leaving Teaching on ways to overcome those negative emotions.
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.