Teaching can be incredibly fulfilling, but it’s also one of the hardest jobs out there. Low salaries make the profession tough enough, but add in factors like gossipy co-workers, nightmare parents, and students physically attacking other students and teachers, and it’s not hard to understand why many teachers quit the profession every year.
These 45 teachers share what finally pushed them out the door.
45. Sick Leave Is “Selfish”
I had a severe ear infection and temporarily lost my hearing for three days. I tried to push through it for the first day but realized that not being able to hear the 30 9-year-olds in my class made teaching them pretty difficult. I took two days off and sent highly detailed plans to the sub who was covering me. This was the only time I took off for the whole year. I returned to work to no less than 10 complaints.
Apparently, my sick leave was “incredibly selfish” as having a different teacher for two days was “very confusing” for the poor darlings, who couldn’t cope. The Head Teacher backed me up and told them to, respectfully, eff off but that was very much the last straw. I’m bending over backward working weekends and evenings for you and your kid but you can’t afford me a little human decency? I’m out.
44. Being Asked To Fudge A Grade
My godmother (middle school Spanish teacher) quit her third teaching job after the principal asked her to change the grade of a student who failed. As a note, this student was disruptive in class, flunked tests on purpose, and didn’t turn in homework. His parents didn’t respond to any of her letters explaining the state of his education and was disrespectful to her.
So obviously, the end of the year comes around and he didn’t pass his 8th grade Spanish class so his parents call up in furor. The principal wanted the kid’s grade changed because his parents often donated hefty sums of money to the school and were responsible for a restock of new books in the library. My aunt told him to change the grade himself and that she would not be teaching for him in the fall and walked out and never looked back.
43. Can’t Stay Another Day
My last full-time job I was a paraprofessional. The year was just crap from beginning to end. I was dealing with a psychotic 9-year-old, being bitten, threatened, spit on, cursed at, and basically abused by severely behavioral kids. On top of that, I was coping with a missed miscarriage, not enough staff, and taking the blame for when things went wrong even when they were not in any way my fault.
The final straw was when a kid threw a book at my spine. He hit me so hard I saw red, whirled on him, and almost smacked him. I caught myself. The next day, the same kid tore my glasses off, smashed them, and when I told the head teacher, she said that I had been provoking him. I had just asked what he wanted for lunch. The kid had scratched my eye when he grabbed my glasses. I said in a very flat voice that I was going to the bathroom. I went up to the principal and told him I was done. Turned in my two-week notice that day. I had to call my in-laws to get my contacts so I could drive home. The principal begged me to stay but I explained what happened. I was lucky the kid didn’t do any serious damage to my eye. I put in the least amount of effort for the rest of the two weeks.
42. Life-Changing Kick
I will never forget the time when a student kicked me in the stomach while I was pregnant. I finished off the year, although it was torture.
After my daughter was born, I went back to school part-time to get my doctorate so I could teach at a university instead of teaching high-school students. It was the best decision I ever made. That kick changed my life.
41. Christian Values They Say
Several years ago, I taught upperclassmen at an all-boys parochial school known for its athletics and very wealthy alumni. One of my students took advantage of a girl at a party, but because he was a good athlete and his parents made significant donations, the school didn’t actually kick him out until the police amped up their investigation and the school started to get negative media attention. In the meantime, I had to teach the kid and act like I knew nothing; the kid paraded around acting like he was untouchable.
The admin’s priorities during this whole fiasco were just so disgusting in light of the school’s very long history and well-publicized Christian mission, and I couldn’t wait to get out of there as soon as my contract ended. It was even harder having to attend a handful of weekend admissions events right after the incident and listen to prospective parents ask about how the school teaches respect for women, while admin talks up some bull about the “Christian values” the school has been instilling in its young men since the school opened in the late 19th century.
40. Attacking Is “OK”
I still teach, but at my first school – where I thought I’d be for life – I got a new student. He was troubled and heard voices but was very nice to me. But then one day, he attacked me in the shoulder with a pen. There was something called a “manifestation meeting,” and basically they decided it was okay for him to do that. My district wanted me to sign some documents so I wouldn’t press charges and wanted me to attend 40 hours of training on how to handle someone who is trying to kill you, basically.
The kid was back in my class and tried to do it again. It was the end of the school year and I had sick days, so I used up enough and interviewed elsewhere. I did not press charges, though I now know I should have. I ended up at a much better school and I’ve been happy ever since.
39. Illegal Amount Of Stress
I worked for SPED at a high needs school that’s notorious in the district for its discipline problems. General Ed basically hanging on by a thread, and students often get physical with teachers. I was constantly considering quitting because I was the only person on my team who actually showed up to work consistently, and I was asked to handle an illegal amount of students with special needs according to their IEPs almost daily. Very high stress.
Finally, I quit when my pregnant coworker was pushed down the stairs. She and baby ended up being fine, but no repercussions for the student were given. My husband and I were planning, and did, get pregnant later that year. I’m glad I left.
38. I’m A Teacher, Not A Financer
One of my brother’s teachers quit this year because she was expected to pay money to buy a new machine for her class. She needed this machine to actually teach her students how to print designs onto shirts. She asked the school to get someone to repair the machine because it stopped working awhile back. The school refused to even give her a single penny and stop listening to her complaints. What was the most outrageous thing about this entire ordeal was that the school kept sending her requests to print the school’s logo on shirts and jackets. They wanted about 100 more items in the school’s store fast. There’s no way in hell that she could do this without spending the big bucks.
Instead of being able to teach her class properly, she invested more time fighting the administration so that she could teach her students by using a functional machine. Under pressure, she used A LOT of her own money to try to fix the machine and it still didn’t work. As a teacher, she didn’t make enough to have enough money laying around for this. She sent the school her two weeks notice letter shortly after. The outcome of this was that her students didn’t have a teacher anymore. They just had substitutes that don’t know what the class was supposed to do. The students didn’t have a clue themselves.
37. The Kids Were Okay, The Teachers Were The Problem
The other teachers were gossipy and cliquey like they had never graduated high school (I started teaching at 30 after having worked in different types of jobs). They talked crap about each other all the time. The one teacher they all told me to avoid turned about to be the only teacher I could stand. Like me, she also worked “in the real world.” The principal wanted me to lower my standards (which were exactly the state standards for that class, nothing higher) because “they didn’t grow up talking about Shakespeare at the dinner table, like you.”
Umm, neither of my parents graduated high school so I don’t know why he assumed I was in some over-educated household just because I had a few degrees. He was also just a major jerkwad. (He was later demoted from principal back to a teacher because he was terrible). The students were okay, but I couldn’t stand the other teachers.
36. The Faculty Was Even Worse
I taught a class that was well-known for its ability to break veteran teachers. They were rowdy and disrespectful and some students had very low standardized test scores. Granted, the start of my year was rough, I had trouble controlling them since it was my first year. But once I found a good behavior management system, things smoothed out. I still had trouble with one particular student, but toward the end of the year she opened up to me about harming herself, her eating disorder, and how she was abused at home. All of their scores improved, their behavior was improved, but it wasn’t enough. The principal only chose to focus on how they were at the start of the year and berated me for having such a terrible class and that I didn’t seek help from the teacher they had the year before (who nearly quit before Thanksgiving because of them, and whom all my parents had told me they disliked, so why would I seek help from her?).
A coworker, also a first-year teacher, was given a similarly ‘bad’ class, but she had a violent student who would throw desks and chairs. The principal knew this and still gave this first-year teacher that class instead of the other, more experienced teacher who taught the same grade. She also did great things with her class, and at the end of the year she found out her father had cancer, and the school had fired her. They couldn’t afford to increase the salary of first-year teachers going into the second year, so they fired all of us.
35. Money Talks
When I tested the reading level of a 19-year-old girl, it registered in 1st grade. Since she was on FRL and English Language services, she would ding the school in two “at-risk” categories for our graduation rate. I told the administration: “This girl is illiterate in English. We know this as a fact. She cannot graduate, no ifs, and, or buts.”
Smash cut to 3 weeks later as she’s walking across the stage in a cap and gown to receive a diploma she can’t read. Sad. At that point, I knew my job wasn’t serving at-risk youths, it was playing a numbers game to bilk taxpayer money to prop up a failing system. No thanks.
34. That Unmanageable Class
Last year was my very first year of teaching. I was so optimistic. But turns out I got that class. The unruly, unmanageable class. The class veteran teachers couldn’t manage. And I was yelled at weekly for my inability to manage them. Not to mention having to evacuate my class weekly because the room was being destroyed by one student. That same student punched, kicked, and slammed my back and head in the door on purpose.
The kid also tried to attack me with scissors and jab me in the eye with a sharpened pencil. This is 1st grade. The admins always blamed me for his behavior, even though I was following his IEP and behavior plan exactly as it was written. I quit in March. Now I’m in a way better district and school with an even more amazing administration that is providing 1000000000000x more support.
33. Kiddie Fight Extreme Level
I had an 8-year-old pull a shooting weapon on another kid (it was a CO2-powered pellet shooting weapon but I challenge anyone to tell the difference without holding it). I got between them and took the weapon. The kid’s mom threatened to sue me for putting my hands on her kid. I didn’t hurt him in any way, but he and his mom played it up. She also said that since it was only a pellet weapon, I had no right to touch her precious baby. The kicker is that my principal backed up the mom.
I pulled out my phone and called the police to file a report since she threatened to lawyer up. She predictably tried to backpeddle but I called anyway. I wrote my letter of resignation the next day, effective at the end of the summer so I’d still get paid, and the class watched movies for the last 2 weeks of school.
32. The Mom’s Wack-Job
I got stalked by a parent because I was the only teacher holding her ADHD kid accountable for his grades and she wanted me to let him slide. My assistant principal had to sneak me out the back of the school to avoid the wack-job mother, but after, the principal was ticked that I wouldn’t talk to that parent to “work it out.”
This happened two days after the school psych said the mom was “unhinged,” and that I was being “targeted for some reason” that the psych couldn’t figure out. I told them the next morning I would not be renewing my contract. I have not found a job since (possible coincidence…?) but I am so much happier.
31. Life Is Really Unfair
I saw this kind of crap all the time going to a private university in the U.S. I have one friend who has a chronic disease and uses a wheelchair. When she was in school, there was always a huge process to get the time off she needed to deal with this medical stuff.
Meanwhile, another friend with a donor daddy could take weeks off in the middle of the semester to vacation abroad with no repercussions.
30. A Major Safety Threat
There were several events that led to my decision. During the first year I taught, a 14-year-old student grabbed my chest. The administration said it was my fault. Another student threw a book at me and hit me in the head. I sent her to the office…she was sent right back to my class. During my third year of teaching, I had a student that cussed me out for looking in his direction. The admin didn’t see it as a problem. The same student decided it would be a good idea to chase me around the classroom with a pair of scissors trying to stab me. I called SRO. He was back in my class the next day.
Still, in my third year, my husband and I were trying to get pregnant. We walked out of the school band concert and heard shots in the neighborhood. Events like this were just the tip of the iceberg. I came to the conclusion that no job was worth my safety.
29. Touching Issues
I worked as a teaching assistant in the 5th grade and really liked it, despite how stressful it could be. One day, we were having a grade-wide teacher meeting and I was told a student had accused me of inappropriately touching them. I was baffled because not only had I not done that (the most actual “touching” I had ever done was a pat on the shoulder) but in regards to this particular student I don’t think I had physically touched them at all. Later on during the day, one of the principals came in and started taking female students out to the hall to interview them and I felt truly awful about it at this point because it felt like I was essentially being punished. Then the principal brought me into a room with two other girls and talked about how it would get better and whatnot and they apologized to me and I thought that was it. I felt awful but at least they apologized and I could go on with my life being a teaching assistant.
Two days later, I’m preparing to substitute for my lead teacher when a vice principal came in and told me they didn’t feel comfortable with me being around kids and to go downstairs to meet with the executive of the school. At this point, I’m holding back tears and trying not to cry because I felt embarrassed and humiliated for something I knew I never did. Anyways, I met with the executive, was put on administrative leave while they investigated (again, I suppose) and later that day I was fired for “inappropriate touching.” I asked what that meant and he said it was any physical touching. I only worked there a month but I had seen teachers hug their students and again, I had at most only ever patted their shoulder. Anyways, that was a month ago and now I don’t really know if I want to get into teaching ever again.
28. Wasn’t Fun At All
I was a fully tenured prof at a public Uni for over 15 years. I left my job for a whole list of reasons, but most notably because it was no fun at all. And I taught art, and art should be (at least a little bit) fun. It was nothing but stress. Grade inflation? Absolutely. Countless, endless meetings that accomplish nothing? Daily.
But the worst was right at the end when I got “written up” for actually asking people to take notes on how to set up and turn on a TIG welder, as I didn’t want to repeat myself 100 times. A student went to the chair and complained. I got written up for asking people to write something down. I cannot abide. I am out. You figure out how best to retain information and get back to me.
27. The Admin Supported His Laziness
Rumor mill told me that my paraprofessional’s grandmother passed. I offered my condolences and he said, “I never even met her, so it doesn’t affect me at all.” Oh, okay. Two weeks later, my grandfather passes and it devastates me. I make up detailed sub-plans of things the children HAVE to do as we are at the end of the school year preparing for finals. I was literally in tears on the computer creating everything. This para ends up subbing for me.
I return to find out absolutely nothing got done. The students report that the para sat on his phone the three days while they had free time. I am livid. His excuse? He was grieving and the admin backed him up. I quit teaching but only lasted a summer before I was headhunted by my current school that I’m (so far) in love with.
26. The Bad Girl And The Felon
Two things happened at once. I had taught seventh grade for four years. A girl who complained to me for an entire semester of being harassed/groped brought a sharp weapon to school and threatened a boy with it if he grabbed her chest again. SHE was expelled. I’d reported the incidents to administrators, school resource officers, and guidance counselors. They ignored her, me, and her other two teachers until she became that desperate for him to stop.
Also, a “troubled” student saw me walking from the convenience store with my goddaughter. He followed us and found my house. After that, he started riding by, throwing stuff in my yard, yelling obscenities, etc. The school resource officer said not to go to the police, but just tell him. The final straw was when he climbed on my fence and shot my dog with a paintball. I threatened to quit on the spot so they moved him from my class. Then over Christmas break, he poked holes in my inflatable decorations. I finished the year and was done. The girl from the first story was home-schooled to finish high school, went to college, and just started her P.A. program. The future felon became an actual felon at 18 and is still in jail. Go figure.
25. Teachers Endure A Lot of Abuse
Not me, but my wife. She had an unusually high number of special needs students (for which she has no specialized training) and zero support from administration. One mother in particular insisted that every insane accommodation be made for her son, like developing a custom lesson plan specifically for her son, 1-on-1 time during class to make sure he understood, give credit for assignments that weren’t assigned in place of those that were but not completed, the list goes on and on.
The administration frequently sided with the mother to avoid confrontation. All that happened was the other 29 students sacrificed their class time for one kid that didn’t even give a darn about being there. The last straw really had to be when this kid called my wife a “freaking B word” and his punishment was that he didn’t have to go to class next time. Not suspended, not detention, he just got out of that class.
24. Who Spanks Who?
My grandpa was a teacher for an elementary school for quite a long time. One day, a kid was being a little too uppity so the principal asked him to spank the kid.
This was like 40-50 years ago, but still, at that time the teachers had no part in that kind of punishment, and my grandpa told the principal this. If the parents wanted to spank him, that is their business, but it wasn’t his, more or less what he told him. He was told again, and he just quit on the spot, to his boss’ face.
I was teaching journalism in college. A student handed in an article, which was supposed to go in a newspaper, that included no research and multiple emoticons. So I gave the paper an F and told him to come to talk to me about it. I explained in short form why journalism exists, why it is important, and that his worst grade is dropped so this doesn’t have to hurt him. Heck, I would accept a redo. The student in question was an athlete in a big state school for throwing balls fast. I got flack from the dean of students, my department chair, and other professorial types. Why wouldn’t I let it go? Was I racist or hated sports or what? I just wanted him to try a little harder at the thing that was his college major.
I used to pick my words so meticulously because communication is so important. I held to my ethics, he got a tutor after a couple of weeks, but it broke me. My mom had died less than a month prior and I had to explain to a college dean why “Lol ;)” in the context of a journalistic article about a bar was unacceptable. My father spent years learning English and speaks it better than I do. This kid threw balls fast and because of that, I was supposed to pass him without question. Let’s go with sports, but between that and my mom dying I could not go on. I figuratively died in that meeting.
22. It’s The Parents And The Administration
I taught high school. I was berated in the hallway for showing my film class a PG movie. Apparently a student’s parents had sued the school district the year prior and won due to their child having nightmares from a PG film seen in class. That’s when I knew I simply couldn’t make the difference I needed to always cater to the lowest common denominator teaching high school and finished a masters to teach at the collegiate level. I get so frustrated when I tell folks that I stopped teaching and the first comment was: “Those kids can be a nightmare, I get it.”
My kids were incredible and the ones that acted out just needed some 1-on-1 time to talk through what was going on. Some had abusive parents, some got little sleep because they had to raise their siblings more or less on their own, some were getting jumped on the way from their bus stop to get home every week. I had a few turn down gang lives to pursue teaching and I could not be more proud of my kids. So please, don’t assume the kids are why teachers quit; the administration and the parents are why I couldn’t handle it.
21. It Wasn’t An Accident
I had a student try to kill me and the administration told him to make it look like an accident. I also had a stroke at work and the same person told me he’d call an ambulance but he’d also call HR and fire me so I had no health insurance. After the stroke I continued to work but I have long term problems.
The last straw was when I had a profoundly disabled student try to throw herself on the sidewalk. Without thinking, I dove down and picked her up. The admin wrote me up (I did touch her: a big no no.) and told me if she had split her head open, she would have learned. No, with her disability, she would have died. I was done.
20. The Insults
The final straw came when a particularly problematic student was causing a huge disruption in my classroom by screaming and flipping over desks, which alone wasn’t that big of an incident. I escorted this student down to the principal’s office, as I had many times before. Except for this time, the student insulted me the whole time. I explained the situation to the administrators and returned to my class.
A few minutes later, an announcement came over the PA system inside the school and the principal mocked and insulted me for what I did. The principal made a snarky comment about not being able to control my class. The troublemaker then returned to class, without facing any kind of disciplinary action, and tried to provoke a fight with me. I noped right out of my classroom, walked out the door, and joined the military.
19. The Crazy Requirements
I left when the state mandated a new teacher evaluation protocol. We had to document our proficiency in 4 standards, 17 indicators and 29 elements with photographs, examples of student work, handouts from meetings, logs of parent interactions, copies of emails, etc. No one ever expects a doctor to have to “prove” he relates well with his patients by photographing an office visit. But I had to photograph students working in the lab or doing group work to “prove” I taught using a variety of techniques. I had to log or photograph my visits to my SPED students’ study hall to “prove” I supported their learning. It was endless.
Administrators still visited my classroom and evaluated my teaching as before, but now I was responsible for documenting so much more. If you can’t trust me to be professional after 15 years of teaching AP classes then guess what? I’m gone.
18. New Principal, New Rules
My mom, an elementary school teacher, had a different principal every year for 5 years because the school had poor performance on standardized tests. For some reason, each one wanted to rearrange the whole darn school and move teachers’ rooms around. My mom was a science teacher so she had not only her own classroom and all the hassle that entails, but also an entire science lab. She had already retired once before coming back because she got nostalgic for teaching the kids in a classroom, but after the revolving door of principles, terrible parents who could not care less about their children’s education, and the ungrateful kids themselves being absolute monsters to each other and her, she had just about had it. When the last principal requested move #4 in as many years, she packed up the stuff she bought with her own money (to supplement the poor funding of the public education system, another major sticking point), packed up the stuff that belonged to the school, and gave her notice.
She gave so much in her 30+ years of teaching and though her uncompromising principles and high expectations sometimes did not make her the most popular teacher, everything she did was because she cared about the kids and their education, often and unfortunately more than they did. She would put in hours of work each week to try and make the lessons more accessible to ESL students and kids who were passed up by the system despite not retaining knowledge from past years, just so that their standardized test scores would increase from a 40% pass rate to a 45% pass rate. It’s really a shame. After growing up seeing how much work good teachers put into lesson plans, grading papers, and after-hours tutoring, I do not envy teachers today.
17. Not Enough Pay
I taught high school for 10 years. I was an amazing teacher. I received perfect evaluations and was a teacher of the district twice in that time. I was a class sponsor, sponsored clubs, took kids to Europe, and on overnight field trips. I loved teaching and I was good at it and passionate about it. I left teaching when I learned that my colleague, also a great teacher, who was 20 years into her career, had two Masters degrees and topped out the systems pay scale at $58K a year. Starting at 22 years old at $39K is awesome, retiring at $58K is total crap.
I realized that despite my degrees and my hard work, I’d never make enough to keep my head above water. It wasn’t enough to pay my student loans or put my kids through college. At one point, I was working three jobs at the same time to make my bills work. I have two Masters’ degrees and a slew of impressive endorsements. I was never going to be promoted or get a raise. Even if I was a crappy teacher who did sub-par work, I’d make the same amount as a stellar teacher.
16. Schools Have Become A Bureaucratic Nightmare
I taught middle school science in a small rural district in southern Illinois. The superintendent made a position for his wife in our cash-strapped system. Due to scheduling, it moved me out of a job that I loved, into teaching second grade. I lasted 8 days. When the superintendent called me to tell me that I was moving, he told me not to get the union involved or fight it. I did give him a piece of my mind while on the phone, and I heard rumors that the move was coming so I made plans to leave.
If people ask me why I left, I just tell them that education has gone from making people learners to too focused on test scores. Students lack critical thinking skills. I quit for about 1.5 years and went to work at a car manufacturing company. I left that job; it just wasn’t my thing. And now I’m teaching middle school science in a different district.
15. Teacher’s Rage
My 6th-grade substitute science teacher quit in the middle of class. We were wild and unruly. Like totally out of control.
He rubbed his forehead in frustration and stood up and yelled: “Screw every one of you!”, grabbed his briefcase, and walked out. It wasn’t singularly my fault but I still feel really bad about it. I’m sorry, Mr. Messina.
14. Hundred Hours Of Work With No Pay
I was a classroom assistant hired by the county. We were more like volunteers who were paid in education grants, so we made less than minimum wage: about one-fourth of it. There was a teacher in charge of us; I’ll call her Sandra. Sandra had a lot of things to do, so I left her alone. I just kind of did my own thing by asking what teachers needed help with day-to-day, showing up to Saturday school for tutoring, and doing whatever I could to help with school events. It was hard work. Tutoring for every single class that’s offered, reporting physical abuse experienced by students at their homes multiple times, learning to level with and work with kids that had severe intellectual and behavioral problems. I had no training. It was really hard. I also spent a lot of my own money on resources and supplies for students who needed them, probably more money than what I made in the first place. But, despite all of those bad things, I put up with all of it. Hundreds of hours of work for almost no pay, all because I legitimately cared about those students. It’s a rough school and they deserved a chance. They deserved people who care about them, and someone willing to take the time to make sure they can be successful. I did it for them because somebody did it for me when I was little.
Then one day, Sandra asked me to be a substitute teacher for a class. I’m not allowed to do that because I don’t technically work for the school, which means I can’t be alone with students. I also don’t have substitute teaching certifications. Sandra got ticked, walked away angrily, then told several part-time teaching aids (who actually work for the school and should be covering for the no-show sub) that they have to work overtime and it’s my fault. She also blatantly tells them that they should teach me a lesson. She actually wrote down a list of things she didn’t like about me, mostly related to my appearance and clothes, and gave it to them. Then over the next two weeks, all of these teaching aides start calling me Fat Amy, Goodwill, and Sleepytimeghee. They also did that in front of students. Then Sandra starts calling me those names, then some of the students start doing it because they see a teacher doing it. My depression got worse. I went from insomnia due to stress, to insomnia due to stress and humiliation. That was it. I transferred to a different school for the remainder of my service term (where I basically just sat in an office doing nothing) then I didn’t sign up again for the following year.
13. Not Coming Back
During freshman year, our physics teacher quit mid-year or his first year teaching. Not gonna lie, we were a bad class. A bad grade as a matter of fact. He was a nerdy, kind of timid of a guy and he thought if he was a kind dude then people would respect him. Needless to say, that didn’t work. Kids were jumping off the desk, doing skateboard tricks in class, blasting speakers in the middle of lessons, throwing papers at him, and one student even did drugs in class. That kid got expelled obviously.
I was one of the kids who kinda just sat there and watched this all happen. I saw him scrunching his face in frustration, having no control of the class. He was never a very assertive person. He was literally ripping out his hair and he had patches on his head that made us all question if he had enough. A week before Christmas break, he told us he was resigning and not coming back. He was going back to school to become an engineer. We haven’t heard from him since.
12. Change The Grade Or Else…
A friend of mine quit on the spot when he was asked to change a student’s grade. The kid missed over 50% of the classes, never handed in homework, did poorly on tests, etc., and ended up failing the class. He truly earned his failing grade. But because his father was an influential member of the school board/generous donor/blah blah blah, they “couldn’t” let the kid have a failing grade on his record. Summer school was also not an option because the family had already scheduled a vacation during the time that summer classes would be in session.
So, the principal told my buddy that he had to change the student’s grade to a passing grade. My buddy told the principal he would absolutely not sign off on that, and if it was so important to him, to change the grade himself. He then said, “If you do change it, don’t expect to see me back here in September.” Sure enough, the grade got changed, and my buddy packed up his stuff and left.
I got burned out from the grading, the parents’ absurd demands and the helicopter parents, trying to teach with special needs children disrupting the lesson with no aides because of budget cuts, the lack of support from management, the lack of discipline and follow-ups on it, the unmanageable class sizes, lack of resources, and overall lack of respect.
The exact moment was being pressured to pass a child who did not deserve it. I taught overseas for a while (just for a change) but realized a lot of international schools have incompetent management. So I walked away and started up my own business.
10. It’s The Parents
I am retiring in 19 days. I’ve been teaching for 26 years and I swear it has become more difficult every year. So much so that I advised both my daughters NOT to major in education (they didn’t). I was supposed to retire in two more years, but my school district offered those qualified an early retirement incentive. This equates to an $80,000 annuity if I leave now. I am more than ready to go… the thought of two more years was weighing on me heavily. I was dreading it.
Aside from the incentive, I’ve had constant BS from a couple of the parents of students in my class. I can’t tell you how sick and tired I am of parents who think they understand what I do and how treating me, a highly educated professional trained to work with children, with such disrespect is okay. They wouldn’t treat their doctor or lawyer this way. Nor should they be treating their child’s teacher this way. So yes, you could say that “the last straw” is the parents.
9. Terrible Administrators
Not a teacher, but have a good friend who was. He quit because of terrible administrators. The school district was having financial difficulties so they had to let a bunch of people go. Of course, they made their decisions based on seniority instead of performance, so all the young and talented teachers were given pink slips while the old and incompetent teachers retained their positions. Apparently, this is pretty par for the course in the world of teaching. He got a job at another district and stuck it out for a while but eventually called it quits and went to graduate school.
Note that this guy graduated with a STEM degree from a top-5 university and could have made six figures at his first job in finance, consulting, or engineering, but decided to teach instead because he wanted to give back to his community. He deliberately chose to teach at rough schools in the inner city and loved his students, but in the end, having to deal with an insufferable administration drove him away. The sad thing is I’m sure his story isn’t at all unique. Quite frankly, while there are some amazing STEM teachers in the US, teaching salaries simply aren’t high enough to attract enough of them to K-12 education. Why put up with crap for $40K/year when you can have a comfortable and prestigious job that pays three times that much? This is a fundamental problem in STEM education that won’t be easy to solve.
8. The Admin Didn’t Do Anything About It
I’m in my first year and I’m not going to keep going. I already got accepted to study a different course next year to get out of teaching. The actual event happened after school during care. I was physically assaulted by an (at that time) undiagnosed autistic child. I had made many many reports about this child and that he needed help. It was so obvious that he was autistic and needed specialized help that we could not provide. Admin gave me NOTHING. I spoke to the parents and they also did nothing. They were also assaulting their other teachers every day.
Finally, one afternoon he was screaming at me, throwing chairs and trying to hurt the other kids. I stood between him and the door to protect the other kids for ten minutes acting as a punching bag until help arrived. He ended up assaulting two or three other teachers that day too. While this was terrifying and I probably have some sort of PTSD from it, a lot of the reason I’m leaving teaching is the terrible admin support I received before and after the event. They cared for half an hour that there was an incident, but nothing was done before and I wasn’t updated after. I was also left as the sole staff member on the shift with the kid when the assault happened even though I’d shared my concerns time and time again.
7. I’m A Teacher, Not A Bouncer
Two 16-year-old kids were facing each other (I had the classroom seats in a U shape) and were silently challenging each other to fight while I was in the middle of a lesson. They suddenly jumped up from their chairs and came at each other with eight-inch sharp weapons with me in between them.
I was pretty built, having been a stonemason’s apprentice in college to help pay my way through, but these kids were both bigger than me. Without thinking, I grabbed each by their collars and shouted: “SIT. DOWN.” I didn’t start shaking until that evening. I was done a week later.
6. History Requirement
I pushed hard through college to be a high school history teacher. All the way, professors and peers encouraged me to keep going. “We need intelligent history teachers,” they said.
I gave up when the 27 schools I interviewed at told me I was required to teach a sport in order to be a history teacher, and I was not allowed to reference any material outside the approved curriculum. That’s not history education. That’s commercial ignorance.
5. It’s Mentally And Emotionally Draining
I had a mental breakdown brought about by stress: the school was implementing curriculum changes, meaning that low-ability pupils were constantly told that they were not good enough, and less money meant redundancies. Then came the pressure of performance-related pay with the same disinterested and low-ability children.
It was either leave teaching or commit suicide. A very supportive family and well-paid partner meant that I could stop.
4. Identity Crisis
A 15-year-old eighth-grader (I taught a team of kids who had failed at least one grade – for some reason they put them all together) came up to me and said that he thought he might be gay. I suggested and brought in some reading materials about identity development and questioning your sexuality.
The guidance counselor found out when he showed her the materials that I had provided and I was written up because I was teaching in a conservative state. I decided that I couldn’t condone working for a system that wouldn’t let me help the students who asked for it. So I went to grad school.
3. Sharpening Memorization
I taught a class that would be tested on the state level and the result of the test (as well as some others) would dictate our funding.
The principal gave me the exam in advance and asked that I quiz the students directly on the questions in the packet. I was no longer teaching for knowledge but for memorization and it really deflated me. I walked away that winter.
2. Horrible People
I worked for three years as a teacher’s aide in a special needs class. I was assigned to this class because of a male student with autism that would lash out and attack the teacher and other aides in the room. I was much larger than this student and they thought I’d be able to control him and keep everyone else safe. Even though I was able to keep others safe, I would come home some days beaten bruised and bloody from his outbursts. But I grew to love that kid so I stayed with it and ended up helping him learn to communicate. But the big problem was the teacher and one of the aides. The aide especially decided that for some reason she didn’t like me and since the teacher was the youngest person in the room and still acted like a high school kid, she decided to go along with that aide. They treated me like a dog. I reported it to our supervisor, and she had a meeting with them and things got better for a bit. Then they got worse than ever; the other aide who I had become good friends with even asked what I did to piss them off. I reported their behavior again and the agency we worked for moved the problem aide to another class at the other schools. The teacher didn’t talk to me for the rest of that year. Two years later, I was still in that class but we now had our fourth new teacher and another new aide and a new supervisor. So I was the only one that knew anything about our students. The teacher was horrible and treated one student (with developmental disabilities mind you) like he was an idiot, even berating him in front of the class. The supervisor had a doctorate. So since she had the letters Dr. in front of her, that meant she already knew everything and even though I had worked with those kids for 3 years, I was always wrong. The teacher targeted the other aide who like me was male. He got sick of how he was treated and quit halfway through the year. They even told him he wasn’t allowed to wear his cross necklace to work. Then she set her eyes on me and told the supervisor that I was constantly on my phone during class.
That year, my wife was pregnant so yes I would take my phone out and look at it to either check the time or see if she had messaged me then put it right back. At the end of the school year, I decided that I was done working for that agency because of the way they treated not only me but the other aide that year. Fortunately, the one student that I had been assigned there for graduated and had a job at a place for adults with disabilities. I got a job with that company and was able to continue helping him for the next four years.
1. Unappreciated Routine
I taught high school for 14 years, and I really enjoyed teaching the students. I got good at it, and I figured out how to have a productive, enjoyable classroom most of the time.
I quit because it became a routine – the same things every year. The fun of learning the students didn’t continue to counterbalance the committees, the backstabbing fellow teachers, the hours of evening work, and the unappreciative administration. Administrators: talk to your teachers often, and give them constructive feedback! We need to feel like our efforts are noticed and appreciated!