On Leaving Teaching

I haven’t dwelt much on my reasons for leaving teaching. I was moving a thousand miles, and I had planned to the change long in advance. It was pretty simple.

But I was saw echoes of myself in this (now-former) teacher’s story in the AJC, and I thought about my decision a little more. I taught the same subject, at the same grade level, in the same school system as she. I felt much less alone–and although there are millions of now-former teachers in the US, it’s a lonely-feeling group.

There’s a certain dread I felt when I taught, and I think it is generally unique to teaching. It’s rare to find this sense of lurking dread in any discussion of education. This article is great because it gives a voice to this common experience among teachers, one that I think sits at the heart of the decision to leave the profession.

I think this sense of dread is a sense of defeated idealism, thwarted by narrow-mindedness, cynicism, and subtle exploitation. The motivations that bring our most talented teachers into the profession are often at odds with the realities of our school systems.

So why am I trying to become a part of that system? From my experience at the front of the classroom, I know the problem is not a lack of great teachers. It’s the way our schools our run. It drives away teachers, but it also poisons relationships with parents and other stakeholders, and it sours our students’ experience in the classroom.

There’s a lot of optimism out there, but the organizational culture of many of our educational institutions make them one of the worst possible places to try to turn that idealism into practice.

The consequence? I have never met more idealistic people in the education world than the former public school teachers I have encountered here in Boston who have gone on to work in educational organizations outside of our school systems. Some are at nonprofits, some are developing startups, some are in the public-sector practices at consulting firms.

If I met the writer of this article in person, I’d suggest that her idealism would be put to better use at an organization outside of the school system that nonetheless worked to help those students, whether through after-school enrichment programs, providing data analysis to schools, or fostering better connections between schools and the community.

And yes, I realize this is advice I’m going to have to take for myself.


As you will notice from the dates of this blog, I have thus far failed to get into a blogging routine. Finals and my internship conspired to make writing a difficult thing to fit on the schedule. I am finding that large weekly updates are a bad idea, since I spend too much time all at once, and never get into a rhythm. I’m going to try shorter, more frequent posts that get to the point more quickly.


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