How to Know When It's Time for a Change

Every teaching career is going to have its highs and lows, but what do you do when you feel like you've been on a low point for an extended period of time? Maybe you aren't as excited to get up and go to school every morning like you used to be. Maybe you find yourself running to the parking lot after school every day before the busses leave. Or maybe, you are finding yourself breaking down and feeling drained most days of the week. If you are starting to think it might be time for a change, that doesn't make you a terrible person. It may be time for you to evaluate your future career choices. I am here with some signs to look for to help you know when it's time for a change. Hopefully this post will give you some guidance and peace of mind when thinking about the future. 

How do you know when it's time for a change? Here are some things to consider before making a career change.

Don't Make A Heat Of The Moment Decision

Learn to differentiate between a bad day and signs that a change should be made.
As teachers we have all experienced the horrible, terrible, draining, cry in your car after school day. It happens. Whether it was an interaction with a team member, administrator, parent, or student those days are the worst! While it's easy to feel defeated and ready to give up, don't throw in the towel after a bad day. 

Making a life changing decision when your emotions are high is never a great idea. Instead, give yourself time to assess the situation and come back to considering a career change when you are more level headed. 

If it seems like these challenging days outnumber the good days, it may be time to sit down and really think about whether teaching is still the right career for you. 

Types of Changes

Leaving the teaching profession is not the only type of change that we are talking about here.  In fact, there are many options that you have.  
  1. New Teaching Assignment or Position
  2. New Campus
  3. Leave of Absence or Sabbatical
  4. New Profession
Don't lock yourself into a stay or leave teaching situation.  You might find that just a small change like a new grade level or school makes all the difference.  

Signs To Look For . . .

Set aside some time to really dig into this issue.  After all, this is one of those things that can fall into the category of a life changing decision.  Grab a pen and some paper, and maybe even a glass of wine and get ready for some honest soul searching.  Now that you are ready to put some time and thought into whether you want to continue on with your teaching career or not, there are some signs that can help you make your decision. 


If you are feeling drained or dread going to work, it may be time for a career change.
We have all felt the teacher burnout at one time or another during our teaching career. However, if you are feeling it for a prolonged period of time, you may have some serious teacher burnout. If you just don't have that same energy to get up and get excited to start you school day that you had even a year ago, don't feel guilty. It's not good for you, your family, or your students if you aren't happy. Not to mention the toll it can take on your health if you are completely burned out. 

Take some time to try identify just what it is that is causing the burnout feeling.  This can help you identify the best course of action.  

You Dread Going To Work

We all have a case of the Monday's now and then, but if you are dreading going to work most days of the week, it's time to think about WHY.  Take an honest look at the situation and try to pinpoint what is leading to this continual dread.  There are lots of reasons that can lead to this.  A few might include:
  • Difficult class or student
  • Difficult parent
  • Loss of excitement for the job
  • Unsupportive Administrator
  • Change in health, including mental health issues
  • Change in schedule
  • Change in family needs
Identifying this puts you well on the path to making an informed decision about your future.  Decide what type of change can help to correct the issue.  

Are You Feeling Bored?

This may be a little more difficult to pinpoint. Sometimes, that feeling of boredom can come across as frustration without you even realizing it. If you find yourself dreading a specific unit you have coming up, think about what you would rather be teaching. Instead of quitting teaching altogether, a change to a different grade level or position might be just what you need!  This can be especially helpful if you have been teaching the same grade level for many years in a row. 

Talk to your administrator and let them know how you are feeling.  Chances are, they don't want you feeling bored either.  Your administrator should be there to help you grow professionally.  Maybe there's a grade level that is intriguing to you.  Talk with other teachers to find out what they love and dread about their grade.  Maybe it's a different type of position altogether.  Many campuses have dedicated reading and math intervention teachers, computer or technology teachers, gifted & talented teachers or instructional coaches.  If you don't have an opening like this on your campus, your administrator could help you look within the district.   

Don't be afraid to switch it up and try some different grade levels or positions during your teaching career. Sometimes we don't know how much we will love a specific grade level until we try it out. 

Unsupportive Team

If your team is a challenge for you to work with every day, it may be time for a change.
When thinking about your school family, does it fill you with joy or dread? If you are on a team filled with tension, competition and personality conflicts it can make the work day difficult and frustrating.  Your teaching team should be supportive and encouraging.  While you don't have to be best friends, you should be able to go to your team with questions, concerns and new ideas.  

Every grade level team is going to have challenges, but sometimes they can be downright unhealthy. If you are finding it difficult to collaborate with your teammates or confide in them when you are feeling down, it might be time to think about joining a new team.  Talk with your administrator about your concerns and let them your desire for a change.  If there is an opening for a grade level you haven't considered in the past, it may be a sign that you should try it out.  A new team could be the perfect fit and bring back that love and passion for teaching that seemed lost.

Less Than Supportive Administrator

Okay, this is tough. It can feel impossible when you have an administrator that is less than supportive. Whether it's real or perceived, having an administrator that is unsupportive or downright mean can make all the difference in how you feel at the job.  Your administrator should be there to support you.  They should be the person you can count on to "have your back" when it comes to challenging situations with students and parents.  They should be there to help guide you and push you. But when they are not, it's easy to feel like you are in a battle all alone.  

It's also important to remember that part of the administrator's job does include staff development and discipline.  Be honest with yourself.  Did you mess up?  Do you need more structured guidance?  These aren't the situations to blame your feelings on the administrator.  But, if you know that you are doing a good job and still feel like your administrator is making the job more difficult, then it's time to think about change.  

An administrator can make or break a teacher when they are on the brink of deciding whether or not to stay in the teaching career. If you are lucky enough to have a supportive administrator, go to them with your concerns. More likely than not they have been in your shoes at one time or another. They may have some helpful advice for you. It may also be eye opening for them to hear from you how you are struggling. They may be able to help you by providing support, taking some extra duties off your plate, or even referring you to your district counseling service. 

If you don't feel that you can go to your administrator with your concerns then consider a colleague that you trust and can confidentially confide in.  Ask for an honest assessment of the situation and don't just go to a friend who will tell you what you want to hear.

While sometimes an unsupportive administrator is reason to leave teaching profession, other times it just might signal a need to change to a different campus or district.  To be the best teacher you can be, find an administrator that supports and pushes you to be your best.

Poor Work Environment

If your work environment is full of chaos it can make coming to work something you dread instead of something you are looking forward to.
If your work environment feels chaotic, stressful, and draining it can be hard to be the best teacher for your students. A lack of classroom management, for example, can leave you feeling drained at the end of every day.  Whether you are struggling with your students, your team, or your administrators, feeling like your work environment is challenging can leave you feeling stressed and depressed. 

Sometimes there are things you can do to help improve your work environment. It's a good idea to make a list of all the things happening that make the work environment less than ideal.  Then, go through each item on your list and write down what you can do change it.  This might be getting help with classroom management or connecting with another teacher as a mentor.  But there also might be things that you cannot change - things that are out of your control.  

Seeing everything written down can help you decide if you have the power to change the environment.  If there are things you can change, then ask for help and get ready to put in the hard work.  But it your list is filled with things that are out of your control then it might be time for a change.  An honest look at the situation can let you know whether a new location or a new career are in order.

Get Input From Friends And Family

Now that you've had some time to consider the signs mentioned above it's a good idea to talk to the people in your life who you know will hear you out and offer advice.  Talking this over with your family is a given because you will have to consider the financial impact a career change could have. 

Don't be afraid to ask friends and family for advice before making a career change.
Before breeching the subject with your family, be sure about your feelings and be prepared to answer their questions. Don't start your conversation without some idea of what your next plan of action will be. Be truthful about how you are feeling and why a change of career would be beneficial to everyone involved. 

Talk to your friends, and not just your teacher friends. Your teacher friends will absolutely be able to identify with how you are feeling, but everyone is on a different path. 

For your non-teacher friends, you may be surprised how much they have picked up on already in regards to how you are feeling about your teaching career. Choose to confide in those friends that you know want the best for you, and that you know will speak honestly to you.  This isn't the time for a "yes man" type of friend. 

You've Got This

Being a teacher is a magical thing. I always tell my students that they will ALWAYS be my kids no matter how old they are. I'm sure you love your students too. Before calling it quits for good, take some time to think about why you became a teacher in the first place. If you can still find some joy in teaching don't be afraid to switch grade levels or schools. Sometimes that's all we need.  

Don't be afraid to go for it whether it's a change of grade level, school or career.
Change can be scary but don't let fear hold you back.  Once you make that change and get adjusted to the new you are likely to find that passion renewed and a new excitement for your job. 

If you are not finding the joy in teaching anymore, that's okay.  People change, jobs change and expectations change.  There is nothing wrong with you if you find yourself wanting a career change. 

If you have a new direction in mind, then do it!  Get that training you need to move towards your new career goal.  If you are not quite sure what you'd like to do, start by looking at the skills you have. You may be able to use your talents in other ways. This could be working as an educational consultant, pursuing your passion for writing or turning your crafting passion into a business. No matter what you decide, be sure it's the right decision for you. You deserve to be happy and enjoy your job. 

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