• Emily Byrnes

Why I'm Leaving Teaching..

It’s true. I am leaving my job as a middle school English teacher after working in Education for six years, and the only way to describe it is bitter sweet.

I have seen quite a few stories floating around the internet about teachers leaving the profession. Sometimes it's because of money (though not usually), sometimes it's "kids these days," sometimes it is a general feeling of not being supported, and sometimes it's the sheer mental tax of the job. Let me just begin by saying, I am not leaving teaching because of the kids. I love my kids to death. This year the relationships I had with my students were some of the most rewarding I’ve ever had, and I am grateful for every single kid I was lucky enough to meet. Middle schoolers are quirky, resilient, fun, beautiful humans. It's humbling to watch a thirteen-year-old go through a tough time and handle it with more grace than I could muster if I tried. It's inspiring to watch the lights turn on in an eighth grader's eyes when they solve a problem, and it is genuinely a joy to help a smallish human discover that they don't "hate" reading as much as they once thought (The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton seems to be the universal antidote for kids who think they hate books.)

I am also not leaving because of the pay. It is common knowledge that teacher salaries are less than lucrative. My husband has been programming for two years and his salary is already the equivalent to what my salary would be in my thirtieth (yes, thirtieth) year of teaching if I stayed. Though a little discouraging, it’s not about the money.

It’s not even the difficult parents, the emotional toll of not being able to leave my job at the door when I walk out, or the extras that come with the job that keep you working well beyond closing time.

In fact, I am not leaving teaching because I am unhappy in any way. I love my school (shout out to New Lebanon,) I love my co-workers, and I have always felt supported by the community and the administration. My kids are phenomenal -yes- phenomenal, and I cannot stress that enough. However, I have never felt as inspired or passionate about anything as I do writing, so I am leaving teaching (drumroll, please!) to pursue my dream of being a full-time writer. It is scary, risky, and bittersweet, but most of all it is incredibly exciting.

Even a few months ago, the idea of leaving my stable job would have sounded absurd to me. As creatives, we are often told that our passions are merely “hobbies” and for most of my life I adopted that mindset without question. I have been writing for as long as I can remember and have always loved it, but I never once thought that it would (or could) be my profession. I didn’t even consider going to college for creative writing or poetry, and I never thought a job in the arts was a viable option when I was younger. When we pursue creative endeavors as careers, we are typically met with an onslaught of parental worry, rolling eyes, and mountains upon mountains of self-doubt, and to some degree I understand why. Creative success has a lot more to do with raw talent, practice, and how much hustle you’re willing to put in than many other professions. Hence the apprehension.

Regardless of all of that, I have always felt a strong pull toward writing to the point where when I can’t write I feel like something is missing; like there is an aching phantom limb that cannot be soothed by work or play or scrolling through social media. This year I reached the point where I didn’t have time to spread myself evenly between teaching and writing, and I began to feel stretched too thin which wasn’t good for me or either one of my jobs.

And so I talked to everyone I trusted to make sure I wasn’t crazy. I ran numbers. I sought reassurance. I made pro/con lists. I talked to a financial advisor. Eventually, I decided to take the risk. The most terrifying part was actually writing the resignation letter for my teaching job, and the most heart-wrenching part was telling my students I would not be returning in the fall. I felt doubt, guilt, fear, and anxiety, but I also felt a sense of freedom. Freedom to (finally, at almost thirty) pursue my dream of being a full-time writer and author.

Now, I am not encouraging anyone to up and quit a job they need to get by. We need to pay our rent and our bills. We have school loans. We need stability and healthy routine. I have been pursuing writing for years, and have reached a place where taking a leap of faith (though risky) is reasonable. Maybe the risk will pay off, and maybe it won’t. Maybe I’ll miss teaching and come back to it one day. There are a lot of “maybes” involved, and though I don’t know all of the answers, I am encouraging anyone with a creative drive to see it through. Don’t let your passion rot in the pit of your stomach while you work a 9-5 job you aren’t passionate about just because it pays well or makes your parents happy. Don’t belittle your ambitions or tell yourself “It would never work out.” If you want it, make it happen.

Take a risk (but make sure you can still afford to eat). Jump off that metaphorical cliff and believe that the wind will catch you when you spread your wings, because as long as you’ve been putting in the work and teaching yourself to fly,

it will.


#teaching #writing #creativewriting #leavingteaching #poetry #teacher #middleschoolteacher #education

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