Embrace Change: 10 Ways to Cope with the Emotions of Leaving the Classroom
Quitting a job, especially teaching, is a major life change that usually comes with a mix of emotions. Whether you're leaving the classroom because you're worn out or just craving something different, the emotional ride that follows can be intense. Today I am talking about how to cope with the emotions that come with leaving the classroom. I give you 10 tips to stay focused on your goal but maintain your sanity along the way.
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Enjoy the podcast transcription:
Welcome to leaving the classroom. This is a podcast for teachers who are ready to transition out of the classroom and into a new career. Each week I'll share stories about what I've learned moving from education to the corporate world. I'll answer the most common questions and share my best tips to help you get started. If you are considering leaving the classroom, this show is for you.
Hello, everyone. Welcome to leaving the classroom. I'm Kristi Oliva. I'm so glad you are here. Today I'm talking about how to cope with the emotions that come with leaving the classroom. Now quitting a job, especially something as big as teaching is a major life change that usually comes with a mix of feelings. Whether you're leaving the classroom because you're worn out, or just craving something different. The emotional ride that follows can be intense. So let's dig into the feelings of saying goodbye to teaching and check out some tips for handling the change.
Saying goodbye to teaching isn't a piece of cake. Teaching wasn't just my nine to five. It was like my soul's mission. It was all I ever wanted to do. You asked me when I was little, what do you want to be when you grow up? I said teacher, all I ever wanted. And I spent a solid 15 years molding young minds helping them grow and dropping wisdom bombs. But what once fired me up about teaching ended up being the downfall of the job.
A survey shows that half of teachers with 10 or fewer years of experience are planning to leave the classroom. 58% of teachers with 11 to 20 years of experience have the same thoughts and 57% of teachers that have 21 years or more of experience, say that they are likely to quit earlier than they planned. Now I know most teachers thought this was all I'm ever going to do. And so this can be shocking when you realize that maybe this isn't your path anymore. And burnout is one of the major players in why teachers think about leaving the classroom. Teaching’s got a crazy workload, long hours, stressful tests and more paperwork than you can even imagine. Plus, handling all the different needs of students, crazy expectations from parents, and what society throws in the mix. It's enough to make anyone feel like they're drowning. So teachers often hit this point where they have to choose, keep pushing or find something new.
But leaving the classroom kicks off a huge roller coaster of emotions. The main one being guilt. Teachers start feeling guilty for bailing on their students, their friends at school, and just the whole education system. This guilt often brings a huge sense of loss with it, bouncing from a job that's been your life's work and given you purpose and the warm fuzzies can leave a real hole that's tough to fill.
And feeling shaky about the future is a big part of this. When you're leaving a stable job, even if it's been an emotional drain, it's like jumping into a huge question mark, you might freak out thinking you're not gonna land another job that's this safe, that has these perks, the summers off the benefits, and even a lot of the friends that you have that you've worked with for years.
And for many teachers, their colleagues are like a second family, they form bonds in the trenches of education that really helps you stick together and leaving the classroom means saying goodbye to the job, and to these friends that know what it's like this separation can bring about some really big feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Now, anger and frustration are also common when teachers leave the classroom, you can get upset about the entire education system for making this happen. I know I did. It's hard not to blame the education system because let's be honest, it's their fault.
You would have stayed if you could be happier in what's happening in the education system. I mean, there's policies, standardized tests, don't get me started, and lack of support, which can all be really frustrating for teachers.
The tough part is these feelings aren't really aimed at one person. And so you're venting about a big system of problems which can make it even more frustrating.
Now, when you're dealing with all of the feelings that come with leaving the classroom, you need to put yourself first, you have to take a look inside yourself. Lean on your support systems and start planning for what's next.
So let's go into my 10 ways to cope with the emotions of leaving the classroom.
1. Self reflection.
Now it's important for you to take time to reflect on this decision. Why are you choosing to leave the classroom? What are your goals for the future. And when you're answering these questions that can help you provide clarity and make more informed choices moving forward, no matter what your reason is for leaving the classroom, I still don't endorse doing it quickly or without some forethought.
2. Seek support.
You don't have to do this alone. Reach out to your friends, family therapist, anyone who can provide emotional support and guidance. Connecting with other educators who have made the transition also can be invaluable. And there's a ton of them out there, me included.
3. Embrace the change.
Change is a constant in life, and you need to embrace it as an opportunity for growth and development. Leaving the classroom may open doors to new experiences, skills and passions you never knew existed. I have to be honest, when I left the classroom, I did not even know that learning and development. I just didn't know anything about it. Let alone that it existed. And now, it brings me almost more passion than teaching ever did. So embrace the change.
4. Maintain your identity.
This one was a tough one for me. Now remember that leaving teaching doesn't erase your identity as a teacher. The skills and experiences you gained in the classroom are transferable to many other professions. Embrace your past while looking forward to the future. This one was tough for me, because I just identified as being a teacher. And I think, especially in America, that's one of the number one questions people ask you is what do you do?
And so for me, I was so proud to tell people I was a teacher, I loved that they just didn't know how I did it. I loved telling them I was a middle school teacher. And then I can handle those pesky middle schoolers, right, and that I loved it. And so it became part of my identity. And so that was really tough to leave and not help. Sometimes it still pains me to think I can't say that anymore. I'm not a teacher. I'm proud of what I do now. But again, it was so tied to my identity, it was tough to leave.
5. Set realistic expectations.
Just know that the transition may not be smooth. And setbacks are going to be part of the process. So you need to be patient with yourself. Set realistic goals for your career and your personal life. What is that going to look like?
6. Stay informed.
If you left the classroom, due to some kind of frustrations with the education system, consider staying informed about educational issues, you can still advocate for positive change from outside the classroom. Now my friend Samia, who is also a former teacher and transitioned out of the classroom talks about you know, being involved in your school board and things like that, so that you can still keep your fingers on the pulse of education, especially if you have kids yourself in the public education system.
7. Explore new opportunities.
Take the time to look at all the different career paths and opportunities that are available to you, you are probably going to discover that there are things you never knew existed, that your skills are directly transferable to. And that's going to reignite your sense of purpose. And so that's pretty exciting.
8. Develop a supportive routine.
Now, especially during the transition time, establish a daily routine. That includes self care. And I know that that can be a hot button topic, especially with educators and I mean real self care, take care of your body, your mind and your spirit. And also develop a routine that helps you get towards your goals. So your daily routine should not only be focused towards self care, but you need to be working towards that goal of leaving the classroom. It's not going to happen magically, you need to set goals for that.
9. Give back.
And what I mean by that is stay connected to education in some kind of way. The way I do that is by mentoring for IDOL courses Academy so I'm still getting to facilitate and mentor and teach. I'm not teaching kids anymore, but adults. If kids are your jam, then maybe do tutoring on the side or something like that that keeps you connected to what you loved about teaching or volunteer.
10. Stay open minded.
Stay open to the possibility that your path may change again.
Okay, so life can bring you twists and turns and your career trajectory may change again and again. Mine has already changed a couple of times since leaving the classroom. First I transitioned into instructional design. And then once I got into the corporate world, I've now moved into the program management sector and I love it. And really, it helps me stay open minded to what else could I do.
So stay open minded.
Now, leaving the classroom is complex, and can be really emotional, you're leaving behind a job that might have been a huge part of who you are. And stepping into this big, uncertain world can feel kind of crazy, and can make you pretty emotional. That's normal. And it makes sense. So allow that, to cope with the emotional journey of leaving teaching, engage in self reflection, seek support, and embrace the change. It's going to be challenging, but it's going to be a time of growth, exploration and opening yourself up to new opportunities. So by acknowledging your emotions, you can move forward with optimism and resilience. Embrace the next chapter of your life.
Now, at IDOL courses Academy, we help you do all of these things to get your transition out of the classroom. We help you build your professional portfolio, revise your resume, prepare for interviews and give you valuable feedback on what you design.
Sign up for IDOL courses Academy using my code Classroom100 and get $100 off enrollment. It's time to take control and make the career change that will change your life. It changed mine. See you next time. That's all for this episode, but you can find more at idol courses.com or subscribe to the podcast.