Why I Left Teaching: The Job That Broke My Heart

Why I left teaching
Why I left teaching

For me, teaching was a love affair that turned sour. I know I can never go back to how it was in those first, heady days.

I don’t teach any more, but I think at heart I will always be a teacher. There is something about the profession that gets into your blood. Teaching was like a love affair for me. But it was a romance which turned sour; ultimately, it broke me. This is why I left teaching…

Teaching: My First Love

It started out, as many love affairs do, as a heady rush of infatuation. I remember the first day I spent in a classroom. It was intoxicating. I loved the pace of it all, the switch from topic to topic, meeting so many new students, covering so many different plays, poetry and books. I was passionate about my subject and the opportunity to share that was amazing. I can honestly say that I felt euphoric that first evening; I felt I had found my dream job.

Comfortable Coupledom

As I settled into the role, of course, some of that euphoria wore off. I came to discover teaching’s faults: the long hours, the difficult students, the impossible piles of marking. But still, I loved it. I saw the problems, and I didn’t mind them. Teaching and I became a comfortable couple; we muddled along happily. I remember one day, in those first few years, driving along the country lanes on the way to work and thinking I am happy. This is where I am meant to be. The fireworks had gone, but the relationship was still strong. I loved teaching.

The Cracks Begin to Show

I’m not sure where it all started to go wrong. Perhaps it was a particularly tricky class one year. Or maybe it was the student who threw a bin at me. Or perhaps it was the change in marking policy for what felt like the hundredth time. Whatever it was, I slowly realised that I wasn’t as happy as I had been. The balance had been tipped: the faults of the profession seemed to outweigh the benefits. And worse, I felt exhausted. Exhausted from trying to make it work, from attempting to be better. But of course, as always happens in relationships, I didn’t realise what was going on. I thought the trouble was with me.

Why I Left Teaching: The End

Finally, I woke up one morning and realised I was no longer in love. Worse, I felt I had started to resent my relationship with teaching. I felt I was part of a system which wanted to constantly tell me how I was failing, that wanted me to care about all 150 students I taught as if they were my own children, that demanded I split myself into a thousand tiny pieces to ensure everyone got something from me. And I couldn’t do it any more. I was broken. What was worse, I had become a bad teacher; I was grumpy, irritable, tired. The passion had gone.

Leaving seemed impossible; I couldn’t get out. And so I spent some months on the treadmill feeling trapped, isolated, desperate. I was in hell.

It took a while, but slowly friends and family convinced me that I could do this; I could escape. And, eventually, I did.

Recovery

It takes time to get over a broken heart, and it took time for me to recover from teaching. I still miss it: there is an ache in my chest when I remember those heady days in the classroom. I remember the fun, the passion, the excitement of it all. But then I remember what that became, why I left teaching in the first place, and why I know I can never go back. I will always love teaching, but we can never be together again.

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