The Tough Decision to Leave the Classroom

As the title of this post suggests, I have made the tough decision to leave the classroom for good at the end of this school year.

The decision is a painful one — both personally and professionally. It is also a public one, as I’ve been honored as recently as last month by the Waynesboro Rotary Club as its 2014 High School Teacher of the Year, my fourth such honor in six years.

In that respect, I feel an explanation is in order, as well as a prescription for what we — as a community — can do to right the ship.

Every workplace has its imperfections and challenges. I accept that. But public education is painted as a career where you make a difference in the lives of students. When a system becomes so deeply flawed that students suffer and good teachers leave (or become jaded), we must examine how and why we do things.

Waynesboro is small enough that we can tackle some of the larger problems that other school systems can’t. I want this piece, in part, to force a needed, collective conversation.

In doing so, I don’t want to come across as prideful or arrogant. I simply want my neighbors and friends to understand the frustrations at issue and what’s at stake for the next round of teachers and students.

When I came to this area in 2008, I believed I would be a teacher for life. My wife and I signed a lease on an apartment we had never seen and arrived only a few days before school started. Words can’t really express how excited I was to land a teaching job, work with high school students, and invest in teenagers the way one teacher invested in me.

That first year coincided with the first round of school budget cuts. Salaries were frozen and spending was slashed. This basic storyline has repeated itself for the five years that followed.

Over this time, I’ve lost my optimism and question a mission I once felt wholly committed to.

I still care deeply about students. I’ve worked hard to brighten their day while giving them an enjoyable and rigorous environment in which to learn. If this job was just about working with students, I couldn’t ask for a better or more meaningful career.

The job, though, is about much more. And I have very real concerns about the sustainability of public education in Waynesboro (and as a whole).

To make a real difference in the lives of students, raise the quality of life in greater Waynesboro, and attract and keep life-changing teachers, we must address five key areas:

1. Tear Down the Hoops
Our teachers spend far too much time jumping through hoops.

Every year, our district invents new goals (such as “21st Century Skills”), measuring sticks (most recently a “Growth Calculator”), time-consuming documentation (see “SMART goals”), modified schedules (think block scheduling and an extended school day), and evaluations (look in our seventy-two page “Teacher Performance Plan”).

As a district, we pretend these are strategic adjustments. They are not. The growth calculator was essentially brought forward out of thin air, SMART goals are a weak attempt to prove we’re actually doing something in the classroom, etc. Bad teachers can game any system; good teachers can lose their focus trying to take new requirements seriously.

These hoops have distracted me from our priority (students). I’ve concluded it’s no longer possible to do all things well. We need to tear down these hoops and succeed clearly on simple metrics that matter.

Over the past six years, I can’t remember a time where something was taken off my plate. Expectations continue to increase and we play along until we invent new hoops.

On a personal level, with 100+ students a year, a growing family, and two side jobs, I can no longer be a good teacher and do all the system expects of me.

2. Have a Plan for the Future
I stepped into the classroom around the time of a major worldwide recession. As the individuals and institutions responsible for this recession escaped accountability for their actions, school districts like ours went into survival mode.

Six years later, we’re still there. We have no plan for the future.

Earlier this year, the school board held its annual budget meeting. I left my second job early to attend and asked board members one simple question: “Is there any cause for optimism?” Each school board member, searching for a silver lining, effectively answered “no” by the time their reasoning caught up with them.

These basic mantras seem to govern what we do:

Just do the best you can.
We need to do more with less.
There’s no money in the budget for that.
We’re hoping things look better next year.

I don’t fault our district for a worldwide economic downturn. I do fault it for how it’s handled it. For six years in a row, we’ve cut, cut, cut. And for six years in a row, students and teachers have paid the biggest price.

When times are tough, human beings and institutions have the rare opportunity to reflect and refocus, to think differently and creatively. But instead of seizing the opportunity and gathering stakeholders for collective conversations and solution building, we’ve wandered around aimlessly hoping to make ends meet.

We should have a clear plan for sustainability. Instead, we’re really just worried about balancing the budget.

When we have a desperate need like football bleachers that have to be replaced, or turfgrass that isn’t up to par, we somehow find the money. We — through public or private avenues — meet those needs. Why can’t we find funds to address the areas that seem more pertinent to our primary mission?

3. Scrap Obsession with Flawed Assessments
I’ve seen teachers cry over Standards of Learning scores. I’ve seen students cry over SOL scores. I’ve seen newspaper and TV reports sensationalize SOL scores. These are all indications of an unhealthy obsession with flawed standardized tests.

SOL tests are inherently unfair, but we continue to invest countless hours and resources in our quest for our school to score well. This leads me to the following questions:

  • Do we care more about student progress or our appearance?
  • Why can’t we start a movement to walk away from these tests?
  • Why can’t we shift our focus to critical thinking and relevant educational experiences?

It’s tough to acknowledge that people in Washington, D.C., and Richmond (and sometimes decision makers in Waynesboro) develop systems and policies that affect my students and me negatively. But as they retire and sail off into the sunset, we’re the ones left with the consequences of ineffective measurements and strategies.

Our new teacher evaluations focus heavily on test scores. But while teachers are continually under pressure to be held accountable, there seems to be very little accountability for parents, the community, or district offices.

It’s only going to get worse, and it seems that we have no intention of taking a stand or advocating against flawed assessments. Instead, we have submitted ourselves to these tools that misrepresent student growth. It is a game, and it is a game I no longer wish to play.

4. Build a Community That Supports Education
Stop by the high school for a sporting event (and I love sports) and you’ll be impressed with the attendance and enthusiasm. Stop by the high school on a parent-teacher night and you’ll see tumbleweed blowing through the halls.

If parents and local decision-makers really value education (and there is a small portion of the community that does), student and teacher morale would be much different.

Our school and political leaders must help build a community that truly supports education. A real investment from residents across all neighborhoods and groups would change the climate immensely and allow us to truly tackle the challenges that lie ahead.

Unfortunately, the community seems disengaged with such struggles and more concerned with whether or not we’ll ever land an Olive Garden.

Until the community boosts its value of education…

  • How can we provide high quality to all students?
  • How can we build strong academic programs that meet student needs?
  • How can we prepare students to be productive citizens?
  • How can we successfully partner with parents and others?

If we can’t reflect the values of our mission statement, then we need to change our mission statement.

We simply can’t move forward when there is such little community connection to our educational goals. And if we can’t move forward together, I don’t want to tread water alone.

5. Fairly Compensate Educators
Compensation alone has not pushed me away from education. At the same time, the years of salary and step freezes have taken a toll.

If educators are as valuable as we claim they are (our district website says we “strive to hire and retain quality employees”), then we would make sure we take care of employees and their families. We must fairly compensate educators.

Keeping a sixth year teacher on a first year salary is not looking out for someone who looks out for students. For those like me, there’s only a $100 difference in our December 2009 and January 2014 monthly paychecks.

My wife and I live on a very strict budget. We are thankful for the quality of life we enjoy compared to other people in the world and try to keep things in their proper perspective. But the only financial reason I can afford to keep teaching is because of two side businesses and the generosity of family and friends. I’m not the only educator who manages extra work to make ends meet. Here are some efforts we’ve made to make this job sustainable:

  • We lived with one car (a car that was given to us) for 4 ½ years. During that time, I walked or rode my bike to school to save on gas. We recently bought a second car with money I saved from my web design business.
  • We rarely eat out and maintain our own garden to cut down on food costs.
  • We bought a $114,000 house that needed lots of work. This kept our mortgage payments in the $700 range, which is about what it would cost to rent a decent apartment.
  • We haven’t taken a vacation since I started teaching six years ago.

I love Waynesboro. I’m rooting for Waynesboro’s success. But there needs to be real, quantifiable change if we’re going to create a bright future for everyone.

A love for students and teaching drove me for the past six years. Now I’m watching my own kids grow up and am starting to think more and more about my own family.

What will I have to show for myself 10 years from now when I’ve missed crucial time with my own kids to barely break even and exist in a place where educators aren’t really valued? What happens when I dedicate my life to a place only to discover I’m part of their 10th round of budget cuts?

We need answers. I hope this can move us one step closer to asking the questions that will get us there.

Josh Waldron


Add yours
  1. 1
    Bertis Downs

    Great letter- all true, and very sad. “Our new teacher evaluations focus heavily on test scores. But while teachers are continually under pressure to be held accountable, there seems to be very little accountability for parents, the community, or district offices.”

    Please see this: NPE Call for Congressional Hearings on Testing. Please send a letter of support– Congress needs to investigate the testing mania that is harming our students, our schools and costing us our best teachers.

  2. 2
    Jake Kohlmeyer

    Josh, Just stumbled across this post on Twitter. I’m looking for my first English teaching position, but I have to say I do feel leery to get in the profession with everything you’ve described; however, it’s nothing new to me. I’m keeping the doors open in the business world for possible career options there, too. I’ve been hearing about the struggles since I chose to go into education when I entered college up through the recent completion of my student teaching. It’s sad that it all works out this way. Hopefully one day it changes. It’s sad to know someone as passionate and determined as you won’t be working with students, but I wholly understand, and I hope things turn out well for you and your family. Thank you for writing this post. I hope enough of us can spread it and make leaders aware. -JTK

  3. 3

    Well, said. I too made a decision to leave and fortunately, retire. I wasn’t ready to quit teaching, but since I got to do so little of that anyway, gave it up. Now I can volunteer to help students that really want help. I am not retiring rich, but I wasn’t getting any richer in the school system either. Politicians have ruined education and the USA is falling behind the rest of the world.

  4. 4

    This is me too! I’m trying to decide if this is the year to leave. The past few years I’ve been looking around at other careers but I haven’t found something else that I want to do. I love being with my students, I teach SLD students in middle school. We have coteach and small group classes and I am with both. I love connecting with them, seeing them grow both academically and personally. It makes me cry just that I even have thought to leave but I don’t know how much longer I can stay with all the pressure and stress.

  5. 5
    Laura Parolisi

    Emma told me you were leaving, and your reasons. You were one of her favorite teachers. I truly hope our public education system makes some serious changes, so that we don’t continue to lose teachers like you. Thank you for making a difference in our childrens’ lives.

  6. 6
    Dale Lidicker

    It is a sad moment to see you leave. I have been in the teaching profession for 19 years. I teach special education at the middle school level. I am following the philosophy of not leaving the profession for greener pastures. I plan on fertilizing the ground I walk on. Solidarity will change this destructive reform movement. It will take time and determination, though.

  7. 7

    I feel the same way. I too am leaving education, because I cannot afford to stay. You could have easily put in another city and the issues are the same. There are teachers coming close to losing money if they do not retire immediately. What’s wrong with that picture?

  8. 8
    Dianne Wright

    Thank you for such a thoughtful message. I agree with you wholeheartedly. I have been a middle school teacher for twenty years and shared much love with my students. The focus on testing, the teacher hoops and an ineffective administration have all led me to the decision to escape now! I am sure that you will be successful in your future endeavors and I applaud your decision to enjoy your own children by being able to be with them as they grow up.

  9. 9
    Becca Schieber

    I to won teacher of the year this year, and I feel the same thing, this is my 17th year in teaching and I’m looking for what is next because my husband who is also a teacher and I can’t keep working these second jobs, I’m constantly tired. I’m copying this and sending it to our school board, thanks and good luck.

  10. 10

    All of this has, of course, gotten much worse since teachers were attacked and education was devalued with Wisconsin’s Gov. Walker and Act 10 and the widespread slander of public servants.

  11. 11
    Queen Bee

    Unfortunately everything that Josh said is so true and it’s getting worse. If only parents, district members, community members and government officials would spend 1 week in a classroom doing exactly what a teacher does on a daily basis I bet things would change. A Walk through for 5 mn does not constitute seeing a classroom.
    No one has any idea how much time we spend and how much time we lose from our own family because we are so consumed with work. Every year something new is added and nothing is taken away.
    The SOL or state testing is awful for everyone. You talk about lowering a child’s self-esteem.. this is it. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that if we took away these tests we might be able to compete with other countries since we are 17th in the nation. If you do your research we spend billions of dollars on accountability whereas other countries it is a small percentage bc they train their teachers so their is no accountability issue.
    Parents need to be more supportive and not complain because homework is interfering with after school activities.
    Last, we provide education so that everyone can grow up and have a career. I love sports and I’m not bashing them, but why can they make millions of dollars, but if it weren’t for teachers where would they be today?

  12. 12

    I teach in Norfolk, and I couldn’t agree with you more, especially in reference to the flawed SOLs. I actually found two errors on the released test items; there are only 25 questions on the released test whereas there are approximately twice that on the regular test, so does that mean that there are possibly four errors on the REAL test — the one on which teachers, students, and schools are scrutinized?? My wish is for a complete overhaul of the educational system. We’re still teaching students what was considered important at the turn of the 20th century (earlier than that for some courses.) Gee, do you think some things have changed since then? Good luck with your next step. Perhaps you could run for the school board in Waynesboro and get some changes done.

  13. 13

    Wow, I TOO AM LEAVING THE FIELD AFTER 6 YEARS! Every single point you made here is the story oft life, and all of the specific details you gave both as job expectations within the field as well as personal hardships that replay year after year are so true for us all. It is heartbreaking to walk away from such a role–as someone who children and parents look up to & trust, as someone who truly cares about the students, wants nothing more than to help them, teach them, love them, and be there for them in every possible way–but genuinly CANNOT do any of this…as stated, we genuinely cannot do our job as devoted teachers. So many interferences and obstacles and hoops to jump through. We are forced to worry more about what the (essentially) UNIMPORTANT and IRRELEVANT people think about our professional practice (those at the top of the education hierarchy-the politicians, the administration, the policy makers) that we all end up devoting our precious effort, energy, time, and concern to the unending “expectations” which are essentially brick walls built higher every year, separating us from the direct interactions & this the ability to deeply connect with our kids.
    This article is written so well, it is so accurate, and it is absolutely necessary that these truths be revealed and fully absorbed by those individuals, groups, departments, administrations, and the like, who are directly responsible for creating such a complicated & impossible system where the
    best-of-the-best are too smart to waste their life away being unappreciated, under compensated, and disrespected.
    After 6 years you walk away, I walk away, and as we know so many other passionate & devoted educators are doing just the same things.

  14. 14
    Zach Pereles

    JWal, you were my favorite teacher and you will be sorely missed by the Waynesboro Public Schools community. You were one of those teachers that made learning fun. I never liked history, but I enjoyed AP US History because you made it interesting; I wanted to learn. We need more teachers like you that encourage critical thinking rather than the mind-numbing “Pass the SOL” mindset. Thanks for writing this, and hopefully it leads to change.

  15. 15
    C M

    Union members who continue to support thugish unions are the ones who are ruining the reputation of teachers. Teacher’s reactions to the necessary changes have left a bad impression of the teaching profession as a whole in parent’s and voter’s minds. It is unprofessional and shows teachers who share such sentiments as entitled, unable to be objective, and only worried about self while claiming to put the education of children first as if you were some kind of martyr. Teachers should be appropriately compensated, based on competition, skill, given economic conditions, just as in any professional job, without special protections or tenure. The inability to remove ineffective or even truly bad teachers is one of the many problems with our education system…thanks to unions and those who blindly support them.

  16. 16

    Great letter. You should come to Baltimore County, we need more great teachers. I have been here for 23 years, it i my second career. I am a CTE teacher and can not complain about the budget because my program is fully funded. Look us up.

  17. 17
    E J Woodward

    This letter was so sad, yet it is just the tip of the iceberg about what is going wrong with our public schools. I feel that a big problem is that private, FOR profit schools receive funds from the state. These schools are siphoning off many of the good students; behavior problem students are NOT WELCOME. I agree with your assessment that there are ever-changing goals for education. Where do they come from? Probably from an administrator who is paid way to much! Students have so much homework that it has to be listed on line in North Carolina. There is nothing that can replace a caring teacher who makes learning the basics exciting. Anything else is gravy.

  18. 18

    I too left teaching. I left in 2008. Much of what you described reflects what is happening in our county in Virginia as well. I loved teaching and still miss it six years out. I felt so under-valued as a teacher. It was starting to creep into some of what the students were saying. At this point, there will be few students who want to grow up to be teachers.

  19. 19

    It’s not like that in every public school district. I’ve been teaching for 13 years with a (albeit modest) raise every year. I am respected and valued by my administration, students, and parents. Yes, we still have to abide by whatever ridiculous new legislation is pushed on us, but we pull together as a district and weather the storms. I hate that a good teacher such as yourself is leaving the profession. If only you could find a district like mine.

  20. 20

    You have put so eloquently into words what I have been thinking for years now. It is all in shambles. I often describe the public education system like a giant dinosaur, lumbering around so inefficiently about everything it does. We need to scrap the system and start over with a new vision and a new respect and appreciation for the teaching profession (and NO I’m not talking about another donut/pizza day in the teacher’s lounge! Why does that always seem to be what the administration thinks will make us feel better?).

    Amen too to the comments on public buy in. How do we help the kids who come from homes that do not value education? It’s extremely difficult to help a child who has little to no educational support at home.

    It’s all very exhausting and demeaning. We are in serious trouble as a society if this can not get fixed.

  21. 21

    I taught special education for 8 years and May 23 was my last day. Like you, I started with a love and passion. It stayed a long time. Then, it was gone. Replaced by so many other things, like the ones you mentioned.
    Good to know I am not the only one. I am also taking time to focus on my own family. I have neglected them far too long.

  22. 22

    Great letter. I have been in education for 27 years now, and I am planning my next move, as I too am becoming disenchanted with the system. CM in item #65 has a typical view of our profession, and we live in a time where perception = reality, so CM is right while being so wrong. Administrators have always been able to get rid of bad teachers, but they have been remiss in that duty, as well as in their duty to retrain and augment the skills of teachers who do need help. I was an administrator in 2 schools, and chose to return to the classroom due to an extreme lack of satisfaction (grass was definitely not greener).

    I have certification in 6-12 all science subjects, administration, and learning disabilities, I have been teacher of the year in a large metropolitan school district, and I have mentored over 40 teachers and a multitude of award-winning clubs over the years. This year, I stopped taking student teachers, because the glut of teachers in Michigan needs to be dried up. When we are harder to find, we will become more valuable, but that’s not all of it – we are now so closely tied to the standards and even to students’ measures of our performance, that it is unwise to let anybody else take over your class for any length of time, for fear that they will make a mistake for which you will be held accountable. Not to mention that the measurement metric changes annually.

    Having been a teacher and administrator in both middle and high school, public and private, I see the parental and community involvement piece as being critical. When we acknowledge that private schools in our metro Detroit area charge $15,000 to $28,000 and more per year, and are selective in which students they admit, then we will see what a successful bargain public schools have been and will continue to be. If we actually invested in them the way private schools invest, public schools could truly allow us to keep pace with any country.

    I think the $13 billion price tag for education in Michigan is a big part of the problem – we don’t know what it costs to educate a student “properly,” and now that charter schools have made schooling a business, the death knell of the traditional public school has begun. Tracking every move, as a business might do, has led me to have to complete over 200 pages of mandated paperwork for our school-improvement related items. 10 years ago, I did a better and much more focused job with only 28 pages of largely self-guided paperwork. Now the paperwork prevents me from doing a good job as a teacher and as a parent – it never ends, and it has little value.

    I predict that things will get much worse before they get better, and I will choose not to be in a public school very soon as a result. Good luck America, you reap what you sew.

  23. 23
    Chris Eldredge

    Well said, Josh. Thank you for being a great role model and inspiration to our children and so many others. Your willingness to help resolve issues and redirect the future of education in our community is encouraging.
    Best of fortune in your secondary – now primary – endeavors.

  24. 24

    Oooh, CM. You are out of touch with what is actually happening aren’t you? Morale in Wisconsin has dropped to the point where many excellent teachers like Josh are saying why sacrifice and work so hard for the kids only to get slapped with lies and slander. You apparently believe the lies.

  25. 25

    Oddly enough, I left after my first year of teaching in Northern Virginia. I left it to do some amazing non-profit work. Since then I tried another foray into teaching in Michigan. That came with much larger pay cuts. This year, I have just surpassed my first salary with PWCPS from 2006…and also found the right not-so-perfect school district with the realization that K-12 schools are not my highest professional goal. Have faith, because no matter what you do, inside or outside of a school, the passion of a teacher will allow you to help our students.

  26. 26

    Josh, as a fellow award-winning educator who decided to get out of education at the end of this year, your article really hit home. I just wrapped up my seventh, and final year of teaching. You captured the “hoops” perfectly, as well as the community apathy towards the real hard work of education. Without parental support, our work is meaningless. I found that the only emotional defense for a determined teacher was apathy, so I decided to leave before I found myself in a classroom, no longer caring about what happened to my students. It has become absurd. Good luck in your future endeavors, sir.

  27. 27

    I retired from the classroom 21 years ago and it is letters like these and the multitude of bright young teachers I have spoken with over the years that make me glad that I left when I did. I have continued to try to advocate for the thousands of Joshes and the countless kids who went through their classrooms. I have tried to do battle with secretive corporation councils and wealthy family foundations whose avowed goal is to privatize education and close down the public schools. They have cleverly convinced a large number of Americans that our public schools are traps for the children who are still there. They blame the teachers and their professional organizations for poor test scores that only measure who are good test takers . By starving the public schools of resources and piling on more hoops they must jump through to show they can do the job, the special interests are strengthening the position of” public money for private (Charter schools) schools ” .

    We will continue to lose great teachers like Josh, if Americans sit by and watch their schools be starved of resources and made scapegoats for all the ills of society. Take the time to see what great things are happening in our schools despite their straightened circumstances. you will be amazed and maybe you’ll be willing to stand up for properly funding the schools and paying our professionals in the classroom, the media center, the guidance office, the main office, the cafeteria,the bus and the halls, a professional salary..

  28. 28
    Sharon Mihalis

    I have 2 daughters & a niece who are teachers. My daughters have taught for several years & I have read Josh’s whole article. I totally agree with him. I have seen my daughters lose benefits & pay raises year after year. Also I hear & see their frustration with standardized testing & regulations, which seem to be more important to politicians than really helping the students. When will public schools, education, students, & teachers become the priority that politicians claim. What is happening? Education should be dictated by educators, not by politicians who have no idea what they are doing. Are the students & education really the priority that is claimed – PROVE IT – LEAVE EDUCATION TO THE EDUCATORS!!!!!

  29. 29

    I graduated in 2008 w a teaching degree. In Michigan, the economy tanked and with it, teachers were losing their jobs left and right. I spent years updating my resume (while competing w teachers w all the teachers laid off), filling out online applications to districts which included several essay questions and online personality surveys only to hear nothing back. Most I graduated w gave up and found work in completely unrelated fields, or went back to school for other degrees (as an education degree did nothing for you in the recession). I continued applying as I nannied, and last year I finally landed a job teaching Kindergarten, my dream. After one year, I quit. Four years of education, one year of student teaching and 3 years job searching and I found out what teaching is really like. It’s exactly like you said. My husband and I decided to start a family instead. With the pay at a charter school in MI it simply didn’t make any financial sense to continue to work while paying for daycare for our new son. I thank God every day that I am in a position to be able to leave such a frustrating profession.

  30. 30

    Same story here. Only took me 4 years before passion for the idea of public education couldn’t sustain enough energy to actually teach anymore.

  31. 31
    Debbie N

    Josh, Every word of your letter is true. It’s broke and we have to fix it. As a retired teacher who taught for 34 years, I know the way to fix it has to come from the inside. These fixes being thrust upon education by committees and politicans and “experts on education” are unrealistic nonsense. I hate to see a teacher like you leave education. You ar desperately needed! While I understand you cannot financially continue another year at a stagnant salary, I would like to propose other methods of contribution that are worthwhile.
    1) Build a Community That Supports Education. Run for the school board. Get the power to persuade the communtiy and the BOE to make positive change from within.
    2). I don’t think you mentioned your level of education. Hopefully you are BA +15 so this won’y sound too painful. Go back to school and get your M.Ed. Specialize in Administrative Certification (called type 75 in Illinois). You will qualify for a scholarship! Then go back to Waynesboro and get a job as a principal. Nothing effects change like a great leader from within.
    3) Get certified to teach at the college or university level. Go into teacher preparation. Prepare prospective teachers for the challenges ahead. Teach them all you know about being a great teacher, then teach them how to overcome challenes by being proactive.
    4) If none of these suggestions work for you, then for the sake of sanity be a true partner parent when your kids hit the schools. Be a parent who builds relationships with teachers and other parents who are positive about their school. Model for the community what that looks like.
    Remember true change starts within one person at a time. Be that person.
    I would love to hear from you. My email is below. My prayers are with you.
    Debbie Nederhouser, Ed. D.
    N.B.C.T. (twice certified)

  32. 33

    I hear you. I taught for 4 years and thankfully have been able to stay home with my kids since 2010. As they get older I really can’t imagine going back into that atmosphere knowimg how much time it will take away from my family. Unfortunately I would also say that after experiencing and hearing more about the discouragement and exhaustion of teachers as well as a more-increasingly test-focused education we have decided to homeschool our kids. I know what kind of reaction that receives from a crowd of public school teachers, but as the good teachers walk away (for understandable reasons), should we really leave our kids in abroken system without you?

  33. 34

    So sorry to hear that this problem has driven another great teacher away from our children who so need teachers like u…it saddens me that one of the most important Part of growing into mature responsible well educated adults is not looked upon as the most valuable thing we can do for this world…God bless u for giving them the time u did and my hope is u will continue to inspire everyone who comes in your path even if u can’t do that in a class room.

  34. 35

    Welcome to the other side! It was a hard decision for my husband and myself, but one that made sense when we both chose to resign and relocate. This was our first year out of the district we called home for eight years. We now enjoy volunteering with children as he has moved onto corporate training and I have moved into training and web development. I wish you and your family well as you move forward and are a strong advocate for the real changes that need to come to education!

  35. 37

    I, too, am leaving the field after six years of teaching. I am flabbergasted at the attack on this profession and am beyond disappointed in the wasted opportunities to make substantial and meaningful progress in the field of education in this country. Folks like CM obviously have bought into (possibly literally!) the charter school garbage, which is really just a part of the several-pronged attack on the American educator and the public education system, as a whole. So much is wrong with charters, but, primarily, the removal of the public’s ability to have a voice about the decisions within those places, let alone a spot within one of them (remember, just because there are “choices” doesn’t mean that you get what you want) creates environments where parents and the public are at the mercy of corporations to gain an education, while also putting curriculums out of the purview of the public. This elaborate smokescreen to try and float their supposed superiority over public schools and public school teachers is an underhanded cash-grab which benefits no one but the people who own these corporations, while, simultaneously, leaving our children’s education in the hands of businesses who are accountable to no one. As for testing, there are no incentives for the students taking these various tests (such as the PARC) to care about their outcomes, as the scores don’t affect their grades or promotion to the next grade level whatsoever- just their teachers’ evaluations! In Japan, for example, student test scores are publicly released for all to see and they have a significant impact on students’ options for education, going forward. That’s not to say that what Japan does is a perfect solution, but the rogue’s gambit of the recent system of testing without student accountability that, simultaneously, is considered a noteworthy component of teacher evaluations, leaves me wondering how so many can be so openly and willingly duped by flashy marketing, bogus data, self-serving corporate interests, and a lack of foresight/oversight by the school districts and states who buy into these bogus “options.” Wake up, America; your schools are too important to hand over to corporate interests. A strong, tax-funded, publicly-run education system has been the backbone of this country for generations; don’t allow that to become a thing of the past.

  36. 38
    Jeff hogan

    Josh, we feel your pain. Left K-12 in 2007. One of our local school board members took a version of our states high school exit exam and failed miserable. After trying to change the mentality from the top he too is finally vacating his post.

    The public schools still get funded because of property taxes. We could all home school; but, they won’t notice the issue as the funding continues. They’ll just raise the millage to get more money.

  37. 39

    Josh, while it is sad for the school system to lose another great educator (another one bites the dust), remember that your happiness in this life counts, and no one deserves to be miserable AND struggle along, especially with a college degree. I left two years ago (after 8 years) and haven’t looked back. It’s true – sometimes I miss it, but I am doing something I love (writing & design) and making just as much money as I was teaching (which wasn’t much lol). You can always do what I do and tutor privately to get that personal fulfillment that only comes with teaching (when we’re allowed freedom from persecution, state tests, and cross-examination, that is). Embrace web designing, sleep a little more, make a little more, and don’t look back (and take that vacation that you desperately need!!!)

  38. 40
    Seth Hague

    Thanks, Josh!

    Always insightful!
    Here’s to hoping your district and others find real solutions to these systemic problems… Miss chatting with you and Matt C… of days gone by… 🙂 I am sure wherever and whatever you invest yourself into next that institution will gain far mare than it gives… You are rare and courageous!

    Blessings and love to you and yours!

  39. 41

    Josh, Thank you so much! I was in the same position two years ago after teaching for 12 years, and as much as I love teaching and miss my students I have not regretted the decision to resign from teaching and follow a different career path. Best of luck to you.

  40. 42

    A lot of very passionate people here… If you are interested in getting our nation’s leaders to address “your issue,” please consider supporting the #MAYDAYUS movement @
    Give it 5 minutes of your time… You won’t regret it.

  41. 43

    Isn’t it interesting that some people appear offended by your decision to leave the teaching profession? I suppose, for some, the concept of “the greater good” outweighing “personal benefit” applies strongly to teachers. Talented teachers are urged to remain in a position that is unsatisfying “for the benefit of others.” While I believe most educators enter the field knowing that teaching is a service, I personally did not expect our society to feel “we owe it to students” to be unhappy where we provide that service. Does being a public teacher warrant our very personal career decisions to be left open to public criticism?

    This has been my 6th year of teaching, as well. I have considered myself a public servant all these years, but I am learning that if I do not go where joy leads me, if I am not living for the interest and investment of my own loved ones, if I ignore what is wrong in our field, and trudge along “as good soldiers should,” then I would be doing a disservice to all stakeholders involved. I applaud that you have written this post, this prescription, this letter of resignation to the public, as it were, and I believe you must go where your joy will be. I’m on a similar path and am teaching half-time while I find other ways to contribute to my community, because I’m driven to make a difference… somewhere. 🙂 Best wishes!

  42. 44

    Just read your post on NewsLeader. I wish I could say I hadn’t heard your story before, but a lot of my high school teachers are saying the same thing. I thought you might be interested in this article. It discusses why things only get worse, no matter what anyone seems to do, and shows why abolishing public schools is the only way to fix things. It’s an insane claim, I know, but if you give it a read I think you’d find it well worth your time.

  43. 45

    Interesting read. BUT, if I go by your logic in this post I should leave my job too…
    Guess what? I deal with SMART goals too.
    Just do the best you can. We need to do more with less. There’s no money in the budget for that. We’re hoping things look better next year. This sounds like the same conversation that I have with my superiors.
    Fair compensation? Your list of sacrifices are VERY similar to mine: One car (check – definitely not a new one either); Ride bike to work (Everyday, even when it was -20 this year); Eat out (What??), My house cost $1,000 more than yours; Vacation (again WHAT??). Oh yeah, and I’ve got 2 jobs too.
    I’m hoping that you find what you’re looking for but, it’s a tough world out there right now. The saddest part of this post is that you sound like a person who could really help change a school system that IS in desperate need of it, but by having your passion taken away from you the schools are losing out again. It really is too bad when the system is broken to the point that the good teachers are being forced out of their passions. Good luck, let’s hope that someone reads this and realizes that you could be a great tool for change!

  44. 46

    I agree with absolutely everything you said here. I am a third year teacher who has just left the classroom for reasons very similar to those you mention. My story is here:

    I’m so glad more people who feel this way are speaking out and I hope we are able to affect some change for students and teachers across the country!

  45. 50

    My teaching career faltered at the start and I fell into the corporate world. (word to starting teachers: if you think any teaching job is better than no teaching job, think again… Teaching in some alternative settings will likely do your career more harm than good.) I enjoyed the post and while it saddened me, I think what saddened me most it that it’s really no different than any of the other jobs out there. Unless you are working for yourself or some other small group, someone you don’t personally interactive with, someone who doesn’t know you or your job will decide that some set of metrics should be used to rank and sort out the employees ( that would be you). You will find yourself spending more and more time doing busy work, not because it makes your job any better but because it makes your job look better to the metrics. There is much to be read in the corporate world about the use and abuse of metrics, you can start here if you’re curious: ( or search for metric dysfunction )

    Teaching should be different, and unfortunately it is in many ways. Many companies are always willing to view and make room to add someone who they think would add value and most companies would rather run a man down than suffer an employee who isn’t up to par. (note this last part is almost never true when there are threats of layoffs, in which case even the worst chair warmer ,unless truly abusive, will be kept around just to save for the next sacrifice to the corporate gods. Even mediocre employees will be be praised during this time for fear of corporate gods will decide they could manage with less.) How many schools are able to interview or hire a new teacher without there being a distinct opening, and how many schools would let go an ineffective but otherwise good person (non-criminal) in the middle of a school year and run a classroom without a teach till they found and hired a replacement?

    I wish you luck, and hope you find a life where you can be happy. I really don’t know if the metrics in teaching are any worse than in the corporate world, but they are everywhere. I once spent part of a summer physically wearing away my thumbnail brushing plastic burs off a needle to save a company some money. Why would I physically abuse myself in a job that I gained no joy, many reasons none of which now hold any weight and I would not do it again, but I am much older now and hopefully wiser. The reason for the curious was it was a summer job and there was only a few weeks left to summer when I got the job and I was a new task at an otherwise good job. I didn’t realize the damage I was doing to myself, my nail didn’t just go missing, it was slowly worn away over the days and weeks. So you find yourself in a job that you don’t like, change it… it may not be easy but you really don’t want to find yourself stuck there many years later regretting the could of’s and should of’s.

+ Leave a Comment