Teachers at Career Crossroads

Teachers at Career Crossroads–Do I Stay or Do I Go?

The statistics are pretty grim. Teachers who enter the teaching profession often don’t make it past their fifth year, and those who do often consider leaving at some point between year 8 and 15. The reasons are as varied as the individuals, but generally speaking, young people who leave teaching for other careers do so reluctantly. Those who felt the “call” to become a teacher and love it down to their bones struggle. But realities are realities, and sometimes, one has to consider what it in their long term best interest.

I have heard many younger teachers express true regret over their decision to leave. I remember vividly one young woman with whom I had to privilege to work for a year. She was a natural born teacher. She had only been teaching for a few years, but she was amazing. She was enthusiastic, energetic, knowledgeable, professional in every way, and she loved her kids. Needless to say, they loved her in return.

She came to me one day truly torn over an opportunity that she had been given out of the blue. She had been offered a job to become a pharmaceutical rep, and she was seriously thinking of taking the job. It was obvious that it was not an easy decision for her to make. She really loved teaching, but salaries were flat (and that was long before the budget cuts that started a few years ago), opportunities for advancement were few if one wanted to stay in the classroom, and even then, she was feeling the erosion of respect for the career that she had dreamed of having since she was a child. She had always wanted to be a teacher, and she was a good one. In the end, she took the pharmaceutical job and I have no doubt that she was fabulously successful at it. I have never forgotten her. She was a true loss for the teaching profession as a whole.

Hers is not a unique story. Young teachers at some point have to consider their financial futures. I have talked to many young men who have shared with me that they started out teaching, but once they were married and had started families of their own, they needed to boost the family income and they couldn’t do it on a teacher’s salary. They have gone on to pursue other career endeavors so that they could buy homes, provide for their families, and plan for their own children’s education.

Regardless of where you are in your own particular journey, it is not unlikely that at some point along the way, you will start to consider if you made the right career choice. You may be tired of coming up short at the end of the month when there are a few more days and not enough dollars in the checking account to get you through. You may be tired of driving a beaten up jalopy because a new car payment would break the bank. You are thinking of how you are going to fund your own child’s college education. These are real concerns.

The first thing one who is at a career crossroads must do is some serious soul searching. For me, my career crisis hit between years 8 and 10, and I was seriously looking at other career alternatives. I even went to talk to a job placement counselor because it was long before the days of career coaches.

In the end, I came to peace with the fact that I loved what I was doing even though it was never going to pay a lot. I decided to go back to school and maximize my earning potential by getting a Master’s degree. I later decided to become National Board Certified because in my mind, that was (and is) the epitome of professional practice for teachers. And I successfully completed a 33-year career as a teacher and librarian before stepping into the role of state president of my teacher’s union (2008-2012). That was the path I chose, but it wasn’t an easy decision to come to and I would have benefited all those years ago from talking to a coach who had walked in my shoes and could offer me counsel and suggestions. That is the role I seek to provide today. I want to serve as your coach, your personal and professional counselor, and as your mentor–someone who has a deep understanding of the struggle you may be facing as you consider the crucial question that will affect the rest of your life regardless of the decision you make. Do you stay or do you go? Call me today so we can talk. My number is 804-404-5475, or email me at admin@teachersintransition.com.