I'm a Special Education Teacher Leaving the Classroom

teaching experience May 01, 2023
Let me clear something up right off the bat, I’m leaving teaching to stay home to care for my young daughter.  She is my top priority at this time in my life and it took me daily reflection over several months to become comfortable with my decision to leave my steady-paycheck-job to be her primary caregiver.  
I'm a special education teacher who left the classroom and I'm comfortable with my decision.  I think it’s also important to note, so you fully understand my perspective, I loved my job.  I never, and I mean never, had the Sunday Scaries.  I was surrounded by incredible, knowledgeable, professional, and collaborative coworkers.  I was compensated appropriately (which is very rare, unfortunately).  I had autonomy, opportunities for growth, and job security.  From an outsider looking in, I had no school-based reason to leave my job. 
Also, in full disclosure, I took a full school year of unpaid maternity leave just prior to my leaving.  I had one foot in and one foot out the door for an entire school year.  This lends to a unique perspective, being away while still being connected.  
If you are considering leaving your career as a teacher, for whatever reason, know that you aren’t alone (you are in really good company).

3 Reasons Why I Feel Comfortable Leaving Teaching


I Have a Network

Teaching is a well connected profession.  Really good educators/related service providers/administration/paraprofessionals love their equally great coworkers and genuinely want them to be in an environment where they will be happy and thrive.  I have seen it with my own eyes, time and time again. Having built and maintained strong relationships with my coworkers, I know that I have many people I could reach out to for a letter of recommendation, to see about openings in their school, and to be the person to recommend me for a job.  
My network, while not created with the intention of needing it when I left teaching, is the strongest safety net for me as I walk away from teaching.    Even in the position I had as a Transition Facilitator I worked with professionals outside of the school setting.  I’m thankful to consider a handful of those in my safety network, because variety is important.  
I always felt appreciated and loved by my coworkers, but after I announced my decision to leave it came in big waves.  This feedback confirmed that I’m leaving on a good note, this was important to me. 

Teaching Profession Career Outlook

Straight facts: Teachers are in high demand.  I mean HIGH and they will be for the next several years.  Therefore, if I have a teaching certificate and need or want to go back into the school setting, there is guaranteed to be openings.  I worry not about finding a job.  
Will I be able to find a job as good as the one I’m leaving?  Yes, I believe I could.  My first couple years of teaching were in a school and position that I also loved, but the pay was abysmal.  I had goals to go back to school for my Masters and I simply couldn’t swing it financially.  When I left that role for my current district, I knew that I was giving up some really great things, including incredible students, appreciative families, and a healthy work/life balance.  I feared that any position other than the one I had would be a downgrade.  Well, over time moving to a new school was definitely an upgrade.  There was a better fit out there for me. So, I have to believe that would be possible again.  It won’t look the same as the job I loved that I left, but it has the potential to be better.   
There are other jobs available for teachers that aren’t in a school.  Since being on the ‘outside’ my eyes have been opened to all the job opportunities out there.  Many are in an educator-type role without being in a school setting.  There are remote jobs, traditional year-round jobs, and (surprisingly) so many opportunities entrepreneurially.  So, it’s possible for me to go back to work using my educator skill set in a different capacity. 

I Will Interview Differently

I have been in five interviews as a teacher and three of them were with my current district.  Each time I switched roles I had to update my resume, resubmit an application, and interview.  Having served on interview committees and having both an insider and outsider perspective, if I were to re-enter the teaching profession in a school setting I would interview differently.
As I interviewed for jobs near the end of my college career my mindset was always, ‘They are interviewing me to see if I’m a good fit for the POSITION they have open.’  It was never, ‘I hope they like ME and hire me.’  The interview committees I sat with could have loved me, but if I didn’t have what they were looking for in terms of experience or skill set, then I wasn’t the right fit and it’s nothing personal.  
I’ll carry that mindset in with me at future interviews.  I’ll also add this, ‘I’m interviewing the school/job/staff to see if THEY will be a good fit for ME.’  Interviewing isn’t a one way street.  I’ll come equipped with my own questions to get a better sense of what I would be signing up for.  I know that happy employees are easy to read and pregnant pauses speak volumes.  I know what I need to be happy, fulfilled, and supported in a teaching position because of my previous experience and I’ll know how to assess if that would be possible in future interviews. 

If you stumbled across this blog post because you are considering leaving teaching, let me ask you..
Do you have a network of amazing coworkers who would want to work with you again in the future?
Do you plan to keep your teaching certificate up to date in case you decide to go back? 
Do you know what type of work environment you thrive in?  What questions would you ask to get a better sense of if a school could offer that? 

While I am no career coach expert, if you could answer those questions above confidently, I’d say you have lifelines, should you need to cast them to get back into teaching. 
Please know this professional decision may come with trepidation, anxiety, and fear, because it did for me.  I think that’s natural, especially if you love what you do as an educator.  However, if the position isn’t best serving you, this season of life, your mental health, your bank account, or whatever, there are other options.  And, if you need to go back, the teacher shortage confirms there will be opportunities for re-entry. 



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