Have You Ever Considered Quitting Teaching?

Have you ever considered quitting teaching?

I did.

I quit.

amber

You may be considering doing the same. But, before you write your resignation letter, it isn’t about staying or leaving, it’s about determining why you started teaching. What is your “Why”?

Picture the brown envelope stuffed with class rosters, back to school info, and class schedules. It comes flying through the mail slot.

During my first years of teaching, I welcomed the envelope, in the last three, I dreaded it.

What about you?

Or maybe, you’ve always wanted to be a teacher, but the gig doesn’t seem to be what you signed up for. You’re overwhelmed and drowning in projects to grade, posters to make, emails to answer, and non-art-related professional development to attend. You have lunch duty, locker room duty, recess duty, bathroom duty. You feel like you’re pulled in a million different directions.

easels and stools

So, why do you teach?

I started teaching art because I love teaching, kids, and art. I believe quality art education develops empathy, helping students learn to think and problem-solve.

I quit.

My belief in the importance of education never changed, yet my ability to teach in a way that aligned with my “Why” did.

To stay, and feel good about staying, you need to develop a plan that helps you teach every day in a way that aligns with your “Why.” If you can’t, you should leave.

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To help you sort out your feelings, I suggest you take part in the thought exercise below. Take some time to think about and write down your answers to the following three questions.

  1. What changes do you need to make so that your day-to-day teaching practice aligns with your “Why”?
  2. To what do you need to say, “No”?
  3. To what do you need to say “Yes”?

You might find you need to say, “No,” to immediate email responses, and instead tackle more important things first. Or, you might need to come up with a way to get your emails taken care of quickly.

One tip for saving time with email is to have an email swipe file. This is a file filled with responses to common emails. Take an afternoon, write out responses to all of the common emails you receive. Then, save your responses to quickly edit and use as needed.

Perhaps you need to stop making bulletin boards unless it connects to your “Why.” Instead, try allowing the students to be in charge of displaying their work.


For even more tips, check out the Creative Ways to Curb Teacher Burnout Learning Pack. Learn how to say no when work gets to be too much. You deserve to invest in yourself so that you can feel energized throughout the school year.


It may also help to write a list of all the things you aren’t.

You’re not a sign maker, poster designer, earring fixer, or holiday card maker. You are a teacher. Give yourself room to TEACH. It’s okay to say, “No,” and you’re going to have to say, “No,” to a lot to refocus on your “Why.”

Understand that it’s okay to quit. If you no longer have a clue why you’re teaching (besides the paycheck) or, if you can’t get your day-to-day practice to align with your “Why” it’s time to quit. And if you do, it will be okay. You will figure it out, and you might fall back in love with teaching.

I did.

Leave a comment that describes your “Why” in the comment section.

What are three things you can stop doing immediately that distract from your “Why”?

Amber Kane

AOE Admin

Amber Kane is a High School Art Teacher and textile designer in PA. Through questioning and a focus on the creative thought process, she strives to help her students uncover their personal voice and see how they can use art to create impact.

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  • BossySnowAngel

    I quit teaching the first time after a principal changed a deeply failing grade for a highly recruited football player. Yes, that happened. I could name names but it would do no good. I freelanced and stayed at home with my kids until the youngest hit middle school. Then I went back to teaching high school. At first it was not a good fit. It was art on a cart with two teachers who resented my presence. They’re long gone and I’m still here 18 years later. The last few years have been challenging. I find the students less and less engaged and products they made just five years ago are now beyond students at the same level. It’s not just hand skills, it’s intellectual acuity and development. In a way it kind of scares me. Then there’s the endless documentation for every special population from SPED to ELL to GT to 504. I don’t know what good it does to track all these students if in doing so I don’t have time to teach. I’m trying to see if I can retire next year. This time I won’t be back. I’ll find a job somewhere doing something interesting, but I won’t be like those who substitute because they can’t leave. Frankly it breaks my heart to see truly elderly former teachers-one in her mid eighties-feeling they have to work because of the joke of a pension and the lack of social security thanks to WEP imposed by union states on non-union states.

    • Mr. Post

      This is my last year as an art teacher. It is freeing and scary all at the same time. I will still be in the work force but I will be doing something else.

      This is my 4th year of teaching 700 students without any art budget. Every time I turn around administration does something to make my job more difficult. I could list all of the ways my program has been undercut and sabotaged but if you teach in a public school you are likely already experiencing your own version of these things. I still care about the kids but I am ready to do something else so I am leaving the profession.

      I LOVE teaching – I just do not like working as a teacher in the system I am currently working in and under.

      My plan is to teach pottery privately from my home studio, make and sell pots and I have already started teaching glaze making online. It is good to know when it is time to leave a party. Sadly the system has made so many other great teachers want to leave early too.

      • amberkanescarves

        Thanks for sharing. It sounds like you have a great plan, and will continue teaching. Best of luck to you!

      • BossySnowAngel

        I’m thinking about putting an enclosed porch/studio and teaching. I wish I could teach art history at the community college, but they require an MFA. Never mind that I’ve been teaching the course for seven years. And at 62, getting another degree would be foolish.

      • BossySnowAngel

        I understand. I’m frankly amazed that this will be my 18th year at this school. I have one more year to get my ducks in a row. I too will find “something” part time to pay the bills and insurance. But things are getting so ugly now that I’m not sure even next year is a possibility. We have an open lunch which has done two things-allowed kids to form cliques and reinforced a sense of entitlement. This has created a toxic situation where the administration hides like turtles leaving classroom teachers to try to forge order from chaos. It’s a losing battle. I look at the same assignments from just a few years ago and the lack of focus and effort I see today from kids is shocking. I attribute it to constant engagement with their cell phones.

    • Lorie Bowlin Friedmann

      I have to agree with you about the student engaged and lack of caring or trying to do grade level/ curriculum expected art projects. I teach k-8 and am finding it’s worse with 5th-8th grade and the younger grades seem to automatically say, “ I can’t do that, without lots support or directed drawing. So many won’t use their imagination or critical thinking. I feel like I’m teaching to about a quarter of my students. And the kicker is 11 back-to-back 3 week block 30 min classes, M,T,Th,& F with Weds 6, due to early release/teacher staff PLC meetings. This is the second year of this crazy schedule and increasing behavior problems, I’m done and retiring after this year. I’d liked to teacher art part time or do some kind year around art camp maybe, limited number of students for 3 to 6 weeks. Still thinking about thought income option. But most importantly, I need to do my own art! Good luck to you all in your retirement and best of luck for those new enthusiastic art teachers taking the torch!

      • BossySnowAngel

        I hear you. They implemented a block lunch in the middle of the day where students are supposed to manage their own time-get forms signed, go to tutoring, etc. Instead they run around the hallway, playing loud music and disrupting the few students who want and need to study. Behavior is in the toilet. Girls dress like all they need is a pole and boys act like clowns. And th e message we get from PD is to make class fun, fun, fun.

  • Sarah

    I think you also have to understand that one bad year shouldn’t do you in. Some years are better, some principals are better, some grade levels are better. Sometimes you need to change what you’re teaching, where you’re teaching, how you’re teaching to find your groove. Some years are terrible, some years are amazing.

    • amberkanescarves

      Sarah, that is very true, I actually stayed for 8 years.

  • Kelly Phillips

    Thank you, Amber! I’m loving your voice this month. Keep on keeping it real!

    • amberkanescarves

      Thank you, Kelly!

  • Meredith

    Year twelve and I am hanging on for dear life. Although I have a really great school district- kids are awesome and pretty much the only reason I continue. I have even started my National Board Certification process and am stalling at this point because I am not sure where the career is headed for me. I also feel my heart strings pull towards art therapy which would put my right into a masters program, but at this point you have to find “outs” or just save and skimp every penny and pray for early (who the heck am I kidding???) retirement. I teach in Wisco by the way- so the tides of change have failed to reverse themselves and we continue to just float along. I missed two days this week due to flu so I am heading in this afternoon to grade forty six sketchbooks; you all know how being out two days can turn your art room into a disaster zone!!

    • Amber Kane

      Thanks for sharing Meredith. Hope that your afternoon is productive and goes smoothly! It can be hard to know where to go next, in my experience, I kept moving forward and seeing yes to things that got me really excited and no to the rest. Does becoming National Board Certified light you up?

      • Meredith

        I guess aside from hearing teachers say, ” oh the NBPTS process was so hard but worth it!” What’s the point of doing it other than having a resume builder and something to toot your horn about? Does having that certificate advance my career, will I be able to get another more desirable job, do schools even look at it??? I teach in Wisconsin and barely hear a thing about it, so I feel like the certification is more important in other states…

  • kari pepper

    I have been too busy to read any articles from AOE lately, but decided to click on this one and read the comments. I too, had burnout after 20+ years of teaching and needed a change. I went choice based three years ago and have fallen in love with teaching again by creating student led studio space. I will not lie, it was a TON of work setting up centers and making the change but now it is soooo worth it! I partially flipped my classroom too by making video of each center-tours and tutorials. I have been grumbling about how this year my quarter classes were changed to 5 sections of 7 week blocks, but realize I cannot complain after reading about the 3 week blocks below! Hang in there!

    • Amber Kane

      Kari, thanks for sharing! So glad to hear that you were able to make changes that made you fall back in love with teaching.

  • Berit Massman

    I am “retiring” this year, too. Teaching art for only 30 minutes a class is imply not enough time! That’s a under 18 hours of art class for each student per year!

    • Amber Kane

      Berit, 30 minutes is tough. What your plans for, “retirement?”

  • Jen

    I wanted to quit my first year (last year). My wife was 900 miles away for special health treatment but despite personal stress, the first half of the year was fine. Then admin just kept upping expectations and responsibilities – so unrealistic for a first year teacher. I was never asked about my wife, I’m pretty sure they couldn’t have cared less. Instead of worrying about teaching, I was worried about being observed and getting torn apart yet again. I loved the kids and doing art but I told others that if my experience is what teaching is, I don’t want to do it. I was assured that not all admin is like that, though, and about 15% of the teachers/staff left at the end of the year. Currently, I am subbing, and I’m pretty sure that I want my own classroom again. But I question if it’s really for me or not.

    • Amber Kane

      So sorry to hear about your wife, hope that she’s better! There’s nothing wrong with giving the classroom another try, it sounds like that’s where your heart is pulling you.

  • Julie

    I have read the comments with interest. I too, am considering retirement. I have not had a supportive administration in quiet some time. As others have said, they like to pile on the “extra work”. Every year it is a new thing. Behavior is also an issue. Working with special needs students can be a challenge, but its something that most of them are not behavior problems (not counting the ED students). I have had as many as 1,100 elementary students in one school. It makes it hard to plan and prepare with all the duties that are added on. Recently I found out I need reconstructive surgery on my right hand. The surgery, little to no support, and behavior issues are the main reasons why I am concerning retirement. I can’t really afford it and I love it when students say “this was fun”, or a parent ask me how they can do a lesson at home like the one I need with the class. A hard decision.

    • amberkanescarves

      Sorry to hear about your situation and your hand Julie, It is hard decision. Best of luck to you as you move forward.

  • Linda

    I’ve been teaching for 17 years now. I earned my masters seven years ago and I felt like I was finally becoming a teacher/leader in my district. Then the bottom fell out two years later. The art teachers were told to write up an online curriculum database complete with lessons and assessments for each of the state standards. We eagerly dove in to this task and I volunteered my free time to enter all the data into the database from my home computer. We were told this was so “someone could walk into our classrooms and teach just from the database of lessons.” The following year we were told new software had been purchased and everything had to be re-entered. So, I did it a second time. Then at the end of the year I was told it was not necessary to reenter everything, it could have been just copied over. That was the last straw in a long line of similar stories that you have all shared in your comments. I was a mentor teacher to new teachers, a cooperating teacher for student teachers. I implemented every new initiative admin sent down. I wrote emails to admin with ideas to improve the art curriculum. Everything I ever suggested was given a “no”. One year at a district wide staff meeting admin announced to the entire district that some specials would be laid off that summer. This was the first we had ever heard of it. It was shocking and humiliating. I have no faith in administrations and politicians to run public education for the good of society. Behind every new initiative is a corporation, politician or administrator who stands to make money by making us teachers run in circles. This is an abusive system that takes advantage of our naive commitment to do something good for others. I have 8 long years left until retirement. If something comes up in the meantime that allows me to make a decent living, believe me, I’m gonna make a change.

  • Keith Bowen

    I am an underpaid babysitter at a high school…24 years in….4 to go .
    I’d rather do manual labor in awful weather than teach.
    Apathetic students for 10 years + apathetic teacher.
    We can not compete will cell phones.
    I’ll ride this out and try to find the joy of teaching somewhere other than a public school.
    I still love art…but teaching…that’s a joke.

    • Linda

      Keith, the cell phone situation is outrageous. In the history of American education there is no other item (gum, candy, toys, etc.) that has been allowed in schools that causes this kind of disruption to learning. Our school does not have a consistent cell phone policy. Our CEO will not institute a blanket ban on cell phones. This is an addiction problem. They simply cannot keep their hands off their phones. Teachers are told to integrate devices into the classroom. Yeah, right. Imagine trying to educate a classroom of alcoholics or drug addicts with alcohol and drugs being used during class time. I don’t have the energy, creativity or resilience to compete with cell phones. It’s a bigger problem than I can ever solve.

      • Keith Bowen

        Nail on the head.

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