When I quit teaching, I had no idea what my future would hold. Today, I am sharing an update 4 years later about what it’s like to be out of the classroom and living a life I love. If you are thinking about quitting teaching, have wondered what other options you have, and want to hear firsthand from someone who has left, this episode is for you!
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I Quit Teaching … And Here’s What Happened
Today we’re going to be talking about a pretty hard-hitting topic. This is an issue that is very sensitive to many teachers especially in light of the unique, heart-wrenching, back-breaking work that teachers have been doing since this pandemic began. And when I say unique, I really mean that teachers have had to put up with things that they never expected and certainly don’t deserve. But you guys rock! All of my teacher friends who are listening who are in the classroom, you are amazing, you are my hero, and I really appreciate all of the work that you’ve done this year and always, of course. But I know you guys have really been through it this year. So I want to be clear that even though I’m talking about quitting teaching today on the show, I quit teaching pre-pandemic. So please take that into consideration when listening.
Attitudes About Quitting Teaching
Now on that topic, talk of quitting teaching has obviously skyrocketed this past year for obvious reasons. But the truth is teachers have been thinking about quitting teaching for many years. Right? This isn’t something new. There are more teachers who have thought about quitting teaching. But at the same time, it’s just become more socially acceptable to vocalize quitting teaching this year because there are so many teachers who are going through this thought process.
As a teacher, you are held to the highest of standards but given the lowest of respect. You are basically expected to DIY your way to the top with minimal guidance, minimal resources, little support, and all while under constant scrutiny. But here’s the thing. Teachers are ridiculously amazing when it comes to DIY-ing our way through things. Whether it’s DIY-ing our way through grad school while teaching and maintaining a personal life or DIY-ing our way through a year with little administrative support and a lot of specific needs in our classroom. Time and time again, we rise to the occasion. That’s just what teachers do.
But the rising takes a toll after a while. This is why my number one message to you today is that if you have ever thought about quitting teaching, you are not alone. And it’s definitely not something to feel guilty about. Whether you are burnt out or have been teaching for several years and find yourself wondering what else is out there or even if you love teaching and have just had that fleeting thought of what would it be like if I quit teaching, then this episode is for you.
When I Quit Teaching
I’ve been out of the classroom since 2017. So this is my fourth school year not in the classroom, and I don’t regret it for a single moment. But I want to give you an honest look at how it’s going. And spoiler alert, it’s going really well. It’s not always rainbows and butterflies, but for the most part, it is going so well. The last thing I’d want to do is coerce someone into leaving the classroom with false promises of the same success I’ve had. I think it’s important for teachers who are considering quitting teaching to have honest information about the process. It’s also helpful to hear what it’s been like from the perspective of someone who has actually left.
Why I Quit Teaching
Even though it’s been four years since I left the classroom, I still remember my tipping point very vividly. I was walking down the hall because I had to ask our school secretary a question. I remember exactly where I was standing in the hallway. As I reached a certain point in the hallway, there was no turning back. For whatever reason, I remember that it was the third brick from the end of the hallway.
That’s where I stopped, and that’s where I kind of realized like, oh my gosh, I am not happy. Like I am extremely unhappy. And the moment was so vivid and it’s so tangible still in my memory. I remember seeing the windows painted. Our custodian was wonderful and would paint the windows in our hallway every year. And I remember the Charlie Brown paintings. I remember seeing people in the office. I remember exactly who was in there. Time stood still, and every single fiber of my being just screamed to me to get the heck out. And I really at that moment felt like I couldn’t take it anymore, like I couldn’t handle it. It was just that third brick from the end of the hallway. I still remember that.
At that time, I was eight months pregnant with my second child too. It felt impossible to wrangle a toddler at home, drag my pregnant body all over the place all day, and still try to be even a half decent teacher. And looking back, yes, that sounds dramatic. But I knew at that moment that if I left, it wouldn’t be easy. No matter how badly I was feeling at that moment, it wouldn’t be easy. I made a very conscious decision at that moment to bottle up that feeling right then and there. I told myself that if I ever actually made the decision to leave, I would need to hold on to that feeling because it was so visceral. It gave me the edge that I need to follow my heart because it was just so packed with pure unhappiness.
Yes, I Still Love Teaching
And here’s the thing. I loved teaching. And I still love teaching. It’s what I always wanted to do. And even when I began teaching, it was everything I’d hoped for and more. Of course, there were things that I didn’t expect. I knew it would be hard work, but I just didn’t know how hard. But I loved it. I loved the kids. I just didn’t love enough parts of teaching. Now looking back, I loved what mattered. But the things that mattered were getting unfairly tarnished by all of the extras that didn’t matter. And those were the things that threatened to undo me.
I Also Love Working on My TpT Business
I was losing sleep and damaging my health and my happiness and my family’s happiness because of things that were out of my control. It was mostly all of that bureaucratic nonsense and getting paid next to nothing. Now on the flip side, I had been doing TpT for four years at this point, and when I sat down at any point to work on my TpT business, even after a long day of teaching, I loved every single part of it. It filled me up, it ignited me with creativity, and it quite literally gave me life at times when I felt so low otherwise. There were so many days and nights where TpT became my solace from teaching, and it became the one thing that brought me genuine joy.
So when I was faced with the dread that filled me every time I was nearing that third brick from the end of the hallway, I couldn’t help but think, oh my gosh, I’d be so much happier right now if I was at home working on my business. And the reason I’m sharing my story is not to paint some unrealistic picture of hey, look what I did, you could do it too. But instead a hey, I was going through a super hard time teaching and because I had already worked so hard and grown my teacher business. It gave me the space and the comfort and the safety net I needed to take my final step out that door in June of 2017.
That was 17 days before my daughter was born. And that final step out of the classroom changed my life. It doesn’t matter if you don’t even have a teacher business right now. This episode is still for you. And I know this episode isn’t for everybody. I am 100% aware of the fact that it is a privilege I hold to be able to even choose whether or not I left the classroom. I know so many teachers who would love to leave the classroom but can’t afford to right now for many reasons. But I’m speaking up about this because I think teachers need options today now more than ever.
Things That Happened When I Quit Teaching
I Felt Less Anxious
So in no particular order, here are some things that happened when I quit teaching. Before I quit teaching, I was struggling with such intense anxiety that it was starting to manifest itself physically. I’m not exaggerating. At one point, I was convinced that I was dying of some neurological disorder or brain tumor, God forbid, because of the stress that was happening to my body. I was already taking medication for anxiety, but it simply wasn’t enough because I never gave my body or my mind time to heal itself on its own.
I just kind of relied on my medicine, thinking it would do the trick. But I had just never made time for taking care of myself that way prior to leaving the classroom, mostly because I just never knew that it was possible and also because finding a quiet moment to reflect and practice mindfulness or whatever sounded like a joke to be honest for someone who spent 16 hours a day wrangling my own children or someone else’s children. Literally, I was either wrangling kids or sleeping or working on my business. Those were the three things that ruled my life.
But since quitting teaching, my anxiety has decreased so dramatically that most days, I feel like a completely different person. And even though four years has gone by, my husband will still remark like, oh my gosh, I cannot believe that you are the same person as you were four years ago. Like this transformation is mind-blowing. And this is due to a lot of things. I finally had time to implement strategies and practices that alleviated my anxiety that actually worked beyond my medication. So this hands down has been one of my favorite results of leaving the classroom. My mind is healthier and that, of course, has a ripple effect on how my body feels, how my relationships are, how my family life is. I mean it has quite literally changed my life just by decreasing my anxiety.
I Got To Know Myself Better When I Quit Teaching
When I left the classroom, I also got to know myself better. And this one sounds so weird but it’s true. I feel like teachers so often form their identity by what they do. They become teaching and teaching becomes them. And I think that’s totally natural and totally okay to an extent. Most of us start teaching at a young age when we’re still forming our own identities. It only makes sense that what we do eight hours a day is going to play a huge part in that identity. And oftentimes, those great teachers are the ones who make teaching who they are and that’s okay.
But I didn’t realize until after leaving the classroom that I was so much more than teaching. Finally, for the first time ever, I had time to take care of myself. Sure, I was still working hard in my business, and I was chasing after my two little kids. But so much of my day was spent on my terms that it truly didn’t even matter to me. Like nothing could phase me. The fact that I got to get out of bed every day and do what I wanted to do was huge for me.
And I quickly realized like even just after a year out of the classroom, I knew that if I were ever faced with the idea of going back to a job where I was on someone else’s time, I would pretty much do everything in my power to never have to do that again. Because as soon as I was able to live a life with a schedule that was determined by me, I was able to exercise when I wanted to. I could cook meals instead of inhaling like a 30-second lunch on my way to recess duty. I just became really in tune with what I preferred, how I worked best, what made me happy, and what I needed.
And I found more moments to think about myself, which again sounds so silly. But as a teacher or a parent, you know what it’s like to literally not even have seconds in a day to consider anything else but your kids or your students. So as part of this self-discovery process, and again, that sounds so like touchy-feely like Dr. Phil. But I truly was just rediscovering who I was as a person. I was able to reconnect with things I like doing like arts and crafts projects, and binge reading, and DIY house projects.
I Became a Better Mom
Another amazing positive impact of leaving the classroom was the fact that I became a much better mom. Now when I say I took my teaching stress out on my family, I am not exaggerating. I was very much a teacher who would not leave work at work. I’m really ashamed to admit the number of nights that I took out school stress on my husband and my son. And add to the fact that my husband was also an elementary school teacher at the time. So every single night felt like a game of who is the most stressed out after a day of teaching. Like who had the harder day? So it was really rough there for a while.
But once I quit teaching, it was as if an overnight transformation occurred. I was calmer, more patient, not so rushed. I wasn’t stressed, I smiled more, I played more. Unfortunately I still don’t love playing. But I played more. I got down on the floor and played with my kids. I didn’t worry about all of the other things that needed to be done. Everything, especially me, was more relaxed. I planned less, and I lived in the moment more. It was easier to ease up on schedules a little bit. I still love schedules of course. But I breathed more. I just enjoyed being a parent!
And I feel really bad that I started enjoying it once I left the classroom. But luckily my kids were still young at that age. I’m so glad I left when I did because just as I had bottled up that moment of this is what it feels like to hate teaching, I was fortunate enough also to have a similar moment where I realized the opposite. I had a moment where I looked around, and I realized wow, this was all worth it! And I wanted to bottle up that feeling to remind myself on days where I started feeling guilty about leaving the classroom. Because teachers like to do that to ourselves. We like to feel good about something one day and then guilty the next. I think it’s part of being a teacher or a mom, whatever.
One day I was home with both kids and I was trying to get some TpT work done. At the last minute, I decided to scrap my plans for the day and make a cake with the kids. And here’s the thing. I don’t bake. Like I don’t even really enjoy baking. But at the moment, it sounded fun. And I don’t even really like cake. It was just one of those moments where I stopped and realized you can literally do anything you want.
At that point, I had a three-year-old and a toddler. So our options were kind of limited. It was rainy outside, but I told myself you can literally do anything you want. Make the cake. So we did. And that memory is seared on my mind probably just as clearly as the birth of both of my kids and maybe my wedding day. It was just such a tangible, pure, emotional moment when I looked around, and I almost felt like I was having an out-of-body experience.
And I realized like this wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t decided to quit teaching. And that was huge for me and that is the feeling that I hold on to now when I have those moments where I think, oh, was it, should I still be in the classroom? Because you still wrestle with that guilt. And I would say that’s probably the one downfall of leaving the classroom is you do feel guilty, but you get over it. And the good days highly outweigh the bad. But it’s really nice to have those moments where you look around you realize like, wow, this is what I’m working for, this is what’s possible.
I Finally Had Time to Grow My TpT Business
Now the next thing that happened when I quit teaching is a big one for me and probably the biggest one of all. When I quit teaching, I was able to spend more time growing my teacher business. And I was able to grow it bigger than I had ever imagined. Before leaving the classroom, I would work all day at school. Then the agreement that I had with my husband was that I would go directly from school to Starbucks every single day for two hours. He handled daycare pickup and got dinner started. But I knew that every day after teaching, I would work for two hours at Starbucks on my TPT business.
And I didn’t always feel like doing that. Like it sounded appealing at the time, but there were days where all I wanted to do was go home and relax, go home and take a nap or whatever. But I would go to Starbucks every day for two hours. Then I would go home, spend time with my son and my husband. I would do bedtime and bath with my son and then I would work some more. I don’t regret it because it grew my business and I was hustling hard and it paid off. But that exact plan wasn’t sustainable for much longer especially since we had a second child on the way.
I Gained Financial Freedom When I Quit Teaching
Like I mentioned earlier though, because of the hard work that I had put into my business up until this point, I was in a somewhat doable financial situation to leave the classroom. In full transparency, when I left the classroom in 2017, I had just celebrated the past year having my first six-figure year from my TPT business. And that sounds great and it was. It was so exciting and such a huge boost in my motivation. It was a lifesaver.
But the thing is we still had over six figures in student loans to pay off. And we had another baby on the way. So leaving the classroom was a risk, but it was one that we could swing, barely but we did it. By quitting teaching, I was able to continue growing my TpT store and have managed to increase my sales every year since then. Not only have I maintained my six-figure income, but it has grown at least 10% every year. But I’ve also had years of 100% growth or 50% growth. But even in my “worst years” since I left the classroom, it grew 10%. I am positive that it wouldn’t have been possible if I had still been teaching.
Living the Life I Love
And here’s what I have to tell you guys. I used to get extremely jealous of the teachers I saw leaving the classroom, especially when I knew they were leaving to pursue working on their TpT business full-time. I wanted that kind of success, and I was jealous because of it. And I also wanted that level of happiness in my life. It’s hard seeing other people pursuing exactly what you love doing too. And when I saw them talking about leaving the classroom and doing this, to me, it felt like bragging. Right? But I quickly realized that my jealousy was solely coming from a place of I would love to get to that point.
Little did I know that hearing about that and feeling that way and wanting to get to that point was the thing that catapulted me out of my misery and into the life that I now love. And it goes against my nature to be open about sharing my TpT success. The last thing I want to do is come across as someone who is boastful. But as a new seller back in the day, the success of other sellers, as jealous as it made me sometimes, was so inspiring and gave me so much energy to work and it got me to where I am today.
Creating an Income That Lasts
So I only share these numbers and my success in the spirit of giving you hope if you feel helpless about your current options. I share about this in the spirit of giving you direction so you have a solid place to start and grow your own TpT business if that’s the direction you choose. I also share this because there are so many options out there to start your own business these days. You hear left and right about becoming your own boss and being a boss babe. If you’ve been a long time listener, I’m not a fan of boss babes or at least the term. But I share this because selling your teaching resources online is one of the best ways for teachers to create an income that lasts.
It’s not a temporary fad, it’s not a miracle solution, and it’s not a pyramid scheme. It is an honest-to-God business that will make you money. For you, it could mean enough money to grab Starbucks every week without feeling guilty or splurge on one of those really nice teacher planners that you’ve been eyeing. Or maybe it could even mean quitting teaching and supporting your family full-time. It is truly the best way for teachers to do something beyond the classroom.
I say that not only from opinion but also from experience. So I hope that I’m sharing all of this from a genuine place of I want to help you if you are someone who is thinking about leaving the classroom. It’s so refreshing to spend my days on something that brings me so much joy and happiness but is also what supports my family. Eight years later, I still love everything about TpT, and I am so happy that that’s what I get to spend my days doing.
I Have More Time to Explore My Passions
The icing on the cake of quitting teaching was also being able to explore other passions beyond my TpT business. Once I stabilized my business and things became more automated, I was able to start the School of Sellers community where I now get to help teachers start and grow their TpT careers every single day. So maybe you’re listening and you’re already on your TpT journey. If so, I’d love help guide you in the direction that’s best for you.
You can join School of Sellers or School of Sellers 101 on Facebook or both. There are so many teacher sellers in both groups who are still teaching and also those who have left the classroom. So you have a lot of brains to pick and a lot of people to ask questions. Because here’s the thing. Even if you aren’t ready to leave the classroom yet, you can still get started on your teacher business today. In fact, the earlier you do, obviously the better. And the best place to do that in my opinion is in a Facebook group where you can chat and get free advice and ask all the questions you want. So please head on over to School of Sellers or School of Sellers 101 on Facebook.
Looking Forward on the Podcast: Back to Basics Series
I also wanted to tell you that starting next week here on the podcast, we are diving into a Back to Basics series. It’s going to be an incredible series for new sellers to get a crash course in what it means and what it takes to be a teacher seller. But it’s also for my established teacher seller friends who know the value of returning to basics every now and again to keep your TpT game strong. Just like our students are lifelong learners, so are we.
I hope you will join us the next few weeks where we will share tips for you to live your best teacher life and also build the life that you deserve. I want you to have a life that lights you up and a life that is yours. Because life is just too short to live on someone else’s terms. My business has given me so many things. But a confident identity and a sense of purpose and self is a gift that I hope to pass on to anyone who wants to become a serious seller. So I will see you all next week for the beginning of our Back to Basics series. And I really hope to see a lot of you in our Facebook groups until then. Thanks so much for listening, and I’ll see you again here next week.
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