Why I Quit My Dream Job

I can remember standing in my parent’s basement smothered in wood panelling and orange shag carpet with a dry erase board and my second grade math homework. I can remember lining all of my stuffed bears and hippos and whatever else into a strategic seating chart so they could all see the board and I could walk around “the classroom” to ensure each student was on task. I assigned homework and stayed after school to plan for the next day or at least until dinner was ready. Teaching has been my dream since I was cognizant of the fact that a career was possible for me.

I attended an elite teaching school in Colorado, took college credits in high school, made every career decision and personal to match the teaching timeline of my life.

Most recently, I moved back home with my parents, back to the shag carpet and wooden panels, back to lesson planning and seating charts only this time for a real class with real students and real responsibilities for changing the world.

Only I felt like I wasn’t. 

I have spent the last several weeks in a fifth grade classroom (as well as semesters before in numerous other grade levels and school buildings) filled with eager to learn students, a passionate teacher, and all the resources a new teacher could ask for. But I quit today. 

And the reason I quit is because I felt my dream job wasn’t doing enough. Like it wasn’t living up to everything I have choked it up to be. In fact, I felt that I was doing more harm than good while standing in that classroom.

When it was my job as an educator to do everything in my power to make sure children were learning how to be successful in and out of the classroom, I watched as they slipped through the cracks. I watched as a young boy came to school hungry every single day and yet was expected to write the same five paragraph essay as the girl who ate cage-free eggs that same morning. I watched as a ten year old slit her wrist and laughed off the depression hours later: her social-emotional health being blatantly neglected but the “no blade” school policy being implemented in full force.

That is NOT okay.

As a teacher, I had to ignore the fact that these young, moldable minds were being neglected and rather focus on if they were able to recognize 3-5 important events in a National Geographic article from 2007. The thing is, I didn’t care if they knew how to sequence, or how to dissect vocabulary, I really didn’t even care if they knew how to add two-digit numbers (which all fifth graders should be able to do). The fact that most of these children were behind academically meant nothing to me when they responded to the prompt “how are you” with sad or hungry or upset. The rest of the day: manipulatives, graphic organizers, sentence strings…How could I expect them to learn through any avenue when their mind was clearly somewhere else, somewhere more relevant to them.

Children are so quick to get lost in the education system, some of them just squeezing through standards and expectations- literally being shuffled through the system like products on a conveyor belt. Names become test scores, emotions are lost amongst the constant transitions between word work, number corner, and homemade science curriculum.

It made me sick.

Teachers are absolutely doing the best that they can with the resources and the funds they are offered. I am not demeaning or attempting to disrespect any human who gives their life to the classroom. I respect each and every man and woman who is helping mold the young minds of our world.

But it’s not my dream job. Not anymore.

It’s back to the drawing board for me. And this time- with a child’s mental health, safety, and hunger status at the forefront of my passion.

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Just a lost soul trying to make sense of the world

31 thoughts on “Why I Quit My Dream Job”

  1. Very noble of you. I hope you get to satisfy your quench for “making a difference” and help as many people as possible. Just keep in mind that whatever you do makes more of a difference than if you did nothing. Any little bit counts.

  2. Thank you for sharing. Good for you to recognize this at a young age and not allow yourself to be locked into something that won’t be fulfilling.

    1. I appreciate the support and encouragement! I hope never gets trapped in something that won’t be fulfilling regardless of age.

  3. I felt the same way as you. I cried about the way some of the lives of some of my students. For the last two years I have been able to do “My Dream Job” volunteering in a kitchen and helping to give them breakfast one day a week. I might only carry a tea towel but in many ways I really felt like I was doing something that mattered. I understand how you feel but it is a shame you have felt the need to leave.

    1. I love that you found an avenue to help them. I’m pursuing several other outlets myself. I will absolutely find a way to help children in a meaningful way! Thank you for your comment

      1. All we can do is for a change. Teachers are amazing people but I feel like I can make a change on a different path 💜

    1. And I am young, passionate, motivated, and optimistic enough to ensure that any career path I choose touches the lives of young children while also paying the bills. But like I argued in my blog- kids always come first. That’s the dream I have and what I will demand in any position I have in the future. Thanks for your comment Tony.

  4. Thanks for sharing your story, Brenna. It’s so frustrating when that beautiful vision and passion to make a difference runs into a system and environment that makes it impossible and sends us back to the drawing board (and shag carpet). Best to you as you explore your way into new ways to bring that passion and touch lives. (And thank you for stopping by Sophia’s Children, my wee cyber-garden).

  5. Reblogged on educationadvocateblog.wordpress. com. I wish you well as you try to find a another way to make a difference. It is so sad to contemplate what “education” has become and what we are doing to children under the guise of learning and teaching.

    1. I appreciate the reblog so much. I hope we can get the future of our world set up for the most success with educators and mental health expertise alike 🌟

  6. Yes… I tried really hard to work within the system and then ended up walking away from my teacher at a state school because I frankly felt that system was failing too many children and I felt the whole setup was actually hurting children. Our state school system was initially set up to provide cheap childcare for parents swallowed up by factories and provide basic skills for the next generation of workers – and it still doesn’t sufficiently look after the youngsters in its care… I have a lovely time now teaching adults and provide one-to-one tuition and can make a real difference.

    1. Thank you for checking my blog out and responding. Sadly since writing this, I am finding that this is a more common frustration than I had anticipated. Our children deserve so much better. It makes it even worse that there is no obvious light at the end of the tunnel right now. Thank you for what you do!

  7. This makes me so sad that any child has to go to school hungry and isn’t helped with her mental health problems. It is reported as the same here. I am sad as well that someone who so obviously cares has made this decision, we need good, caring teachers. Good luck wherever life now takes you.

    1. The kiddos in our country need some more love than what they are being granted for sure. Thanks for your comment Emma!

  8. Hello! Fellow elementary teacher here. This was my first year and I quit too, for basically the same reasons. I felt like I was adding to the problem. Great post!

    1. Thank you! It’s so sad to hear that we lost another teacher- they didn’t lie about the turnover rate. I hope you’re doing something you are passionate about!

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