“Help! I Don’t Like My Job!”: Making the Most Out of a Tough Teaching Gig

Advice from a teacher who’s been there.

Help! I Don't Like My Job

Have you ever arrived home from a long teaching day, sunk down into the couch, and realized “I don’t like my job”? It happens to many of us who’ve taught for a long time.

In some cases, overworked teachers who are new to the field might find that the passion they thought they would have for the job has not materialized. In others, teachers who used to love the job just don’t anymore, and they decide that it’s time to move on to another school or district.  

But what if a new teaching job is hard to find? How can you dig deep to find the motivation and energy to stay in your current job in the meantime? As someone who has been there, here’s my best advice. 

Connect with your peers. 

Frustration with a your current teaching job might be the result of a lack of connection with your coworkers. Find different sets of peers and establish (or reestablish) relationships. These relationships should be professionally supportive. Mentors who have been in your position or young teachers with brand-new enthusiasm are good choices.

Don’t fall into the trap of avoiding all opportunities to socialize at school. I recently left my school after many years. When I first began contemplating leaving, I started to pull away from my school friends. Now, I realize the importance of having peers available for brief vent sessions about both school and non-school frustrations and talking with people who have similar senses of humor and who will giggle with you when you need it.

Focus on the good things. 

It’s easy to get bogged down with all of the bad stuff at a job. Rather than dwelling on the lack of support from administration, the ever-increasing list of duties, or the subject, grade level, or planning period that you don’t like, look for the parts of the day and parts of the school that are awesome.

Maybe your good comes in the form a faculty chili cook-off or a surprise thank-you letter from a student (I got a five-page tribute essay this year!). These good moments will sustain you during the difficult ones.

Attend some extracurricular activities.

Getting bogged down in the drudgery of grading, assigning, and disciplining can make any teacher see only the negative aspects the job. To see the kids in a new light, attend their extracurricular activities.

Doing so may be easier in middle and high school, where sports and performances associated with the school occur at least weekly. But even elementary teachers can benefit from heading to a student’s soccer, football, or baseball game or their dance or music recital. Seeing and supporting students doing what they love creates positive emotions all around.

Ask for help.

Teaching often overwhelms. Teachers are constantly making decisions. When you feel like responsibilities are pulling you in so many directions that you might just rip, ask for help.

Ask your administrator to temporarily lessen your responsibilities. Request for tried-and-true lesson plans from your peers. Ask your significant other to prepare your favorite meal so you can look forward to leftovers at lunch. You may not get all that you asked for, but even a bit of help should provide some stress relief! If those changes don’t help, it may be time to move on.

Always peruse the job listings. 

The economic climate has kept many teachers stuck in less-than-ideal jobs for a long time. So, it never hurts to look for a new job—and apply for it. One of my fellow teachers just got a job as an instructional technologist. She applied on a whim and now her passion for instruction has been reenergized. Another received an offer to be a district literacy coordinator; she turned it down because she was not ready to leave the classroom, even after an especially tough year. For both of these educators, knowing that they could move on and grow made their less-than-ideal current job situation bearable. Looking for other employment can remind you that you have options, that you aren’t stuck where you are.

Changing your outlook may not keep you from eventually changing jobs, but a positive mindset can definitely impact how you feel about your current situation and how you continue on your teaching journey.

Are you in the “don’t like my job” tribe? Join our WeAreTeachers Chat group on Facebookto find advice and commiseration.

Also, check out our tips for how to find the silver lining in any tough teaching scenario.

"Help! I Don't Like My Job!": Making the Most Out of a Tough Teaching Gig

Posted by Tiffany Post

I teach upper level high school and freshman college English. I have three sons: a high school drum major, an elementary Angry Birds fan, and a preschool Star Wars lover. I love to read when I have the chance, am always trying to get fit, and love cookies.

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