For some, a “career break” is a fantasy when you’re feeling stuck and uninspired. It strikes when you’ve been working long, seemingly thankless hours. Or, when you just don’t think your students, parents, principal, fill in the blank appreciates your hard work . Maybe it comes when you’re feeling uninspired with lesson plans. Sometimes a weekend of unplugging can do the trick or a long winter break will reset your passion for the classroom. And, sometimes it doesn’t.
If you’re beyond needing just a few days to recharge your batteries, a teacher career break could be what the doctor ordered. Especially if you think an extended career break is the only way to ever rekindle your love of all things teaching. It’s healthy to explore new passions, new career paths and new options for your life. But, going all in and deciding to take a real, solid break is as an emotional a journey. Even when you know it’s the practical solution. If you’re considering a career break, we’ve put together a step-by-step guide to help you decide if a break is the right decision for you—with all to consider before taking the plunge.
1. Decide when you want to start your break—and for how long.
As tempting as it is to pull a “Jerry Maguire” and walk out of school by making a statement—it’s not the best way to handle things. Especially if you ever want to come back. We get that once you make the decision to take a hiatus, you’re ready to rip the band-aid off. But, you must be practical and flexible. If you’re ever going to do it, the date can’t be “someday.” Figure out when the most ideal time for you to take your break. Before a milestone birthday? After your kids start school full-time? Whatever it is, it’s a great way to psychologically frame the break in your mind . If you’re still unsure, talk it out with your spouse or trusted friend for their input and support.
2. Do a deep dive into your financial health.
It makes no sense to take a break from your teaching career if you’ll be scrimping, saving and stressing over money the entire time. Try and pay off any debt you might have before. If not, start taking extra money out of your paychecks to put into savings. Otherwise, if you come from a two-income home, figure out how your partner’s paychecks can stretch out while you’re on your break. If all else fails, it’s time to figure out a side hustle to keep you afloat. But, it’s wisest to start living leaner to keep more in your bank account now.
3. Decide what your break is all about.
Your break might simply be a chunk of time you’ve been craving to simply figure out what you want to be “when you grow up.” There’s no wrong plan but you don’t want to walk away from a highly coveted teaching position without a concrete, focused plan with set goals and pursuits. A career break could be a great time to raise a family, go back to school for an entirely new career, launch a business, work for yourself or, of course, travel. Knowing what your end goal is makes it easier to craft an exit strategy that you feel ready to embrace wholeheartedly.
4. Plan your exit.
If you visualize yourself back in the classroom—even if you plan on taking a break that spans several years—be sure you know exactly which certifications and trainings you’ll need to keep updated. Also, look into the guidelines set forth by your school district as many will allow teachers to take extended time off. But once your mind is made up, set a time to meet with your principal to discuss. Be honest and open minded about your plan and goals as you don’t want to burn bridges.
5. Let’s do this.
You’ve made your plans, given notice, started filling your colleagues in and then out of nowhere—the cold feet. Don’t freak out. It’s normal and natural to have some apprehension before breaking free of your comfort zone. During your first few days/weeks, take things slow. You don’t have to accomplish all you set out to do at once. Plan a daily schedule you can stick to. Then slowly ease into this new, unwritten chapter of your life!