I left teaching after the 2020-21 school year. After reaching a breaking point in my career and personal life, my therapist encouraged me to chase a dream I didn’t think was possible: entering the field of education reform. When I left, I knew I could always go back. But now that I’ve officially been removed from teaching for two years, I know I made the right decision. I miss my students and building connections with them so much it hurts some days, but I know my mental health and the well-being of my family is better with me not teaching.
Since I still spend my days in the education world (happily, I might add!), I found this thread on Reddit. It made me wonder—how many other teachers are in the same transitional stage in their life as this teacher?
Man. Reading some of these words breaks my heart. I empathize with them so much. The poster asks if she’s made a mistake and if there are others that have left and subsequently returned. Well, we not only filtered through the comments fellow Reddit teachers left her, we also asked our readers on Facebook, “Did you leave the classroom and end up missing it? What did you decide to do?”
We hope that sharing these responses from teachers that have left will help encourage you in whichever direction is right for you! So, did you miss teaching when you left the classroom?
I missed teaching and ended up returning to the classroom!
Out of the total 150 comments in the Reddit thread and 250 comments on the Facebook post, several teachers said they initially left the classroom but missed it too much. They returned to teaching happier the second time around! These teachers loved their students and craved the meaningful moments they shared with them. That bond and feelings of fulfillment helped carry them back into the classroom. Here’s what these teachers had to say:
I’m a better teacher now.
I can be here long-term.
I found my work-life balance.
I needed clarity.
I just needed a break!
“I left 6 years ago. My last year teaching was one about which I should write a novel! I spent the past 6 years trying to figure out how to use my creativity (updated to include passion for good teaching & learning too) in the private sector (curriculum companies) and now I realize I just needed a break. I’m grateful for the distance and am ready to go back.” —Heidi S.
I just needed to relocate.
“I left California after 19 years of teaching and settled into retirement. After a year, I became very depressed because I missed teaching. Tried subbing, but it didn’t ‘fill my bucket.’ After year 2, I started applying and just got a great position at a wonderful school. So grateful that I found a district that honors and appreciates a teacher with experience.” —Vicki C.
I wasn’t fulfilled as an administrator.
“I left to be an administrator, and tried 2 different positions before realizing I missed working with students. Having the ‘inside knowledge’ of being an admin is both a blessing and a curse. There are times when I can empathize and see the bigger picture regarding decisions, and there are times when I know things could have been handled better. Overall, I’m happy to be back with the students, as I think I have much more patience for high schoolers than I do for adults.” —Rachel W.
“I left teaching to work in administration. After 4 years, I left to go back to the classroom. I missed the real connection with students and seeing them have ‘a-ha’ moments! That just doesn’t happen as an assistant principal. I also missed the relationship with other teachers. I didn’t think that it would automatically change once I changed positions. I am starting my 4th year back in the classroom after my ‘admin’ break, and I haven’t regretted it for a minute!” —JoAnn H.
I needed some clarity.
“I taught for 9 years before I took a break due to tough pregnancies / health issues. I was DYING to go back. I actually lasted as a SAHM until my daughter was 8 months, but I was not happy. Been back 9 years and loving it! I will say that I did a much better job choosing my positions the second time around and I was able to find places and colleagues that I truly work well with!” —Janis M.
I miss teaching, but I can’t go back.
I would put myself in this category. These teachers can admit that two things can be true in their lives. They miss teaching immensely, but they can acknowledge there are too many variables that will keep them away for good. A lot of teachers mention interacting with students is the part they miss the most, and I wholeheartedly agree!
My anxiety level is so much better.
Maybe I romanticized teaching.
I need to move on from the heartbreak for the career I wanted.
I don’t miss being disrespected.
“I miss my coworkers, working with my students, and the creative elements of the job, but I do not miss the bureaucracy, being disrespected, and the stress.” —Rebecca R.
I’m better off emotionally without teaching.
“I left for a different career after five years. I do miss the kids but not the impossible aspects of the job. I know I am much better off mentally and emotionally being elsewhere.” —Katie S.
I would go back if the adults and politics were better.
“I left due to horrible administration at both schools I taught at, the stress of demands put on me, not being able to have a work-life balance during the school year, and the mental/emotional toll it took on me. I have been out a year so far, and I miss the kids so much. I miss teaching them new things and having fun with them both in and out of the classroom: doing science experiments, lessons that are creative and out of the box, and playing various sports at recess. I’m not sure if I could go back unless I know the adults (in and out of the building) and politics are better, but that’s not possible. We will see what my future holds.” —Lauren B.
The inflexibility was too much.
“I taught for 15 years, and then we moved and I had kids. I miss the act and art of teaching all of the time. I miss my coworkers, and I miss collaborating with them. I miss being part of a grade-level team. I miss the kids (most of them). I do not miss the long hours, the administrators, or the parents. When my own kids get a little older, if I still miss it, I might try teaching older preschool age or subbing. I would need something a little more flexible than teaching full-time.” —Catherine J.
I don’t miss teaching—I’m much happier now!
The teachers who feel no regret about leaving teaching commented the most on our Facebook post. Reading their posts made me feel SO HAPPY! They are really out here living their best lives! These teachers, whether they left for retirement or an early career change, are happy about their stress-free lives now. They know their lives and their worth don’t hinge on who they are as a teacher.
I found other ways to live a meaningful life.
My only regret is not leaving sooner.
“I left due to health issues, extreme stress, and wanting to give my miracle baby my best. I started my own reading tutoring business and work from home. It’s been 2 years and I do not miss the classroom AT ALL! My only regret is not leaving sooner. I truly believe my health would be better today had I left earlier.” —Allison L.
I found more balance with tutoring.
“Yes of course we miss it—teaching’s not an easy career to leave because of the kids. So one year after retiring, I started tutoring … on my own time, as my own boss, using my skills. Love it, great balance.” —Francine S.
I don’t have to worry about taking time off.
“I just left after 20 years in the classroom. I’ll miss my colleagues and the kids the most. I now work for the federal government and am loving it so far. I have more flexibility for my family, and I don’t have to worry about sub plans when taking time off.” —Vicki C.
Leaving the classroom is a complex journey. While some have found their way back to the classroom, reconnecting with the students and experiences they cherished, others have embraced the new paths they chose, finding fulfillment and happiness beyond teaching. For those who moved on without regrets, their stories reflect the power of making choices that prioritize their well-being and aspirations. As you navigate your own path, remember that the decision to leave or stay is deeply personal, shaped by your unique circumstances and desires.
Whether you find solace in the classroom, contentment in new endeavors, or a blend of both, your journey is valid. Ultimately, the heart of teaching remains in each of us, no matter where we decide to spend our days!