Since I help teachers who are experiencing burnout find alternative careers, I am often asked the question, “What else can I do besides teach?”
And my answer is, “That depends. What would you like to do?”
It isn’t a trick question, yet it seems to stump more people than it doesn’t.
The frequency with which that exchange takes place makes me wonder. Have we been so conditioned to believe we have to take what we think we can get that we don’t dare go for what we want?
It is ironic, isn’t it? Teachers are often the very people who inspire and motivate their students to reach their full potential. Most people can recall that one special teacher (at least one) who saw something in them and made them feel like they could stretch themselves toward a goal that felt unattainable. Teachers routinely encourage their students to stretch outside their comfort zones. They see things in us that we don’t see or feel in ourselves. Right?
Many of the teachers I speak with on a daily basis, however, believe that their own options are limited.
And that makes me sad.
The typical conversation starts with, “What are the options for teachers? What else can I do with my education credentials and experience?”
My answer is always, “You can do whatever you want…but you have to believe that you can, and you have to be willing to take some chances.”
And there, I am afraid, comes the rub.
Teachers are not prone to be big risk takers.
That is not a criticism, but it is an observation, and it is based at least in part on my own experience.
Teachers like to play it safe. For the most part, we are rule followers as well as rule makers. We believe in rules, and we believe in practicalities. Having something “stable” may outweigh having something that feels less predictable.
Many teachers tell me, “I have to have a job with benefits.”
I get that. Getting a job with benefits was the main reason I took my first job. My mother was determined that I take whatever I could get because her insurance company would be kicking me off her plan within a few months of graduation. As a nurse, she was keenly aware of my need to “be covered.”
And I am not unsympathetic, I promise. Upon retirement, I started paying almost $600 a month for my own insurance because I wasn’t willing to take a risk that I would stay healthy.
So, having a job with good benefits is a good thing.
But I have to wonder if it is worth it if it keeps you stuck in a job your no longer enjoy?
Every individual has to make that choice for themselves. I am in no position to advise you to quit your job and not have a plan.
But I am suggesting that it isn’t helping you if you aren’t willing to look at all of your options.
These days, it is possible to have insurance without being tied to a job you don’t feel invested in anymore.
And it is worth taking a risk, perhaps, if it is one that would pay off in the long run.
The main thing I am suggesting is that you be open to possibilities.
Unless you are approaching retirement, if you are in the category of “burnt-out teacher,” it may be time for you to check your alternatives. But start with the right questions. What were you born to do? What is your true passion? What is your mission in this life? If you have a magic wand, and you could do, be, have, or accomplish anything in the world without fear of failure, what would you be doing instead of what you are doing now?
If your answer is, “Nothing. I was born to teach, and I plan to teach for the rest of my life” then that is great news! We need good teachers. We need dedicated and committed teachers, and I wouldn’t dream of encouraging you to leave.
BUT, if you are not enjoying teaching, and you think there must be “something else out there” that you could do instead, we should probably talk.
It’s your life. It’s your decision. And there is no time like now to start if you want to make a change.
Until next time.