Teaching Was My Dream. Now I Wonder If It Is Stunting My Other Passions. - EdSurge News (2023)

Teaching is about more than curriculum and lesson planning. It’s about more than tests and grades. It’s about helping kids discover themselves and the world around them. The work of a teacher, at its core, is to model and reflect back what it means to live. Teaching, as human work, is to show the beauty and complexity of the human experience in our society.

Part of being a strong teacher is encouraging kids to explore, inspiring them to dream big, and modeling for them what it looks like to bring passion to learning and experiencing the world. But pursuing dreams and passions requires time and space, and teaching leaves me barely any room to breathe. With my days long and rigid, this profession hasn’t given me the space to be a balanced, whole human. Teaching has consumed me.

Don’t get me wrong, I love teaching and I do not believe teachers should have to leave the classroom to feel whole. Closing in on a decade into classroom teaching, some of my dreams from childhood are calling back to me and I’m choosing to lean into them, rather than ignoring them for a profession I’ve settled into.

Keep Dreaming

Becoming a teacher was the first dream I had as a kid. I had a preschool teacher who was magic and I wanted to be just like her. Like all kids, I was constantly asked the question Michelle Obama loathes: What do you want to be when you grow up? And even though I eventually became a teacher, my answer morphed over time. Teaching wasn’t my only dream.

At 10 years old, my world opened up. I had my first job. I made $100 bringing to life the legacy of Coleman A. Young in a sold out stage play in my hometown of Detroit. This gave me a taste of what it felt like to be a professional actor, or in my mind, a Disney Channel star. Over the next few years, I performed in community and school productions, and I fell in love with making magic in the theater.

Throughout my childhood, I dreamt about being a playwright, a radio personality, a novelist and a culinary star. At times, I imagined myself as a hard-hitting journalist or a professional beekeeper.

Reflecting back on my time as a student, the teachers I remember most are the ones whose passions were multidimensional — the ones who shared about their successes outside of the classroom. My middle school choir teacher recorded and released an acclaimed gospel album. My high school English teacher starred in commercials and made a name for herself as a voice actor. Seeing them not only as talented teachers, but as full human beings with passions and gifts, made me want to pursue teaching even more. “You can pursue more than one path,” I told myself.

Because of them, I fought hard to merge my passions with teaching over the years.

In 2017, while teaching fifth grade language arts and social studies, I took my love of radio and started a podcast on teaching and education. In 2021, while teaching sixth grade humanities, I united my love of writing and teaching and penned a memoir about my experiences teaching. In 2022, I began traveling across the country, keynoting education conferences, inspiring teachers to see themselves as humans first. I worked hard to carve out time for these passions after school, on the weekends and occasionally during a planning period — but it stretched me thin.

Now, things are quiescent. I’m feeling uninspired. I want to grow, I want to dream, I want to feel whole. Unfortunately, teaching is an inflexible career path that makes it difficult to do.

An Inflexible Profession With Limited Growth Pathways

Teaching is an inflexible profession and the most difficult obstacle for me is time. While remote and hybrid work is trending upward, my role requires me to be in the school building eight hours, five days a week, every day. And those are just teaching hours. Sometimes I bring home papers to grade or spend my evening talking to parents. Teaching is always on my mind, it is difficult to “turn it off.” Between instructional time, grading papers, communicating with parents and facilitating restorative justice circles, there’s little time to even catch my breath.

To make matters worse, there aren’t a lot of career development options. I’m an English teacher and in my profession, there is one growth path: become an administrator. That growth path never really appealed to me. I wanted to stay close to the ground, spending my time with students and working alongside teachers. I deeply value creativity and in my experience, administration does not leave much room to create. Despite my hesitance, I recently took on a leadership role at my school for a few reasons. I wanted to help shape a culture where every voice matters, I wanted to flatten the hierarchy and, of course, like many professionals, I wanted to try something new. I wanted to grow.

It’s been worthwhile, being able to advocate for students, set up systems for support, and shape my school’s culture and policies in a post-COVID shutdown world. But having a dual role has exacerbated some of the already difficult challenges of being a teacher, primarily the time crunch. While I technically teach less, my day is spent nonstop problem solving, even into the evening and the weekends. Student conflicts. Parent concerns. Societal woes seeping into our building. I have struggled to create boundaries in my work and to give time to myself, to affirm my own humanity.

It turns out, I’m not alone. A 2022 survey administered by Education Week found that teachers generally work “about 54 hours a week — with just under half of that time devoted to directly teaching students.” As a teacher and a dean, I clock a few more hours for administrative tasks. Often, I find it hard to find time to eat, let alone find time to chase childhood dreams. Teaching is a never-ending job. And ever since the COVID shutdown, it feels like being a “good teacher” requires more than before, leaving even less time. As fulfilling as it was being a teacher and the host of a podcast; a teacher and a writer; a teacher and a speaker, it was unsustainable.

It’s probably not surprising that I’m feeling overwhelmed; burnout continues to be a prevalent issue in the field. And it’s not just the teaching profession — plenty of other careers have long hours or limited pathways for development. But while burnout is not unique to teaching, it’s deeply problematic for teachers and students because our job demands that we bring creativity and enthusiasm to our practice each day and our students count on us being present for them.

Teachers Need to Live

To be the best teacher I can be for my students, I need time and space to live. To make sure I don’t outgrow this profession, I need an opportunity to be reinspired.

To keep teachers in the profession for the long haul, systems will have to reimagine teacher career pathways. Without a change in the way the profession is structured, to free up more time for teachers to be inspired, to deepen their own learning and to gain new experiences to bring back to the classroom, it may be difficult to hold on to teachers for long periods of time.

This story is part of an EdSurge series chronicling diverse educator experiences. These stories are made publicly available with support from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. EdSurge maintains editorial control over all content. (Read our ethics statement here.) This work is licensed under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

Patrick Harris II (he/him) is a 2022-2023 EdSurge Voices of Change fellow and an author, middle school English teacher and dean of students at The Roeper School in Detroit.


Why do teachers lose their passion to teach? ›

Studies point to a number of factors that can lead to teacher burnout, including lack of support, student behavior problems, lack of adequate training for the demands of the job, and plain old boredom. I would also add the inability to find work/life balance.

How do I rediscover my passion for teaching? ›

Spend some time reflecting on why you began teaching in the first place and what you desire your life to look like. Recalling what originally motivated you to choose this profession can help you find that feeling again. If your priorities are misaligned, that can lead to feeling frustrated, depressed or burnt out.

What comes to your mind when your read this quotation teaching is not about filling up the pail it is about lighting a fire? ›

“Teaching is not about filling up the pail, it is about lighting a fire.” In the quotation, “filling up the pail” connotes that teaching is dominated by a teacher and learners are just passive receivers of knowledge while “lighting a fire” signifies that teaching involves opportunities for students to explore and ...

What is your dream for the future teacher? ›

My dream is to be the teacher that makes sure that every student gets an education that helps them succeed. I want to make sure that my students not only enjoy being at school but feel safe while there. My students will know that it doesn't matter where they came from or what background they came from.

What is the #1 reason teachers quit? ›

Beyond compensation, these educators also feel overworked and undervalued. Nearly 75 percent of respondents who cite expectations as a top reason they plan to leave say they have too much work to do each day and that there aren't enough teachers to carry the workload.

Why do I feel like quitting teaching? ›

Unfortunately, there are many reasons why teachers quit. Many enter the profession wanting to make a difference in the community and their students' lives. However, they quickly realize they are stifled by unrealistic expectations, ever-changing initiatives, limited opportunity for growth, and lack of support.

How do I enjoy teaching again? ›

5 tips to re-fall in love with teaching
  1. Try new things out in the classroom. New educational tools and platforms can give a whole new feeling to your class. ...
  2. Listen to them: Your students have things to say. ...
  3. Personalize the process. ...
  4. Focusing on real life problems. ...
  5. Be creative, enjoy the teaching process.

How do I stay passionate about teaching? ›

7 Ways to Help Keep Your Passion For Teaching Alive
  1. 1. ) Remember what makes you happy at work. ...
  2. 2.) Put things in perspective. ...
  3. 3.) Try Something new. ...
  4. 4.) Rearrange your classroom. ...
  5. 5.) Read about your hero. ...
  6. 6.) Never stop being a student yourself. ...
  7. 7.) Volunteer.
Sep 27, 2019

How can I make my teaching fun again? ›

Here are 10 ways you can make learning and education more exciting for your students.
  1. Break up Your Lessons. ...
  2. Give Your Students Choices. ...
  3. Incorporate Games. ...
  4. Create Group Time. ...
  5. Get up and Move. ...
  6. Incorporate Hands-On Learning. ...
  7. Be Open to Creativity. ...
  8. Schedule Field Trips.

What are the 4 pillars of education? ›

The four pillars of Education for the 21st century that Jacques Delors (2001) refers to UNESCO, in the form of a report, comprises: Learning to Know, Learning to do, Learning to Live and Learning to Be.

What is the quote about teaching is learning? ›

18) Teaching is more than imparting knowledge; it is inspiring change. Learning is more than absorbing facts; it is acquiring understanding.

What is a quote about good teaching? ›

Quotes About Great Teachers
  • "A good teacher is like a candle—it consumes itself to light the way for others." –Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.
  • "It's the teacher that makes the difference, not the classroom." –Michael Morpurgo.
  • "To this end, the greatest asset of a school is the personality of the teacher." –John Strachan.

What motivates you to become a teacher? ›

The best reason to be a teacher is that you want to have a positive, inspiring impact on children's lives. You achieve this by being kind, caring, empathic, passionate and funny. These are great qualities that a teacher should possess.

Why do you enjoy teaching? ›

One of the greatest rewards of teaching is seeing the progress of your students. From when students understand a difficult concept, to helping children learn a new skill, seeing a child's eyes light up after grasping a new piece of knowledge is priceless. Teaching is a career to be proud of.

What inspired me to become a teacher? ›

Ways to answer the question "What inspired you to become a teacher?" One way to explain your inspiration to teach is to tell a story about a teacher who positively influenced you and what you learned from them. You can show the employer you value your education and aim to have a significant impact on your own students.

What should I do after I quit teaching? ›

31 Jobs for Teachers Who Want To Leave the Classroom but Not Education
  1. Educational Policy Expert. ...
  2. Curriculum Writer/Creator. ...
  3. Coach/Mentor. ...
  4. Educational Technology Consultant. ...
  5. Online Educator. ...
  6. Community Director. ...
  7. School Counselor. ...
  8. Corporate Trainer.
Dec 6, 2022

Where are teachers quitting the most? ›

In Washington state, more teachers left the classroom after last school year than at any point in the last three decades. Maryland and Louisiana saw more teachers depart than any time in the last decade. And North Carolina saw a particularly alarming trend of more teachers leaving mid-school year.

What percentage of teachers quit last year? ›

That's a turnover rate of 14%, up from between 11% and 12% in a typical pre-pandemic year.

Am I burnt out from teaching? ›

“Signs you might be experiencing teacher burnout might include stress or feeling irritable or tired all the time. You also might be having sleep issues, like sleeping too much or experiencing insomnia from worry. You might be sad or overwhelmed when you think about teaching, or maybe you just don't enjoy it anymore.

How do you know if teaching isn't for you? ›

9 Signs Leaving Teaching is the Right Choice
  • Sunday Scaries. ...
  • Life Out of Balance. ...
  • Taking Stress Home. ...
  • Low-Self Esteem. ...
  • It's Not Meant to Be. ...
  • Leaving Teaching because the Spark is Gone.
  • Career Quicksand. ...
  • Leaving Teaching because you've become a Negative Nelly.

Why are teachers quitting 2023? ›

Clip: 04/10/2023 | 17m 51s | Staffing shortages, burnout, funding cuts, and debates over the curriculum are adding to the pressures on America's educators. In her new book, bestselling author Alexandra Robbins followed three teachers to see how these issues are changing the way they work.

How do I move on from teaching? ›

How to Transition Out of Teaching in 4 Steps
  1. Decide on a Timeline to Leave Teaching. It's one thing to say we're ready to leave the classroom. ...
  2. Make an Exit Plan (& Find Jobs for Teachers Who Leave Teaching) ...
  3. Process Your Feelings About Leaving Teaching. ...
  4. Boost Your Confidence.
Dec 3, 2021

What percentage of teachers enjoy teaching? ›

About 60% of teachers are happy with their careers.

With only 28% saying they rated their pay at either four or five out of five stars. The average U.S. public school teacher's salary is $65,090, while the average salary across all occupations for people with a bachelor's degree is $67,860.

How do I renew my love for teaching? ›

How to Have Fun Teaching and Renew Your Passion
  1. Identify Why You Lost Your Passion. ...
  2. Find Ways to Streamline Time-Consuming Tasks. ...
  3. Break Up the Classroom Experience. ...
  4. Turn Your Classroom on Its Head. ...
  5. Look for Tools That Employ Personalized Learning. ...
  6. Have Fun Teaching with eSpark.
May 5, 2022

How do you reverse a teacher burnout? ›

So how do you keep your passion alive in an age of strict standards, individualized education, and other teaching challenges?
  1. Stay healthy.
  2. Indulge in personal time.
  3. Talk to your colleagues.
  4. Recognize what you do well.
  5. Prepare ahead of schedule.
  6. Leave schoolwork at school.
  7. Make yourself a priority.
Jun 15, 2022

What is the qualities of a good teacher? ›

Some qualities of a good teacher include skills in communication, listening, collaboration, adaptability, empathy and patience. Other characteristics of effective teaching include an engaging classroom presence, value in real-world learning, exchange of best practices and a lifelong love of learning.

What are the three most important things necessary for a quality education? ›

The Only 3 Things You Need To Provide Quality Education
  • study the material at home at a pace that suits your learning needs.
  • regroup in the classroom for discussions and hands-on workshops. Teachers mentors students.
  • further your knowledge back at home with all the insights from their class/group discussions.
Sep 4, 2019

What are the different thinking styles and learning styles? ›

What are the four learning styles? The four core learning styles in the VARK model include visual, auditory, reading and writing, and kinesthetic.

Why should a teacher need to follow the different principles of teaching? ›

Because when a teacher combines the effective principles of teaching with some strategies, the students will be able to learn more effectively. These strategies will provide students with more opportunities and will also improve their performance.

What is a unique quote about learning? ›

Learning never exhausts the mind.” “For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.” “Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.” “The beautiful thing about learning is that nobody can take it away from you.”

What is a great quote about learning to read? ›

To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled is a spark.” “You cannot open a book without learning something.” “You teach a child to read, and he or she will be able to pass a literacy test.” “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”

What is an inspirational quote for teachers to students? ›

The best education is not given to students; it is drawn out of them.
  • ― Gerald Belcher. It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.
  • ― Albert Einstein. Good teaching is more a giving of right questions than a giving of right answers.
  • ― Josef Albers. ...
  • ― Alice Wellington Rollins.
May 30, 2018

What is a sweet quote about teaching? ›

Teachers have three loves: love of learning, love of learners, and the love of bringing the first two loves together. Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today. I am not a teacher, but an awakener. The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery.

What is the famous line of teacher? ›

“A good teacher can inspire hope, ignite the imagination, and instill a love of learning.” Brad Henry. 17. ” In learning you will teach and in teaching you will learn – Phil Collins. 23. “A good teacher, like a good entertainer first must hold his audience's attention, then he can teach his lesson.” John Henrik Clarke.

How do you stay passionate about teaching? ›

7 Ways to Help Keep Your Passion For Teaching Alive
  1. 1. ) Remember what makes you happy at work. ...
  2. 2.) Put things in perspective. ...
  3. 3.) Try Something new. ...
  4. 4.) Rearrange your classroom. ...
  5. 5.) Read about your hero. ...
  6. 6.) Never stop being a student yourself. ...
  7. 7.) Volunteer.
Sep 27, 2019

What makes a teacher passionate about teaching? ›

What makes a passionate teacher? Effective and memorable teachers are keen to spread positivity and genuinely enjoy teaching and engaging with students. In addition, they are reflective, open to change, and always welcome new ideas.

How do I deal with losing my favorite teacher? ›

Tips for students
  1. Express your anxieties to your teacher. They were quite possibly inspired to become a teacher because of a relationship they had with their own teacher. ...
  2. Ask for things that will make the transition easier. ...
  3. Remember the things your teacher told you. ...
  4. Keep hold of helpful emails.
Oct 18, 2021

How many teachers quit in the first 5 years? ›

Up to 30% of new teachers are quitting their job within 5 years of teaching. 13% of teachers reported quitting their job due to not getting paid as much as they should have been paid.

How can I enjoy teaching again? ›

5 tips to re-fall in love with teaching
  1. Try new things out in the classroom. New educational tools and platforms can give a whole new feeling to your class. ...
  2. Listen to them: Your students have things to say. ...
  3. Personalize the process. ...
  4. Focusing on real life problems. ...
  5. Be creative, enjoy the teaching process.

Can you take a year off from teaching? ›

In fact, taking a year off from your normal work routine is more common than you might think. There are still several companies that offer sabbatical benefits, with the reasoning that being away from mundane duties and routine results in richer innovation and creativity. They're not wrong!

What are the 3 loves of teachers? ›

“Teachers have three loves: love of learning, love of learners, and the love of bringing the first two loves together.”

What makes a teacher a favorite teacher? ›

1) They give love, attention, and acceptance to all kids. 2) They help their students succeed academically, even when that takes extra time to alter a lesson, one-on-one time teaching the student, or staying after hours to make sure they understand a math concept. 3) They make students feel special.

How many teachers are passionate about teaching? ›

Teachers still love what they do, as 91 percent report being passionate or very passionate about teaching.


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