Why I quit teaching, part 4.

Technically, I chose to quit teaching.  It didn’t really feel like there was any other option, which makes it less of a true choice.  After looking at as many variables as I could think of related to the situation, it wasn’t feasible to remain a teacher.  Plenty of educators continue teaching after welcoming children, and I don’t want to take any credit away from them for doing that.  I do want to bring attention to the realities of what teachers face.  Previously, I’ve discussed money, time, and emotional health as key reasons for this decision.  Of those three, I think money plays the largest component and this is why: If my spouse were to die, I would not make enough money as a teacher to support myself and my two children.  I’d likely still be paying off my student loan debt as they were nearing college.  There would be no extra money to pay for the on-going counseling I would need to address trauma caused by my employment.  My well-being would suffer as I gave my children the time they needed after school and saved my own work, both in managing our home, feeding them, etc. and my school work, for after they were sleeping, significantly limiting how much sleep and recovery I myself got.  What upsets me most is not that the work is stressful nor that it takes up so much time, but that people continue to say things like “you don’t get into teaching for money” or “you’re in it for the wrong reasons if you’re worried about money”.  It isn’t fair to expect teachers to work in positions that don’t pay them enough to raise their families and it’s absolutely unacceptable to shame them for being reasonably frustrated when they’re paid far less than jobs requiring equivalent training in other fields would provide.  Though less than 15% of the U.S. population have advanced degrees, over 50% of educators have a master’s degree or higher, despite evidence that additional degrees don’t necessarily mean better performing teachers.  In education, between the relatively low starting pay and pay freezes,  many teachers have to go back to college to get more degrees.  More certifications and more degrees are often the only way to guarantee a pay raise. Since the pay raises related to those extra degrees are usually less than the cost of the degrees themselves, it takes a long time for those financial increases to show up in the wallets of teachers.  Some teachers will even get degrees they don’t want because being in school provides loan deferments, allowing them more time to avoid payments they can’t afford but also adding more debt to those loans and more interest over time.  I loved teaching, and I still do.  I don’t regret that I stopped teaching, because it was the right decision at the time.  I regret that I didn’t have the opportunity to decide for myself what I really wanted as a mother.  I regret that it wasn’t even a hard decision because there wasn’t really a decision to make.  I regret that having a child contributed to the end of my career as a teacher.  Other friends made enough from their careers that they could look at different pathways and decide if quitting their work was genuinely the right call for them.  Getting pregnant didn’t prevent them from success, because their jobs paid them well enough that they could be both a parent and an employee without suffering significant financial loss.  When quitting will actually cut your pay, it’s something to truly consider.  When quitting work doesn’t do much but impact retirement you won’t see for decades, it doesn’t really feel like a choice.  If teaching had paid me enough to support myself and support Little Bear without my husband, it would have been a decision I really needed to ponder.  It was a lose/lose situation for me.  I realized I could quit then or quit later, but either way-I’d have to quit teaching, because teaching didn’t provide what I needed.  Because I was pregnant, people understood my decision to leave.  My protruding belly gave an obvious, socially acceptable answer.  I loved teaching so much, I’m not sure I would have left if it weren’t for Little Bear.  Even now, I miss it.  I wish that more people looked at budgets and considered who they’re compelling to leave.  If I’m going to have to get a part-time job at Starbucks to supplement my income as a teacher, I might as well just work full-time for Starbucks.  

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