Making the decision to leave the teaching profession is a tough one. But making the decision to leave a teaching position mid-year is downright heart-wrenching. It’s certainly nobody’s first choice, but more teachers than ever before have reached the point where they feel they have no other option.
The pandemic has proved to be the culminating event in a long progression of increased stressors in the teaching profession. Exhausted, anxious, and overwhelmed, teachers of every tenure are listing physical health, mental and emotional well-being, and family needs among the top reasons pushing them out the door. The costs have simply become too high. So how to proceed?
Before you make a move, do your research
Look into the specifics regarding your state and district’s policies. Thoroughly read your contract to understand the appropriate course of action to take and the possible consequences for leaving. Talk to your union representative. Find out how other teachers have successfully resigned mid-year.
There may be alternatives
Before you bail, use the personal time and sick leave you’ve already accrued to catch your breath. Look into the possibility of taking a leave of absence. Many physical and mental health concerns are qualifying factors for district-approved leaves. And FMLA is available for employees who need to care for family members. Again, every state and district is different, so reach out to your HR representative to explore the possibilities. A little time and distance may be just the ticket to replenish your strength and give you the perspective you need to move forward.
If you have signed a contract to teach for a designated academic year, leaving mid-year could be considered a breach of contract, and technically, legal action could be taken. Your teaching license may be revoked or suspended. There may be financial penalties and fees incurred, such as the cost of finding a replacement. These are worst-case scenarios, and most school districts hate to see this happen. Your best course of action is to find a way to be formally released from the conditions of your contract.
If you just can’t do it
Making the choice to leave a teaching position mid-year is a very personal decision and one that very few take lightly. But if conditions have become unbearable, here’s our advice. Put yourself first. No job is worth risking your physical health or mental well-being or stressing your family to its breaking point.
The key is to leave well. Be professional, and exit as gracefully as possible. Go through the proper channels, and resign with notice. (You may be asked to stay until a replacement is found.) If you’d like to keep the door open to teaching in the future, try not to burn bridges. Just because this position wasn’t the right fit, doesn’t mean you have to tank your whole career. And although you may have some explaining to do in your next interview, leaving a position mid-year won’t put a permanent black mark on your record.
And if you’ve decided to head in a different direction, good for you! There’s never been a better time to explore your options. The skillset you’ve acquired as a teacher is more than enough to set you up for doing work that is meaningful, rewarding, and lucrative. In the end, it’s all about being happy, so trust your gut.