Where can a disillusioned teacher start looking for something else?

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I have been teaching for almost 10 years. I’ve taught in three countries, and in several counties in my home state. Though I love working with kids, I find the teaching profession itself has changed and twisted so much over the past few decades that I no longer have the drive and interest to work within the system.

If it was just me, I would cut my losses, and go back to into retail. However, I am the primary bread winner of our family, and I have a husband, a baby, a dog, and a mortgage to consider. We are already scraping by as it is, and any decrease in my pay would mean the loss of our home.

I have no idea where I could possibly start to look that would allow me to make a career change in my mid-thirties, but that would not set my family back after all the gains we’ve fought so hard for. Does anyone have any suggestions for where a disillusioned teacher can start looking for something else? -Bre

We’ve talked about how to transition from retail to a full-time career, but how do you go from a full-time career to something less-intense?

Comments on Where can a disillusioned teacher start looking for something else?

  1. Children’s librarian? You’d need a Master’s in Library Science to get the “real librarian” jobs, and the higher pay, but there are paraprofessional jobs, which is what I do, and I find it absolutely fantastic work. Admittedly, the pay probably isn’t what you’re looking for, but if you could handle it for a little while while getting your MLIS, you could move up. Feel free to PM me for more details on what it’s like if you want!

  2. What about looking at local museums, parks, wildlife refuges – any kind of attraction? Here in the UK any venue like that is likely to have an educational programme. Their staff are normally ex-teachers – so you could still have the fun of working with children, without the paperwork and testing!

    • I was just going to say the same thing. If you still love teaching just not within the typical confines of a school try looking at other education type jobs. I work in the environmental field and have many environmental educator friends. Most of them have a teaching degree, were former teachers, or current substitute teachers. They all love teaching but enjoy working outdoors at a teaching garden or a state park better then a classroom. If you have an interest or expertise in a specific area (gardens, museums, forests, sports, etc) try looking for open positions there. The city that I live in is currently hiring a ton of summer help for their rec centers, community gardens, and summer camps. Most of these positions are filled by current teachers on summer break or former teachers. It could keep you employed temporarily while you look around for something you really want.

    • Relatedly, if you have a hobby that is a side passion, you could teach that. I know several horseback riding instructors and a real estate professional who were teachers in past lives. I also know a woman who was a teacher who now teaches massage therapists. For most of these folks, they transitioned their hobby to a side business, and then transitioned the side business into a full-time job.

    • I have worked as an environmental educator all over the U.S. for the past six years, and while it is an amazing and fulfilling job, if you are trying to not take too much of a pay cut, you may have to move to find what you’re looking for. I have never made over $15,000 in a year working outdoor education, either because I was residential and I lived on camp so pay was super low, or because it was only a part-time position even though it was better-paid. Now, there are some great nature-center jobs, etc, and there are also administrative jobs that pay more, but all of those tend to be much more competitive (although I’m sure having a teaching certificate would help with that)! It’s definitely worth looking into because it is fun and rewarding work with kids without all the pressure of tests and school politics, but it also might mean a dramatic decrease in pay if you can’t find one of the better-paying positions. Of course, this is all assuming you are in the States…which is where all my experience is. Good luck with your journey!

  3. Have you considered a career shift rather than a complete change? Tutoring can be quite lucrative and there are schools outside the public education system (including with homeschool groups).

    • Tutoring/classes for homeschool groups! It might take a little while to build up your reputation and client base (and that time might be hard on your bank account), but eventually you would be able to make your own schedule. Or you could find a person or group that is already established and join them. I took some great classes as a homeschooler… writing, history, art, Shakespeare, science…

    • My Sister-in-law worked within her school system as a private teacher for kids who were home bound and/or hospitalized due to illness or injury. She found it very rewarding and was well paid. She lived in a large city so there was plenty of full-time work for multiple tutors. There was a lot of variety over the years as to the ages of her students and the subject matter.

    • Both of my sisters were special education teachers for decades. A few years ago in their late 40s they both re-careered; one became an admin at a gifted school and she LOVES it – there’s still a lot of stress, but not the day to day grind of teaching a room full of kids (and dealing with their parents). I agree a shift within the school environment is a smart move. (Conversely, my other sister took a few classes in jewelry making and turned it into her own business, and is also very happy.)

  4. My school librarian is always staying that one of the worst things we can do as teachers is deminish our capacity to do other things. My husband is trying to change careers from teaching to something with higher pay right now so we can afford childcare for the 2nd baby on the way. He’s made pretty good progress with tech companies that see his experience with learning new things and flexibility as an asset. He hasn’t been at it long, but after a week he’s already scored an interview. Look at your skills and think outside the teacher box.

    • This! I have a friend who burned out on teaching, but who went back to school and got a masters’ in educational technology, then ended up working for a company that made educational software.

  5. I would also vote for a shift. I understand when you can be a bit burnt out on the whole system, and that can ruin your enthusiasm for a related job. Unless you thought you could switch into a retail management position. It might be worth looking into, since you’ve been “managing” a small horde of young people independently just fine.

    What about at one of those tutoring store/places like Kumon? (this is my happy compromise for you, retail and teaching combined! Well, sorta…) That way, you still are using your skills but perhaps in a better environment. Another idea would be to teach seminars/training for a corporation. I almost went this route in my retail job, and I am honestly unsure of how you would find a position like this… but many chain retail stores, etc have persons who train their employees in meetings, seminars, workshops etc.. Anyone have thoughts on this, or leads?

    Also, would shifting to teaching in a new type of school be an option? I would think that teaching at a community college would be vastly different than with kids. Perhaps it’d be less fulfilling… but perhaps less bureaucratic pain as well. I might also suggest switching from public to private school, as I know that those can be quite different as well (but might not be your cup of tea, again). I know that for me, as a school nurse, the shift from public to private would be somewhat less fulfilling but be way easier in the long run.

    • The problem is tutoring places are almost always part-time and probably pay between $9-$15 an hour. No way she will be making anything close to what she’s making as a tenured teacher. Museum & educational center jobs are also usually part time and less pay, though probably a step up. Either job would probably be better paying and more fulfilling than retail though. Good Luck! I’ve been a public school teacher for 7 years, and I have had moments where I’ve felt like this!

      • My friend Lorraine works for Wysant and clears $40 an hour. Now this is in Staten Island, NY. I don’t recall where you said you were from but you have to have your own insurance. I was a teacher and left after 10 years myself! I would never go back. I’m done with the stress, the social work and the broken American Educational System. I hear you sister! Best of luck to a heroine!

  6. I feel you! I have a degree in teaching and pursued it as a career for a little while but found that the bureaucracy wasn’t something I wanted to deal with. I know work in the world of special events. There are lots of options for teachers because the skills are super transferable. The key is to learn how to translate your skills in to the verbiage of another career. Teachers are highly organized, able to deal with a wide range of peoples and personality types, deal with situations both on a long term basis and in a crisis-management situation. You budget your time, are comfortable with public speaking, report and track data and evaluate the future based on those measurements.

    My sister in law was an elementary school teacher and made a career switch to working for one of the larger financial institutions in their high-wealth banking customer service (basically, her team of about four is responsible for about 20 high net-worth client’s banking needs). She had an aunt who used to work in banking go over her resume with her and help translate her skills into banker-speak.

    I also encourage looking into the world of museums (I work for one) but with the concerns over income, it may be a difficult transition. Depending on the area you work, most non-profit museums aren’t going to pay as well off-the-bat as an experienced teaching position. Same with most private school position. I’ve been working at my current job for about 5 years and am making now comparable salary to what I would have been starting at in my local school district.

  7. Community support worker! You’d get to work with youth but in a different environment. Similar to social work but not exactly the same. I’ve run into former teachers who are doing this. Counselling could also be an option if you are interested
    in going back to school. 🙂

  8. You are definitely not alone! My husband and a good friend we taught with both made the switch out of the classroom, and now I’m looking for the next thing after working as a tutoring company administrator (a job I fell into from supplementing my teacher’s aide income with tutoring). We’re all in our mid-30s, too.

    HeatherB and Nicki are right in with the idea of looking at your skills through different lenses. Think about your personal interests, too — my husband loves travel and ended up in the hotel industry, and our super-creative friend got her foot in the door as an executive assistant before going into marketing for the wine industry.

    The other thing to keep in mind is that teaching is so ubiquitous that most people personally know or are related to a teacher, and understand just how many hats you wear in a day. It’s not likely you’ll be underestimated as a job candidate!

    Good luck!

  9. (Psst, Offbeat Mods, there’s a typo in the title: Where can a disillusioned teacher **can** start looking for something else? )

  10. How about educational publishing? That’s the area I work in, and there’s lots of teachers here who have a lot to offer to students but just weren’t suited to the classroom. It’s a competitive field, but your years of experience would be huge advantage.

  11. I suggest looking for something in higher education – it’s definitely not the same as working with young children, but there’s an educational mission and opportunities to help students learn and grow without a lot of the bullshit of a K12 school system (though to be fair there’s different bullshit). And I don’t mean an instructor/lecturer per se – there are tons of administrative positions where you spend your days working with students, such as campus life, student activities, housing, tutoring, career services, or “just” an office assistant in an academic department (who sometimes become students’ favorite and most trusted advisors). Even if the pay is not great at first, the benefits often are, and smart folks who get shit done can move up quickly. Good luck!

  12. I made the shift from teaching to staffing the state legislature… probably not the shift away from bureaucracy you are interested in making… However, now I work in education policy at a non-profit. My colleagues are also former teachers who manage education-based programming. In my job, I work with former educators within the government and the state department of education, higher education, peer nonprofits, business and industry, and even schools (teachers who left for a bit then came back to the classroom).

    I don’t know what teacher pay is like in your specific geographic region, but it mine it still is abysmal. I’ve mentored a number of teachers who are interested in leaving the profession, and their main concern is often money before they leave. After they start applying, they realize that every job they are interested in pays more than what they received in the classroom. And these are people who have left for a wealth of reasons and transitioned into many types of jobs in both the public and private spheres.

    Because it sounds like you are unsure of where to start, I might suggest pinning down the parts of your job you love versus those you don’t and finding a career counselor who can help you wade through your findings.

  13. You could also look into curriculum development – there are a ton of organizations that work in this realm for textbooks, websites, nonprofits and more!

  14. I work at a university and my team tends to hire former teachers. It seems they have the necessary skills but didn’t want to teach anymore. We are informally called “Course Support”. I think of it as all of the stuff the faculty do that doesn’t have anything to do with content knowledge. We support the administrative end of the courses, so we handle the grade books, scheduling lecturers, formatting exams and scoring them, and working on the course website. If there’s a large university near you, it might be something to look into. (I’ve also heard this called Faculty Support; sometimes it’s an admin person within a department as well. Definitely something to check out).

  15. The biggest fear for me of ever leaving teaching is the pay drop that comes with starting in a new field at the bottom of the pay scale. It might be worth looking at government jobs, possible through Health and Human Services or the Department of Ed if you want to stay engaged with schools/learning/kids/families or, if you’re up for a full change-over, see what entry positions there might be in your local government offices. A friend of mine transitioned from teaching middle school to working as a city clerk, and has been very happy (and well-insured!), plus she gets to stay very, very involved in the town.

  16. Depending on where you live, you could look for jobs in ed tech. I work in the public school system too as a speech therapist, and definitely have days when I wish I could start a completely different career. I even started doing a little research, and found a number of companies here in the Bay Area that hire folks with teaching experience to develop content for apps, educational software, etc.

  17. Are you familiar at all with Montessori, or other alternative methods of education? There are some intensive Montessori programs that only take a year to complete, or some that can be done over three summers to make it more flexible (and might be doable while still working as a teacher). The environment is SO different from traditional schools with child-led learning, an emphasis on the environment, play as learning, encouraging different types of learning/intelligence, no testing, and better one-on-one attention for kids. It could be up your alley and wouldn’t take too long to make the shift.

  18. I haven’t read all the replies, but all of them so far sound great! There are several ideas that I have as well:

    Curriculum developer – there are several companies that help develop curricula that is available for districts to buy (as I’m sure you know) and also companies that put together science and other experience kits for classrooms. K-12. They need people to help write and test the curricula.

    Interpretive Rangers – The National Park Service hires people to work seasonally (6 months at a time) at the various parks and historical sites giving tours, doing outreach, and various other duties. You can move up to full time eventually. So if you live close to some historical sites or parks that you love, it could be an option too.

    Museums/Chamber of Commerce – Museums, especially smaller ones, always need help with education and outreach. Depending on your city there may be a similar position with the city to encourage educational tourism for school field trips and the like.

    Tutoring/Test Prep – there are a lot of companies and organizations to help tutor students in classes and to prep for the ACT/SAT tests.

    Good luck! I tried my hand at student teaching 10 years ago. I didn’t finish the program because the experience went so badly. It wasn’t the kids, it was the school systems I was in sadly. So I understand.

  19. I actually switched into Community College teaching and love it. You do need a masters and the market can be tough, but you get to keep teaching. Colleges generally have much more freedom for teachers. A lot of two year schools love former k-12 teachers because we tend to know about classroom management and pedagogy. Anyway, it’s just another idea.

  20. What about a corporate trainer? Adults learn differently than children but you can certainly transfer your existing skillset into a corporate environment.

  21. Coaching saved me. After teaching for ten years, I felt very disillusioned and burnt out. I took 8 months off, but needed to return to work to pay my bills. Enter Instructional Coaching. All the parts of teaching that I love with none of the grading, report cards, or conferences!

  22. How about a job in your state department of education or teacher’s union? They are almost always looking for people with teaching experience to fill vacancies. It’s no contact with kids, but you could get that through volunteering, and you would be able to impact the educational system on a much broader scale!

  23. Land Grant Universities in every state are part of the Extension system. Most counties in the country have 4-H coordinators that work with youth. There are also extension educators that specialize in nutrition/food safety, community development, agriculture, horticulture, etc. Some great opportunities!

  24. During and after college I worked as a private tutor (using University Tutor.com, which I had a good experience with – they don’t take a cut of your pay). I made $35-$50 an hour and this was without any real teaching experience. I don’t recommend working for test-prep/tutoring companies, as you will make far less per hour. If I ever lose my job or go freelance, I will definitely return to tutoring because it was fun, decently paid, and flexible! Helps if you live in an area with a lot of wealthy families and if you went to an elite college, but in your case I’d think the years of teaching experience would count for a lot.

  25. Look at being a corporate trainer. One friend who is a former teacher now works at a software company and I have heard of another former teacher who worked at call center training the phone operators.

    Good luck with your search and new career!

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