Why One Teacher Left the Profession After 5 Years

“The first thing people say to me when I tell them I don’t teach any more is Was it because of the kids?  No. Was it because of the parents?  No. Never has it been about the kids or the parents.”

What makes teachers leave?

Episode 2 is an interview with Carrie, who taught for over 5 years in various elementary schools before leaving teaching to pursue a different profession. With about half of all teachers choosing other careers within the first five years, Carrie’s story offers us a closer look at how, and why, it happens.


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Jennifer Gonzalez

Editor-in-Chief at Cult of Pedagogy
Former middle-school language arts teacher and college-level teacher of teachers. NBCT. Mother of 3. All of these experiences have brought me to where I am now: Devoted full-time to helping teachers do their work better.

Latest posts by Jennifer Gonzalez (see all)

Jennifer Gonzalez

Former middle-school language arts teacher and college-level teacher of teachers. NBCT. Mother of 3. All of these experiences have brought me to where I am now: Devoted full-time to helping teachers do their work better.


  1. I believe this is such an important podcast. The frustrations Carrie felt toward the profession are the same that I hear voiced over and over by others in this field. I found myself nodding my head as Carrie described her pre-service teaching fantasies of setting up her own classroom and saving the world one child at a time. On the last day of my student teaching experience, my cooperating teacher said that I had waltzed into her classroom the first day of that semester with stars in my eyes. Her parting words included a blessing that despite the frustrations and letdowns I would inevitably experience, I would never lose that optimism about our chosen profession.
    I learned quickly that education is not the magical world I envisioned. Like Carrie, I spent many hours observing in classrooms of my favorite teachers. Though heartwarming and inspiring, those were not the authentic experiences I needed to be fully prepared. I completely agree with Carrie’s notion that more of our pre-service hours would be better spent in classrooms. So much of that time was devoted to perfecting lesson plans, writing discussion board posts about literacy strategies, or taking pointless online quizzes about exceptional education acts. New teachers might be less overwhelmed if more of their preparation included implementing lesson plans chalked full of research-based instructional strategies and participating more in the daily routines of classrooms. It would take a load of stress off new teachers just to start their first year with a solid understanding of the 1,000,000 acronyms used in education!
    I suppose what I’m getting at, and what I think Carrie was trying to say, is that administrators need to be aware of this problem because we’re headed in a direction in which we’re going to lose some of our best and brightest because of the impossible demands of the job. I agree with Carrie that it starts with a good mentor. A new teacher, or any teacher for that matter, cannot survive without a positive support system of people who understand the demands of the job, the frustrations of the job, and the pure joys of the job. This makes me especially happy to be part of the Cult of Pedagogy!

  2. Ditto to Jackie Green! All of those 1,000,000 acronyms are called “teachinese” to me 🙂

    Carrie was right in saying it’s not the kids, and it’s not the parents that force all kinds of smart, enthusiastic, new teachers to tap out. I think it’s pretty safe for me to say that people going into education KNOW that they will deal with difficult kids and parents. It’s all of the extra unforeseen, dare I say, “crap” that teachers deal with that there is no way to learn in our college years.

    We have no idea when we take our first teaching job how little of our “planning” will actually be used for planning (in my world, that’s a big goose-egg). We have no idea REALLY how much time during the week we will work after school planning (because we don’t have enough time during out “planning”) and grading papers. We also have no idea what a new school’s culture could be like and whether or not we will be supported, because, until this point, we’ve been really good at “playing school” and being the student. We’ve always been supported.

    Now, we’re looking at education from the other side of the spectrum and slowing gaining an understanding that we’re being asked to do a never-ending, ever-changing, impossible to perfect task.

    How can we fix this? Well, there’s not an easy answer for that. I have seen some school systems go through new hire orientations and trainings to show them the ropes of that particular district. Some new hire trainings will board all of the new hires onto a bus and drive them around to place their students live. I think this is a step in the right direction for administrations.

  3. All I can say after listening to this podcast is that it is a very good thing that this young woman has left the teaching profession. I think she will be very well suited to the profession she is going to school for – dental hygiene – because in that profession, you go to work for a specific number of hours, you are paid very well and you go home and you are done – you leave your job at your job. She obviously didn’t have a realistic understanding of what a teacher does. That was evident in the very first things she said in this interview – the reasons she gave for going into teaching…her husband-to-be was going to be a teacher, summers off, etc. I heard a lot of the blame game going on and whining for her own unhappiness. She is young, she will hopefully find a place where she is “happy” and feels fulfilled. Thanks for posting this podcast, it was interesting and enlightening, but the feeling that was strongest in my mind at its completion is relief that Carrie is no longer teaching my kids. There are so many hard-working, dedicated teachers that go above and beyond the call of duty who deserve way more recognition and salary than they are given, so I will close by saying a great big “THANK YOU” and “God bless you!”

    • Hi Diane,

      Thanks for contributing. I agree that Carrie went into teaching with some misconceptions about what it would be like — this is one of the reasons I think this interview would be useful for people thinking about entering the profession. It may give some people a moment of pause if they have similar beliefs about what it will be like. On the other hand, I have known a lot of incredibly dedicated, hard-working teachers who reach the same point of despair, where they feel like all they do is work and work, but most of that work is on the administrative end — documenting teaching practices, analyzing data, more documentation, more meetings, but very little of it goes into their actual teaching. And with so many schools changing programs and initiatives every couple of years, there’s never enough time to see if one initiative actually works.

      Again, I do think Carrie made the right decision for herself. But some valuable lessons about school culture and teacher workload can be learned here that can help us hang on to the people who are right for the job.

      Thanks again for posting — I would love to hear your thoughts on some other posts as well!

  4. Hi!
    I just stumbled across your podcast yesterday, and the title of this episode caught my attention. After listening, I have to say that I really appreciate you shedding light on the importance of teacher preparation programs. As I listened to Carrie’s story, I found it super interesting how polar opposite our student teaching experiences were. Mine was extremely intensive. Getting into the teaching intern program was competitive and not a guarantee, simply because it was your major. If you met the requirements to begin education classes, you were placed with a teacher for the entire year. I was with one mentor teacher from her first inservice day in August until the last teacher day in May. I went to every staff meeting, PD, planning meeting, data chat, etc. I was observed frequently by professors, the school’s principals, and other teachers in the building. Carrie and I were prepared for the same job with very different methods.
    What’s the most interesting to me about this is that even after all of that, disillusionment still hit me pretty hard. I’m in the midst of my 5th year of teaching now, but I almost didn’t stay. I credit the strong mentor relationships I made through my university, as well as the rigor of my program. The prep you get makes a big difference in how strong of a teacher you can be early on, but I think it makes the biggest difference in how willing you are to stick it out and find the positive in the daily grind.
    Thanks for the episode!

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