Sunday, February 1, 2009

Why I Chose to Leave Teaching

I ran into a friend on Facebook that I haven't seen since high school. We were catching up and he wanted to know why I left teaching in 1999 to become a counselor. I've had a number of people ask me this question so it seems like it might be worth posting this brief version of why on the blog:


Though I enjoyed most aspects of teaching, bits of it I'm glad to be away from, the couple parents you get every year that can eat up large amounts of your time with things that aren't important, and working beneath bureaucratic policies that miss the big picture and that grind through talent and man hours without good enough results.

What led to the change was my chomping at the bit to go back to school, and wanting to do something that has a better ratio of pointless paperwork and jumping through someone else's hoops to work that is more intellectually and personally engaging. I was frustrated with not being able to get to the kernel of what was preventing some students from learning nearly as much as they could. I began to realize that working with the families directly was accessing the heart of where things happen in kids' lives. I also hated being accountable for those aspects of teaching that are actually beyond your control as a teacher.

The intellectual challenges of the crafts of therapy and coaching have turned out as I expected and even better. Being in private practice now allows me a lot more flexibility to be with my family. I love the concepts involved in the work enough that much of my free time is taken up by reading and discussion of all manner of things related to how the brain functions how it interacts with the environment, as well as to what makes human beings tick individually and in the context of their relationships. It is a really nice overlap that augments my work, and that also satisfies outside of work. I'm now accountable for variables that are much more within my control and within my areas of influence, which I find much less stressful. Or put differently, the stress is related to the challenges of the work itself rather than to being accountable for variables outside my control.


That's the gist. I still have great respect for the craft of teaching and think that we should be paying better wages and working to attract the very best out there to be with our kids. We're slipping further behind all the time compared to other industrialized countries. We need to rethink what we're doing in education and where it lies as a priority. If we don't our lack of courage and foresight to do so is going to be a huge encumbrance that drags on our economy and every bit as importantly, the quality of our democracy.