It seems that every other teacher who is leaving the profession is becoming an industrial designer. It’s as if all of these departing educators have been suppressing their graphic designer ambitions all this time. Is it possible that there are so many people out there who need to be trained how to do things? I’ve also been considering a jump aboard this bandwagon.
Unlike many people fleeing the classroom, I’m not burned out. Yet. In fact, my day-to-day worklife is going quite well. I do not begrudge anyone their feelings of angst, disgust, or whatever is gnawing away at their soul as it relates to teaching. I’ve talked to a lot of veteran teachers who lament how the profession has changed vastly over the last decade. There’s definitely something rotten in Denmark – I don’t think anyone is over-reacting to the current state of education.
However, if I were to make a change, I would leave my current setting with a heavy heart. I have been fortunate enough to make a role change to ESE that is far healthier for me. Still, I grapple daily with the idea that I can only do so much to improve the life of a child. There are days where I speculate that if I didn’t exist, the kids’ lives would be exactly the same. But it’s not just the futility that makes me want to leave. It’s all about money. I cannot foresee myself living a decent quality of life in my golden years on the salary I make. It’s that simple. We just “won” a 3.75% pay raise for this year. Some would say that getting a little bit of money is better than getting no money at all. The current rate of inflation in the US is 7.1%. That means that our pay raises fall far behind the rising cost of goods and services. It can feel like getting a pay cut.
The days where people get an entry-level job at a company and devote their working lives to a single employer are, for the most part, long gone. In the startups I worked at before becoming a teacher, people came and went on a regular basis. They were technical mercenaries willing to sell their souls to the highest bidder. Loyalty was a malleable concept. In our field, it is considered a brutal betrayal to leave, especially in mid-year. We are supposed to put the children first, even ahead of our own families.
I say “bullshit” to all of that. One thing that has helped me stay sane on the job is that I’m learning to put my well-being before anything else. If I say “no” to volunteering for an after-school event that we are not being paid for and that is not counted towards our contractural obligation for after-hours events, I do so with a clear conscience. From the present vantage point, I’m not running for the door. What helps guide me is something I learned a while back. When in a stressful work situation, make sure you are running towards something rather than away from something. The former involves thoughtful planning while the latter is about emotional reaction. And it’s fair to say that emotional reaction tends to lead to undesirable results.