'I'm considering leaving teaching. So I wrote a pros and cons list for the job.'

I’m 29 and I just googled “career aptitude test”. Yeah, like those multiple choice tests you are forced to do at about 16 to help you choose your subjects for Year 11 and 12. 

At the time, this was unnecessary - as a teenager, there were lots of things I wanted to do, two things foremost among them. 

Option A - become a surgeon, because that would naturally entail having sex with dreamy neurosurgeons in elevators. Yes, I was obsessed with Grey’s Anatomy in high school, why do you ask? 

Option B - become a teacher. I had always had this in the back of my mind, and people constantly told me I’d be good at it. I was a bossy, loud know-it-all, but also patient, friendly, and loved kids. It was a no-brainer. 

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I’ve been teaching for a few years now at a public high school in regional NSW, and I love it… sometimes. The teacher shortage is not slowing down, and the worse it gets, the more those of us who remain are contemplating our options. Unfortunately, now that I think about it, sex in elevators actually sounds kind of stressful, so I guess ‘surgeon’ is off the table for me.

So there I was, googling aptitude tests. Then, after sitting through 20 minutes of mind-numbing questions, I was asked to pay $9.95 for the results. I closed the tab, got out a pen and paper, and turned to a trusty pro-con list and brainstorming session. 



  • Different every day

  • Teenagers are funny

  • Relationships-based

  • I’m good at it

  • Seeing students learning and growing up

  • Feeling like I make a difference

  • School holidays

  • Can do it anywhere

  • Can show my personality at work

  • Not stuck at a desk

A good list, right? It is such a rewarding, intellectually stimulating, variable job. But here come the cons, the reasons I’m sitting here wondering about this.


  • Emotional exhaustion

  • Parents

  • Bureaucracy

  • Being sworn at

  • Bureaucracy

  • Teaching to a test

  • Not feeling like I make enough of a difference

  • The government

  • Detentions

  • *Those* children…

  • Bureaucracy

  • Not having enough teachers

  • “You can teach Sport, right?”

  • “We need you to teach out of area, would you prefer to teach Maths or Agriculture?”

  • “You can teach French, right?”

  • Bureaucrats who don’t trust me to know what I’m doing/talking about

  • Never not thinking about school

  • Did I already say bureaucracy?

Not such a fun list. So what do you do when you love teaching, always thought you would be a teacher, but now aren’t sure if you can survive the job? What do you do when you also can’t imagine doing anything else? 

I’ll bet it isn’t just teachers running this equation through their mind either, especially in my age bracket, especially after the last few years we’ve all had.

I’ve been on antidepressants for six months. I was on the verge of burning out. I’d tried the free counselling provided by work, and was told to practise mindfulness and exercise more. Wow, groundbreaking. 

And look, I know that those things help, but I was doing that, and it wasn’t cutting it. My GP prescribed me an SSRI, and told me to keep trying to find a psychologist who was actually helpful. 

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The drugs made a huge difference, but I shouldn’t have to modify my brain chemistry for a job.

Pro/con list complete, I turned next to a brainstorm: What are my options here?

a) I could try casual teaching. That would address some of the emotional exhaustion, because I wouldn’t have to invest so much of myself into the lessons. That said, it also takes away a major pro: the wonderful relationships with kids who might not otherwise have much stability in their lives. 


b) Maybe I could try teaching primary school. That would probably lessen the swearing I have to put up with. Plus, it would be a change of gears. Though, I would need a whole new level of patience. Let’s all raise a glass to primary teachers.

c) If I truly think about leaving teaching altogether, then academia feels like a logical sideways step. I loved my History degree, and I would enjoy studying again and following a pathway towards research. Plus, I could still be teaching, just in a university environment. That scenario would probably have less opportunities to get to know my students and show my personality, but it would no doubt be less emotionally draining. 

d) I also love writing. Pursuing that could be fun, a chance to be more creative. It also sounds lonely, and it would probably offer less variation from day to day. 

How many other teachers are googling aptitude tests, or brainstorming alternative career paths for themselves? I suspect it’s a lot of us. 

I haven’t quite figured out where my tipping point is, or where I will tip to, but there’s one thing I know for sure. The more teachers that leave the profession, the worse schools will get for teachers and for students. 

P.S. Career advice welcome.

The author of the piece is known to Mamamia but has chosen to remain anonymous for privacy reasons. The feature image used in a stock photo from Getty.