'I'm leaving teaching. I no longer feel like the choice to stay in this profession is mine.'

I am leaving teaching.

There, I said it.

It feels like I’ve said something vile, unspeakable, something that shouldn’t be uttered out loud.

I have been tormented with the notion that I need to leave for at least six months, making me sick worrying about resigning but sicker thinking about staying.

Did you pick up on the use of the word 'need'? Let me show you why this decision is no longer mine to make but first I’ll explain why it’s taken so long to make this decision.

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I am acutely aware that my resignation affects a lot of people and this is why I’ve stalled for so long. I worry about telling my students, particularly my Year 12s because there is never a time in the year where you are not letting down a Year 12 group. Year 12 goes from Term 4 to Term 3 in NSW, which means as the old Year 12s graduate, the Year 11s take their place. So irrespective of which term you leave, you’re upsetting someone. This has played on my mind for so long. 

I feel like I am betraying my students and abandoning my colleagues in a teacher shortage crisis but there are certain attitudes and expectations towards teachers that are unfair, unreasonable, and most definitely unsustainable. I have reached my limit. These expectations are often thrust upon us by students, parents, members of the executive, the school board and/or the Department of Education.


Working in the independent sector means I am salaried to work 38 hours a week. Well, paid for 38 hours a week, in reality my work week is much longer than that. Not like money has ever been a driving force for me or probably any other teacher (seriously who has ever said they have entered the profession for the money and conditions!?) So to help you understand why I am leaving the job I loved and was committed to for well over a decade, let’s look at what an average week looks like.

As a high school teacher, I teach six classes. That's 41 hours of face-to-face time a fortnight. That means I am actively teaching in the classroom, these are not 'free periods.' That does not include home room or any other 'extra' activities or events in school hours such as assemblies, sports carnivals, or events hosted by external providers, etc. 

So, already my 41 hours is realistically closer to 46+ hours. I have lunch duties several times a week; our award says we should get 30 minutes of uninterrupted lunch each day. This does not happen on duty days. (When does it happen with young people needing us anyway?). We prioritise toilet breaks over eating in what little time we do have on our 'breaks.'

My four timetabled free periods a week to plan my lessons or mark assessments are in reality much less. With a teacher shortage, my free periods are supervising other classes or answering complex parent emails or partaking in various meetings pertaining to academic or pastoral concerns of various students, often including external stakeholders such as medical professionals, social services, or even maybe the police. 


So, with my four planning hours often sucked up in other ways, I work at home. With six classes across years 7 to 12 and multiple subjects, my hands are full. While I work at home, I am not getting paid; I am not spending time with my family and friends; I am not prioritising my health; I am not cooking healthy dinners due to exhaustion and I am not having any down time before I go to bed. I often don’t sleep or if I do, I wake regularly with stress dreams or making mental notes of the things I have to get done in between teaching full time.

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When assessments are due to be marked or reports need to be written I often have over 180 that are due usually within two to four week window. I do not have any time at work to do these tasks. This is while the challenges of a normal school week continues. 

If I am sick, I have to plan lessons that anyone can follow (there is no guarantee you’ll get an expert in your subject take the class) and I must do this before the school day starts. It’s not a joke when teachers say it’s easier to go to work sick than it is to have the day 'off.'


What I have not mentioned is the co-curricular activities we run before and after school, the camps we, the teachers, organise (we aren’t travel agents or event managers), the camps we attend for up to five days (24 hours a day, no extra pay or time in lieu), the several parent teacher interview nights we have each term for most year groups (that’s after a full day teaching, that’s roughly a 12 hour day performing to young people and having 30 plus formal interviews that go until at least 7.30pm or even 8pm). 

Oh, and the concerts, school productions, art exhibitions, Year 7 parent meet and greet night, Carols by Candlelight, school fundraisers like trivia nights, and end-of-year speech night. Or the subject selection nights for various year groups, HSC information nights, overseas trip information nights, and the list goes on. Are you exhausted yet? After many, many years of doing this and more, I am. I no longer feel like the choice to stay in this profession is mine. I am burnt out and I fear long-term illness is not far away. 

So, I am leaving teaching. 2023 is the year to look after my health. To reintroduce myself to my loved ones. To try to remember what I used to do for fun. To decompress and not feel guilty for having a life and to grieve. Grieve for the job I loved and the students who I leave behind. I hope one day they understand why I left.

The author of this story is known to Mamamia but has chosen to remain anonymous for privacy reasons.

Feature Image: Getty

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