Sometimes, you just get a gut feeling on if you need to leave an organization.
Too often we (teachers) attempt to convince ourselves that we should remain within an organization that we really should leave. You may have accepted an offer from an organization for the wrong reason(s); your experience within an organization may have soured over time. However you tell yourself to stick it out rather than leave because you want things to work. That brings to mind a movie where the protagonist was in a romantic relationship that he wanted to work out although there were signs that he needed to end it. Jordan Peele’s Get Out is a horror story where the protagonist finds himself trying to desperately ‘get out’ from a dangerous situation with some really twisted people. That might describe some of the experiences some teachers have at their schools where they work; a dangerous situation with some really twisted people.
It may be hard to simply get out. We (teachers) forge relationships with students. We see the need at the schools where we work and our commitment to our students inspires us to persevere; if you can persevere, then you should. I am a firm believer that the most challenging school environments need the most dedicated and passionate educators. If you are dedicated and passionate about loving and educating children, you are needed everywhere but especially in the most challenging of school environments. However, I am a realist and the reality is that there are unexpected and unanticipated events that take place and policies that take shape where you have no other choice but to get out. Disclaimer: getting out isn’t about leaving a school or organization after a short time – it isn’t about leaving a school because your classroom management stinks. It isn’t about leaving because someone pissed you off on a given day; because you weren’t recognized or you felt you were considered an afterthought. Teaching is a thankless labor of love; teachers often go unrecognized – particularly those teachers whose success goes beyond standardized test scores. Getting out is about threats to your professional career and/or to your personal livelihood. Such incidences do not have to be extreme cases, but they are incidents that can alter the course of your professional and personal life. Getting out is not about a ‘want to’ but is rather a ‘need to.’ Here are some incidences where you should strongly consider getting out of an organization or school district:
- When the work environment becomes TOO toxic. There are time when the work environment can become toxic. That isn’t the time to panic. However, if the environment is consistently toxic and then doubles down on the toxicity levels, it may be time for you to consider leaving. You shouldn’t just get up and go when the going gets tough. However, if the moral is beyond repair; if the environment is teachers vs. administration vs. students on a consistent basis, it may be time to get out. Toxicity cannot be the culture of your building or organization. Depending on your personality, you may be able to manage it all for the sake of your students. However, managing a toxic environment will become stressful and draining. It could also supplant the passion and commitment you have to the work. Have a sense of when it is no longer manageable.
- When your boss(es) stifle your career goals/aspirations/trajectory. Let’s be clear, for the most part, administration is about making sure the ‘machine’ works. They pull and plug. Your career goals may not be on their radar; particularly if they aren’t a fan of yours. You could be stifled professionally for various reasons. There are cases where you’re so good at what you do that they don’t want to move you under any circumstances. You must reevaluate what your career intentions are and if your current status affirms the goals you’ve purposed for yourself. If where you are doesn’t align with where you want to go, it may be time to get out. I would caution however that you give some time and consideration to your circumstances. If you think you can make things work, make them work. Remember, getting out of anywhere isn’t a want, it is a need.
- When your certification is at risk. If any employer asks you to do something that is unethical and may compromise your certification, your ability to get a job and maintain your career, you need to get out.
- If you sue an organization. If you file a lawsuit against your employer or coworker for any reason, you may need to consider getting out to avoid retaliation from them. Or, your presence within the organization during a lawsuit may facilitate animosity amongst co-workers and supervisors with you. You may have done nothing wrong and your lawsuit may very well be justified, that doesn’t mean smooth sailing if you remain employed by the organization you are suing.
- Your safety is at risk. If you feel unsafe for any reason i.e. afraid the building may collapse, poor air quality in the building, fear of students and parents physically attacking you, then you need to get out. Your feelings of unsafety may or may not be real, however if you feel it, it will not go away… so maybe you should.
- *HONORABLE MENTION* No pension benefit (specific to public school teachers). A public school is a state institution meaning that employees are entitled to state benefits – including pension benefits. If you work for an organization that has lost its status as a public entity or is denied recognition as a state institution with the rights and privileges therewith, you may want to reconsider your employment options. It is not a deal breaker, but worth your consideration.
Not Quite “Get Out” Worthy, but Problematic Nonetheless:
- Receiving a bad or unfair evaluation – if this happens, there is a grievance you can file that will resolve the issue.
- No union representation at your school – While unions are not a cure all, they are advocates for teachers. But if you’re school is without one, it isn’t the worst thing in the world. You have to decide whether or not you wish to remain.
- Poor physical conditions of the building – You may be able to take or leave this one, but if the physical conditions make it hard to teach, you should address it. Just note that plenty of teachers have not only taught but have thrived in buildings not quite up to par.
- When you unsuccessfully attempt a romantic relationship with a co-worker – this can get sticky. If you attempt to have a romantic relationship with a co-worker and after dating things end on a sour note, it could make for sourness at work. That is the last thing you want, however that isn’t the norm. But you must beware. Be careful and cautious when attempting a workplace relationship.
- The students are a bit too rambunctious for you – if the students are a bit much, there are some things that you can do, namely strengthen your classroom management game and call parents. Those two things will make life easier for you.
Here are some things that should make you want to stay in a school district or organization even though these are problematic as well:
- When students are treated unfairly
- When parents are not given information in a honest and transparent manner
- The disproportionate discipline of students of color
- A lack of racial diversity in faculty and staff (particularly if you are a teacher of color)
- A lack of culturally relevant teaching
These last five items are problematic. However, they are also opportunities to make your school district or organization better for your students and for your colleagues. The “Not Quite Get Out” list is just that; problematic, yet these obstacles can be overcame. The top list is the list you must consider when judging a realistic need to get out. Once more, getting out isn’t about what you want to do, but rather what you must do. My sincere desire is that no reader of this post has the need to get out. However, if you do need to get out, I hope you do.
Let’s continue to press towards the mark!