"I Threw In My Hat After Being In The Same District For Over 20 Years": Teachers Who Quit To Pursue Other Careers Share Their "Final Straw" Moments

    "I ended up having to hide in a classroom next door because the mom was so angry, and at the end of the day, had to be escorted to my car. That day broke me."

    Teachers are constantly raising alarms about the rapid decline of the education system due to a multitude of factors, including lack of funding, low wages, violence, and more.

    Teacher grading papers at a student's desk in an empty classroom

    These are scary statistics, but I wanted to hear from real-life teachers who made the decision to leave education and pursue other careers. So, I asked the former teachers of the BuzzFeed Community"What was the exact moment that made you decide to quit teaching for good?"

    A stressed teacher sitting at a desk with her head in her hands by a blackboard with "ABC" written on it

    Here are their brutally honest stories:

    Note: This post contains mention of violence, abuse, and mental health struggles.

    1. "The demands of admin and district officials kept increasing all for the goal of higher test scores, but our time to plan, grade, and actually provide meaningful feedback decreased. As a way to cut the budget, teachers were required to teach an extra period without receiving a corresponding pay raise. My spouse is self-employed, so I was paying for very expensive, very poor health insurance for our family and didn’t even bring home enough to cover our mortgage after my insurance costs were deducted."

    "Add to that, parents constantly questioning and challenging the books we tried to teach, apathetic kids, and a lack of discipline for student behavioral issues. I threw in my hat after being in the same district for over 20 years. I’m a stay-at-home mom now, and my stress level is almost nonexistent compared to my former life as a teacher."


    2. "I wanted to be a teacher my whole life. I studied education as an undergrad and completed my MEd at a top 10 university. Teaching really felt like my calling, and increasing equity in education is one of my passions. I started teaching right as COVID-19 hit and spent my first year teaching Zoom middle school. I had 62 students, no coaching, no curriculum, and no support. I made it work, though, and then started teaching third grade in Oakland. I lasted a year and a half. I want to make it clear that children are not to blame for anything that happened in my time teaching; they were incredibly traumatized by systemic failures during COVID-19 and extremely challenging home situations that no child should have to experience. During my time, I regularly had chairs thrown at me, was physically assaulted, was sexually harassed (by a child and a parent), and beyond all of that, there was no support provided for the kids who needed it most or for the teachers."

    "I developed panic disorder and took some time off for my mental and physical health. (I had lost 20 pounds in a month from stress.) While I was taking time off, there was a drive-by shooting that luckily did not injure anyone, but did destroy a classroom. The final straw for me was that admin did not cancel school, but instead had those second graders do their classes in the gym for the next week. I ultimately was diagnosed with PTSD, and a full year later, I am still suffering mentally and physically from my experience. Kids, families, and teachers deserve so much better than what we're giving them. I hope I can return to a classroom setting someday because I really miss teaching, but I cannot sacrifice my life for it."


    3. "I taught high school for five years, and when taking attendance, I asked two students to lower their voices. One replied, 'F*CK you.' The administration didn’t allow any disciplinary action because he was an athlete. I quit that afternoon."


    4. "What wore me down was the admin being scared of the parents and the parents being scared of the kids, meaning the students ran the show, and they knew it. The nail in the coffin was when I helped a student through an emergency and contacted admin and guidance to get the student to safety. Afterwards, my supervisor said that the students felt too comfortable going to me and that I needed to put up a barrier between me and them. I became a teacher to help and make a difference. Being reprimanded for being a student's safe person is what made me realize the system was too broken for me to make a difference."


    5. "I quit mid-year in December 2022 from a school that I honestly believed would be my 'forever' school. I loved the principal, my coworkers, my students, and my district department. However, the systemic issues that we see everywhere right now were also bleeding into my school to the point where I started applying for other opportunities."

    A deteriorating building facade with multiple doors and a striped ramp leading up to the entrance

    6. "I was a 28-year-old primary school teacher, doing really well, already head of a department after five years. Sitting in the staff room one lunch time, I was listening to a group of teachers (all women) in their 50s who had all been teaching for 20+ years. They were all moaning about work, life, family, etc., and I realized that was all they did. So much negativity. I knew right then I didn’t want to be that woman. I left teaching at the end of that year."


    7. "I live in a community that’s bordered by the one in which I taught and literally had just a two-mile commute to work. On my drive home daily, I would pass by my community's high school. My spirit was broken the day I drove past my community's high school, where parents were holding a rally, demanding that the schools be reopened during the height of COVID-19. On this day on my way home, I had two sympathy cards for two of my students who had lost parents as a result of COVID. I retired at the end of the school year."


    8. "The last straw was a fellow coworker who I did not work closely with or really know anything about literally berating me and getting in my face in front of her 6-year-old class over something I had zero idea about. I immediately went to the principal, and she admitted this was in her head (she told another coworker she started a new medication). The principal — surprise, surprise — did nothing. I decided this was the perfect time for me to leave and follow a new career path."


    9. "I was eight months pregnant, and a student that had been placed in a reform school for attacking his former teacher was being placed in my classroom. He had already attacked the other two teachers, so my classroom was left. I brought up how scared I was for my safety, my unborn child, and the rest of my classroom. My principal said, 'He’s just a kid.'"


    10. "When a student physically attacked me and an administrator asked me, 'What did you do to make him hit you?' The student was given no consequences."


    11. "I was a sixth grade ELA/SpEd teacher in East Harlem; the previous year (the students' fifth-grade year), only 7% passed the state test. The kids and I worked so hard our year, and 63% of them passed! When no one from administration said anything to them, I asked about it. 'Sarah, they still failed.' My heart broke for them. That was the beginning of the end of my 17-year career."


    12. "I finally got pregnant after battling infertility. I was VERY sick and struggled to accomplish my morning duty directing traffic out in the cold. I asked the principal if I could swap with someone, and he told me millions of women get pregnant each year, and I shouldn’t expect special treatment."

    "I then suspected I was miscarrying (thankfully I was not!!), so I went to the hospital the day before Thanksgiving break and was accused of being a liar just trying to start vacation early. Then I had my extra positions stripped away with no warning and quickly learned that even though I worked so hard, won many awards and cared so much, I was just a replaceable cog in their machine. I quit and have never been happier!"


    13. "After trying to convince a student of mine (who was a junior in high school at this point) to stay in school, he decided not to drop out. The next day, I got a phone call from his angry mother who yelled at me for talking him into staying. She claimed they had 'other plans.'"

    Empty school hallway with rows of lockers on both sides, sunlight streaming in from the end

    14. "I quit after a student threw chairs and textbooks at other students. She then threw a bottle at me. It took three men to restrain her. All of this occurred because I simply asked her to stand for the pledge (not having to say the pledge, just stand out of respect). The administration suspended her for a week. They told me that they would allow her to return. I said, 'Then I quit.'"


    15. "The teacher across the hall from me had her phone out on her desk waiting for an update on a relative that was having major surgery. While she was in the hall during the passing period doing mandatory monitoring duty, a male student stole her phone, managed to break into it, and found videos of this teacher and her fiancé doing things that two consenting adults are allowed to do. The student airdropped the video to his phone, then shared it with the entire football team. The student was 18, which means he essentially distributed porn to minors."

    "The teacher was fired before the student was officially expelled. I had been in that school system for over a decade, but I started looking for new jobs the day I heard the teacher had been fired. No way I was going to stay in a place that would punish me for having my phone stolen and personal content shared without my consent."


    16. "We teachers couldn’t get a 4% raise. Twelve years ago, a major hospital was recruiting teachers to become software trainers at their facility. A few of us left in the middle of the year and took a chance on the temp job just to learn a new skill. It worked out for most of us as we were hired with a $20k bump in salary. We’re still with the hospital with promotions. Less work, less stress, more money. The choice was easy."


    17. "One of education's best kept secrets is how much you can get hurt working in Special Ed. I fared better than most because I was big and tall, but I worked with ladies that had hunks of hair torn out, permanent injuries to hands, clothes torn, beaten bloody. I knew an assistant who had her thumb bent so badly she was put into a cast. She had to wait for two to three days to see the workman’s comp doctor, though. Admin did nothing to help expedite this poor woman making below $15 per hour. Anyway, I took one too many blows to the face when a kid kicked me in my jaw. He cracked my tooth, exposing the nerve. It was like being tased, excruciating pain. Special ed is a short-term commitment."


    18. "When I was requested to change failing grades to a 'D!'"


    19. "After a parent threatened to run me over with her car, the principal of my building looked at me and said, 'It sucks to be you.' The school resource officer had to step in to advise her that she’d go to jail if she didn’t stop her threats."


    20. "I had a student who had behavior problems. The parents decided it was because he was being bullied, although he was the real bully. The parents demanded they be allowed to observe the classroom environment while I taught. The day they came, they brought the whole family: mom, dad, and two younger siblings. They then proceeded to purposefully intimidate me and my instructional assistant."

    Double doors with metal handles on a brick building, indicating a formal entrance or workplace

    21. "I had been teaching only three years when I got pregnant with my first. I was trying to decide if I would return after my maternity leave. Fast-forward to the last month of school. I am seven months pregnant. I am directing and managing the junior high drama production, even though I am the grade 3/4 teacher. The day before the production, I am scrambling to get everything in order, and my principal walks in and tells me I will be getting three new kids in my class the following day, one of which has severe behavior codes and another that has severe learning disability codes. He leaves, and I take some time to process."

    "After a while, I realize I have nothing prepared for three new kids, no desks, no workbooks, no supplies. I also don’t have time to organize that, as I am trying to organize the drama production. I go to my principal and ask if they can come the following week instead (the play was on a Thursday so that would give me the weekend to prepare for them properly). He told me no, I was expected to be ready by the next day and I needed to figure it out. That was it. No support. I decided then that I would never go back to teaching."


    22. "A student of mine threatened to sexually assault my young child. The only response to the incident was to increase the amount of supervised hours the student received due to their IEP. Took me a year after that, but I walked away mid-year and haven’t looked back. I regret nothing."


    23. "I decided to quit teaching when I discovered that the admin staff cared more about state funding than the special education students I was trying to teach. They did not allow me, a Special Education science teacher with a master’s of science, to do my job. They did this because the curriculum wasn’t moving fast enough. These children needed more time! It’s not fair to anyone to prioritize funding over education. I quit the next day."


    24. "My breaking point was when a child in my class continuously threw scissors at me and other students. He told me to go hang myself, that I would be better off dead — just horrible things every day. He was a very disturbed little boy with little love at home. Admin blamed me and said I should just 'try a little harder.' I was doing everything I could think of — offering him fidget toys, creating a calming space in my classroom with pillows and soft toys, buying picture books with characters I knew he liked and reading one-on-one with him, watching out for his triggers, and trying to intervene before things got out of control. The thing is that nothing worked."

    "I would go home crying every single day — and not just a few tears, but fat, ugly, heaving sobs. Eventually, I woke up one day and realized I could no longer do it. I loved being a teacher with all of my heart, and it kills me because I believe that myself and that little boy deserved so much better from the system. Teachers cannot teach large groups of children when we have one."


    25. "I had been teaching for about 25 years in multiple school districts with great test scores and teacher reviews. My new district was an entirely different experience. The principal was getting ready to retire, so she let parents run the school, and the expectation was that every child should be getting mostly As. One of my students had behavior issues, but his parents thought he should be in the gifted and talented program even though he was tested three times and never made the cut."

    "When he earned a B+ in math for the quarter instead of an A, his mother went on Facebook to slam me without even speaking with me (drunk typing late at night). The admin did move him out of my class, but the damage was already done. I finished the year, but resigned at the end of the year. Luckily for me, I left right before COVID-19 hit."


    26. "After spending 10 years doing this, COVID-19 hit and I finally had the downtime to realize that I was losing valuable time with my family, that I wasn’t getting paid enough, and that I didn’t have the support needed from admin/school board/parents. There is an unwritten expectation that teachers have to go above and beyond, which most are happy to do without question, but until our society puts a priority on the future, money will never get put in places it SHOULD go, and the things that SHOULD matter suffer most. I left teaching in July of 2023 and became a software engineer."

    Entrance to a modern building with a set of double glass doors, indicating access to a workplace

    27. "My teacher's assistant did many inappropriate things, such as telling the parents that I might have had a miscarriage when I was six weeks pregnant (I hadn't publicly announced yet, just to my coworkers for medical reasons). She also bought certain students gifts and not others. The final straw came when she told the students that, in her country, children with light-colored hair are considered 'demons' and would take things away from those children. I told my director, and her solution was that I should ask my assistant how good her English comprehension is. I put my resignation in two weeks later."


    28. "I was a Black teacher in a majority white school. I also voluntarily conducted monthly equity professional development sessions for the staff over the span of two years. At the start of Black History Month, my Black students started coming to me, telling me that white students had downloaded a 'whip' app and were pretending to whip Black students."

    "I informed the administrators, and it was confirmed that other adults in various areas of the building had seen or heard this as well. The administrators decided to not address it until the superintendent found out. It took a full week before the students were told that the adults knew what they were doing, and to stop. That was the end for me. I resigned."

    —Chelly Pop 

    29. "I left my previous school after the second gun was found on campus. Our trailer was mopped with dirty, stinky, and reused mop water, the English trailer had rats in it, and admin didn’t enforce any school rules. The principal never fixed the security concerns after the second gun, and there have since been two more guns found. I reviewed distinguished on my observation and handed in my resignation the next week. I was the 30th teacher to quit, and it was November."


    30. "I worked as a resource specialist at a high school teaching students with special needs. One of my students got a job working in the cafeteria during lunch. The only stipulation for working there was that a student had to maintain a 2.0 GPA. I was sent a notice from the administration office that this student’s GPA dropped down to 1.0. I was told to inform this student that he could no longer work in the cafeteria. When I gave him this information, he became very agitated, pulled a .38 pistol out of his backpack, and yelled, 'You can’t take my job away! If you take my job away, I will take your job away!'"

    "This was before cellphones. The classroom’s intercom phone to the front office didn’t work. I was able to calm the student down and told him he could keep his job. Miraculously, he put the gun away in his backpack. I had to wait 17 minutes for the brunch bell to ring. Once the students left the classroom, I ran up to the administration office and reported the incident. I quit the next day."


    31. "Well I had a high school student chase me around my room. He cornered me as he wanted to hit me; I took my glasses off and handed them to another student. I turned my ring around and took defensive stance and said you get the first swing and I get the second. He sat down. The administration did nothing. The next week, the same kid beat up a male teacher. I retired one year early at the end of the school year."


    32. "I had one first grade student wish I was in a grave."


    33. And finally, "The pandemic shined a light on how broken the system really was. Teachers were absolutely jumping through flaming hoops during remote learning, trying to teach in a completely new environment while managing student emotions and struggles during a terrifying time. We were seen as heroes that spring. But come fall, when parents and communities were at their breaking points, teachers were suddenly the villain. Suddenly we were 'lazy' and 'needed to go back to work.' The emotional whiplash was real."

    "When we came back to in-person learning, we had a real chance to make a difference for the kids. But instead, we glossed over the global trauma, pushed the kids to get back to meeting academic standards, and didn’t give teachers the room to teach in a way that would actually help the kids fill their learning gaps. All the while, more was added to teachers’ plates while taking nothing away. With all of this unaddressed trauma among the students, behavior problems have soared, and teachers are still being pressured to meet academic standards. The pressure, workload, and student trauma has been too much to handle. I had a mental breakdown after coming back from winter break in January 2022. I resigned the following week. My life has taken a total 180 since then, and it’s been incredible. I’m happy for the change to my life, but am scared for the future of this country."


    If you're a former teacher or current teacher that is considering a new profession, share your story in the comments or in this anonymous Google Form.

    The National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline is 1-888-950-6264 (NAMI) and provides information and referral services; GoodTherapy.org is an association of mental health professionals from more than 25 countries who support efforts to reduce harm in therapy.