There I was. Just months from my 40th birthday, a single mom, very little savings and no back-up plan. And I quit my day job.
My secure day job, with health insurance benefits and bonus opportunities.
And the moment I did it, I had two immediate feelings. The first was, “Oh sh*t!” and the second was, “I’m free!”
A little contradictory, sure. But real all the same.
I had been an elementary school teacher for 13 years, working with kids from second through seventh grade depending on the year. I spend 12 of those 13 years in the same Title I (low income) school district.
There are teachers out there who are truly born teachers. They have such a passion for the job that they live and breathe the job. And for them, it’s not a job; it’s a way of life. Case in point: One of my teammates used to collect clothes from her nephew and other relatives to bring to her students. She supplied holiday dinners to students whose families couldn’t afford it. She took students out to lunch, on the weekends, when they accomplished something big.
I was not that kind of teacher.
Sure, I enjoyed what I did. But I spent most days feeling so overwhelmed with busy-ness and noise and meetings and paperwork that the last thing I wanted to do was to spend one more ounce of energy on my job.
But that’s not why I quit teaching.
You’ve probably heard stories—in the news and from those in education—about the lack of respect teachers receive from students, parent, administrators and the government. It’s all true.
Every year for the last five years of my teaching career, my paycheck was smaller and smaller. State retirement kept increasing, as did my health insurance contribution, and our salaries were frozen. I started freelance writing because I just couldn’t make ends meet otherwise.
Add to this the never-ending meetings and forms and paperwork teachers are subjected to. It’s not enough to have papers to grade. We also had to analyze test results for our students, who we had to test before and after every major lesson. We had to go to meetings to find out how to analyze those test scores, then we had to go to more meetings to talk about what we were going to do after we analyzed them. Then, because that wasn’t enough, we also had to meet to talk about the results of our interventions.
Of course, there’s also the meetings with parents, the never-ending additional requirements from the government and the fact that teachers continue to be severely underpaid.
I left my day job because I was done with all that. As a single parent, I wanted to be there for my daughter and as a teacher, I just couldn’t. I was stuck at meetings so often, I had to ask friends and my parents pick her up from school for me. She had to stay after school regularly with her teacher (who thankfully, that last year, was a friend of mine) because I couldn’t afford the after-school program. It was too much.
So that day that I resigned from my teaching position, it was a moment of release and relief. But also a moment of panic because I had spent so many hours in my day job that I hadn’t had time to fully develop my side hustle. Which was now my main hustle.
Almost four years later, I’m proud to say that I’ve replaced that teaching income plus about 40 percent. And Governor Doug Ducey recently announced that Arizona teachers were getting a raise—to the tune of 0.4% per year for five years.
That’s 2 percent, people. In five years.
Do I regret my decision to quit my day job? Not one bit. In fact, it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Have you quit your day job to grow a business? I’d love to hear your story!