To the Unhappy Teacher

Teaching is tough. It gets even tougher when most days are filled with unhappiness and frustration. This can be due to administration, colleagues, students, parents, expectations, time constraints, etc. Doubt begins to creep in, and we wonder why we wasted so much time and money becoming a teacher. Am I cut out for this? I’m not good enough. What would I do if I wasn’t teaching?

I’ve had all of these doubts and frustrations...and more. There were multiple thoughts of walking away from education. I pursued jobs to be a used car salesman, a door to door salesman, and an insurance agent. Fortunately, I was never offered one of those positions. I would have accepted and missed out on the joy I have experienced the last nine years. Don’t get me wrong; I still have my moments. But, the frustrations I now have just feel different. They no longer cause me to seek other careers. The power in my purpose has been strong enough to fuel an enduring passion to make a difference. That power shuts down any thought of leaving education.

Don’t give up. There is still time for you to find happiness and purpose.

It’s not always roses and candy. Rarely is. I grew frustrated after years of dreading going to "work." If it wasn’t one thing, it was another. I temporarily left the classroom for a work-at-home virtual teaching position with the state. A round of state budget cuts soon left me unemployed for seven months. The economy was struggling, and schools were finding ways to absorb open positions rather than fill them. I didn’t know what I was going to do. Additional doubts, frustrations, and fears crept in.

My wife and I had just bought our first house and had our first baby. At this point, I just needed an income.

I applied for a teaching position at a destination school. A place that typically only hired locals and had very little turnover. I was desperate and would have taken any job at this point. To end up there was a true blessing and changed the course of my career. For the first time ever, I never dreaded going to school. I loved what I was teaching. The students brought me joy. I was surrounded by incredible colleagues and administrators who saw me as an equal and made me feel respected as a professional. I knew I was making a difference, and that felt great!

The only thing that could have pulled me away from there was a principal position. That happened after three great years. I still miss teaching, and I miss that school. The joy and passion I now have for education are deeply rooted in that experience.

I don’t profess to have a magic solution to make everything better. But, I would say please don't give up. It took me about ten years to find what I hoped teaching would be when I was in college. I’m so thankful I hung in there (and was never offered a position in another career field).

Sometimes all it takes is new surroundings - a new administrator, different colleagues, a different community, or even a different grade level or content area.

Be open to change.

Be open to learning and growing.

The more I seek to learn and grow as an educator, the happier I become. Learning and growing give me confidence. The more confident I become the more I feel like I make a difference. Feeling like a difference-maker keeps me in education.

I want you to have the same experiences. We all deserve to feel like difference-makers.

The field of education needs you. There are students who need you. Please, hang in there and search for the fire and passion you need to stay in education for the long haul.

It can happen. It may take some time, but it is possible....and so worth it!

Be a difference-maker!

Doug Dunn is superintendent and principal of a small K-8 school in rural, south central Missouri. He can be found on Twitter at DougDunnEdS.