While the resignation rates of teacher and public education employees in the US peaked during the pandemic, recent data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that resignations have started to increase again. This comes on top of worsening teacher shortages and struggles to hire new teachers in school districts nationwide. Additionally, one in three teachers say they're likely to quit in the next two years, according to a recent survey.
Unfortunately, this shouldn't be surprising news. In 2022, K–12 teachers were reported to have the highest burnout rate of all professions in the US. Similarly, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 300,000 public school educators quit between February 2020 and May 2022.
In an effort to platform the challenges teachers face that have led to their resignation, here are 50 brutally honest stories from former teachers across BuzzFeed and Reddit about the moment they decided to quit the profession for the good:
Note: This post contains mention of violence, abuse, and suicidal ideation.
1."I left after my sixth year of teaching special education. There was a lack of materials and support from administrators, constant increase in expectations without increased compensation, and criticism from parents. However, my final straw came after a student shoved a table into my pregnant belly. The baby stopped moving. I had to go to the hospital, and my doctor gave me a note saying I needed a different working environment. My school refused. I went to the union, but they did nothing. Finally, workers comp forced my principal to give me a different role: teaching virtually. It was fine until my admin wanted me to create lesson plans for my current and old classes."
2."I left the profession this year and mourned it like a death. Being a teacher was a huge part of my life and my identity. I taught students living in million-dollar homes and days away from eviction. Want to know which were the problem kids? The rich ones. They were entitled little snots. They'd curse at me and tell me they'd sue me when I asked them to work or sit down. Their parents would email me, demanding better grades and blaming me for 'losing' missing assignments. The stress had been building, and one day, I had a panic attack. I put in for a sub, walked to my boss's office in tears, and said, 'I'm going home. I don't know when I'll be back.' I never went back. I extended my leave through the next school year, was placed on antidepressants, and started therapy. I didn't realize the extreme nausea I'd been experiencing before my panic attack was directly related to my stress levels."
3."I worked in a school where I was the only teacher in a classroom of 17 kids with autism. I was supposed to have two paraprofessionals, but one ended up injured, and the other would leave for hours without explanation. One day, I was in the classroom alone when two kids needed diaper changes. Generally, the two paras handled diaper changes while I ran the classroom. I called the office to let them know what was happening, but no one seemed to care. Not a single person came down to help. I texted the person who oversaw special education for the district, and she told me to block the classroom door — one kid in class was notorious for running out of the room — and then do the diaper changes. I did as I was told and then immediately resigned."
4."I was a teacher for 10 years. My lead teacher continuously harassed me to the point where I was ready to take out a restraining order. When I told admin, they 'took action' by moving that teacher to a different grade, but it didn't stop the behavior. The next year, I had a student who hit, kicked, and screamed at me all day long. Admin did nothing, even letting the parent into my classroom to 'observe.' Another student hurt me so badly that they sent me to the ER, and my principal had the nerve to ask how I thought the child should be punished. I left in 2020 and don't regret the choice."
5."Last year, I was grieving my grandfather and in the hospital for my mental health, dehydration, and exhaustion. During that time, I was also constantly on the phone with my school, trying to run my classroom because I didn't 'manage my classroom well enough.' When I came back, I was told I'd have to switch places with the math interventionist. I went to the union, wrote letters to the principal and superintendent, and even wrote up a plan to pay for classroom management classes and make classroom arrangements. (The room didn't function well as a classroom because it was an old computer lab. It was too small and had four doors with no windows. Nothing could go against the wall because of an old cable system, and there was no storage space.) The school said no; I resigned."
"I still really missed those kids and cried for weeks after. The school even admitted to giving me a hard group. Later, I saw that they rearranged the room the way I wanted — I was told it couldn't be done — from PTO pictures on Facebook."
6."I taught in Philly for eight long years. I should have quit when a student caused $2,000 worth of damage to my car because I was, in his words, 'a selfish bitch who deserved it.' Teachers saw him do it, and he admitted to it, but the school board said he had a disability — though we were never shown any paperwork — so he was allowed to return. However, the final straw came when my dad was dying of cancer. We decided to take one last vacation that summer, so before the end of the school year, I told my bosses everything and gave them the dates. Then, I got a call telling me I needed to report earlier, and if I didn't, I'd be fired. I quit at that moment."
7."I spent 30 years teaching in Florida. I loved my students and my administration. I even found a vast majority of parents to be reasonable. But my district's policies told me everything; it was time to go. What broke the camel's back was getting one bereavement day when my husband died. I was out at the end of the year."
"I left Florida altogether."
8."I left when a parent sent their child to school after testing positive for COVID. That child got 32 students and seven staff members sick. Two of us developed long-term COVID."
"The lack of compassion of parents and administration made me leave."
9."I was late to the teaching profession and needed to get my Master's for the next licensure level. Around that time, however, I went through a difficult period — a horrible divorce, caring for my dying father, COVID — and needed more time to finish my courses. My district could have applied for a waiver from the state to keep me employed as I finished. Nope. They wouldn't do it, despite my pleas to the superintendent. Meanwhile, our state gave blanket extensions to every unqualified person who got an emergency teaching license during the pandemic. Obviously, I'm not valued, so I walked."
10."I was an educator for about 17 years. Honestly, I think it's the worst thing I could've done for myself. I quit in January 2021 and still have nightmares about being a teacher. People's behavior in 2020 opened my eyes to how the US feels about teachers, students, and education. They want us to be underpaid, overstressed, glorified substitute parents. I was already burnt out and feeling dead inside when the pandemic happened. Then, I was just expected to die from either COVID or a school shooting. Who cares, right? It's my fault for choosing that profession!"
"Now, I work a mindless job for more money, and I will never go back to teaching ever again."
11."A lot of former teachers leave because of admin or parents; I left because of the kids. I really struggled with behavior management. Students would throw things at me, refuse to stay in their seats, and curse at me. One day, I reached my absolute limit. I was trying to teach a concept, and students wouldn't stop yelling long enough to listen. I called a security guard to monitor the class, walked into the front office, and quit."
12."I was teaching fourth-year music and quit back in 2014. I was trying to show pitch movement using a line drawing — a lesson I taught successfully for several years — when a kid yawned loudly and said, 'This is boring.' That's when I felt my insides turn dark and realized I was officially done. Luckily, I was on contract. I left that day and never returned."
"I went straight home that day and searched for 'admin jobs near me.' Three days later, I interviewed for a job in health admin. I started a few days after that and never looked back. My pay went down so much that for months I existed on tuna and rice, but I still never regretted walking away."
13."I'll be leaving after my maternity leave. This past year was it for me. Due to my mom's terminal illness, I missed a lot of time first semester. Still, my data showed my students pacing with the others in the grade. As it got closer to my mom's death, the administration pushed me out the door. (My husband and I waited until the last second to travel to avoid disrupting our children's schedules.) In January, my principal pulled me into her office and threw how much time I missed in my face. She never once acknowledged the data — just that I had missed a lot of instructional time. In February, I got pregnant with my third child. I was brutally honest about having extreme morning sickness, and only one person in a position of power checked on me. I wasn't even on her team. I'd get sick in front of my students because I couldn't leave them. When I'd find someone from administration to cover, they'd look at me like I had six heads."
14."I loved teaching the kids; the kids were awesome. For me, the politicians turned education into a hockey puck. They kept instituting policies based not on fact but on political gain (I could complain for an hour about the No Child Left Behind Act). The administrations weren't helpful in shielding teachers from the shitstorm, but their hands were kind of tied, too. I left, and I'm glad I did."
"I wish it could've been the candy and rainbows of igniting a love for learning, but the reality was really different."
15."This is my last year of teaching. I simply can't do it anymore. It's physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting right now. What we are being asked to do is impossible. I'm tired of being abused by the system, administrators who forget what it's like in the classroom, rude and entitled students, and parents. We don't even have janitors to sweep the floors anymore. Our school is filthy. There aren't enough bus drivers, so they double up on buses, and I have to hold students while the first route is run. Everything is falling apart. If you even try to discipline the kids, then you have parents screaming down your back. And the paperwork, it's insane! I'm so done with it that I put in my resignation."
16."There wasn't one defining moment that made me decide to quit, but after the decision was made, there was a moment that solidified it. There was this kid. To say he wasn't bright is an understatement. He probably should've been diagnosed for special education but never was. He was also an asshole. I taught eighth-grade math, and he couldn't even multiply. I'd give him the same tests I gave my special education students. He'd usually fail, but not as badly. He never figured out that he was given a different test. When I made the different versions, they were essentially the same questions but with easier numbers to work with. One day, I was grading his test, and he missed every single question. The weird thing was, he had all the correct answers to the normal test but showed no work. There was literally no way with the numbers he had that he could've gotten the answers he did."
17."When I realized that I was being more micromanaged every year. I expected a lot of oversight when I was a new teacher, but I actually had more people watching my every move and word after earning a master's degree and with 15 years of experience. I never had a single complaint. Parents and students loved me — even requested me. However, administrators needing to justify their jobs were constantly in my classroom or calling pointless meetings to discuss pointless things."
"I spent less and less time teaching and more and more time filling out meaningless forms, responding to emails, and sitting through meetings."
18."I'll be leaving teaching after this year — my sixth year teaching. I have tenure, and I was teacher of the year, but I don't want a job that requires active shooter drills anymore. It's not normal. I take my job very seriously because I truly believe it makes a huge impact, but the added pressure that my decision could mean life or death for my students is too much. I sometimes think I sound weak or dramatic saying this, but I just want to teach and create a positive environment, not have to make life-and-death decisions."
19."Here are my reasons for quitting after one year, in no particular order: To start, I was hired to teach subject A, but I was then forced into teaching subject A and subject B. I am not certified for subject B. When I told admin, they said, 'It's not an end-of-course test class. It doesn't matter.' It matters to the kids who chose to take the class! I'd stay up past midnight teaching myself the material to teach them the next day. I'd work from 6:45 a.m. to 5 p.m. and then hours more at home. My own kids were in school and daycare for 60 hours a week. There was also a bomb threat (SWAT came), a gang fight in my classroom (one kid launched himself over a desk to attack another kid after two months of me begging admin to separate these two), and an active shooter threat (thankfully, there were no injuries, but county and city police were involved; the kid was an idiot)."
20."When I realized that I couldn't even escape teaching in my dreams. My life was so focused on teaching that every night, I had nightmares about it and chest pain from heart palpitations. My heart would constantly race and then stop altogether. Finally, on the last day of Thanksgiving break, I realized I had cried every single day because I didn't want to go back to school. I was so low that I had planned my own suicide to get out of teaching. However, I figured life had to improve if I just quit teaching — even if I'd be another unemployed millennial statistic."
"I lasted 15 months. The only thing that makes me feel a little better about the situation is that the retired cop who replaced me only lasted three months, and he had been an officer in the same city in which I was teaching.
"Now I'm an application coordinator for a large hospital. I help manage the patient charting program we use and fall under the IT umbrella. I had no idea I'd end up where I am, but I'm so happy. I'm still helping people, but in a more indirect way, and it's far less stressful on both my mind and body."
21."I taught high school English for 10 years before finally quitting for the corporate sector. Honestly, it was a lot of small things that built up until I realized it wasn't where I wanted to be. The largest of those was the stifling focus on standardized testing. I lost weeks and weeks to test prep at every grade level. I couldn't teach novels I loved teaching because I ran out of time. And those standardized tests are useless. They do nothing but offer schools a pat on the back for high-performance results — which, mind you, do not transfer to college success. Plus, too many public schools force the idea of college. Why? Is it for the betterment of the kids? Hell no, it just looks good on their graduation statistics. There is nothing wrong with not going to college. I'd tell that to my AP students as much as my kids with low averages. You have a 3.8 GPA and want to be a plumber? Go. You be a plumber. Fuck, you'll make more than the rest of us."
22."Former teacher here. I felt harassed by the administration for not allowing them to cross my boundaries. It was a job, not my life. I would not take things home. I would only work 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. My administration told me I didn't have what it takes to be a teacher because I set my boundaries and kept to them. I'm a 14-year veteran teacher and military veteran."
"I bought a CD and changed vocations. Voilà, my whole life changed. Most administrations will not back any teacher who bucks their school system. This is a fact, not an opinion."
23."In a meeting with other English teachers, an admin said, 'Sixth grade will no longer be reading novels. It's not statistically proven to improve test scores.' If reading doesn't improve testing, your testing is wrong."
24."I was an educator for a decade and left in late 2021. Until I left, I had no idea what the stress had been doing to my body, and I underestimated the impact that the job had on my mental health. You are constantly put into impossible situations with impossible choices and made to feel like no matter how much you're doing, you need to do more. It's nearly impossible to describe the insulting pay, nonexistent work-life balance, and stress levels to people outside the career field."
25."I worked in a high-needs behavior class. I got hit, punched, scratched, and spat on daily, but every day, I went back and did my best for those kids. I was so battered and bruised that my husband wouldn't shop with me anymore because people would stare and sometimes comment to him about mistreating me. It was sickening, but I loved my job and every one of those kids. One day, I was called to the office to talk. It was Christmastime, and things weren't great at home. As anyone with kids knows, the holidays make children especially high-strung, so things were also wild in the classroom. My boss said, 'You seem awfully stressed.' I thought, How nice of her to notice. I agreed and told her I was struggling. She then told me, 'You have six weeks to sort it out or I'll have to let you go.'"
26."Last school year, I was over teaching — just completely over it. I was constantly told, verbatim, I should be willing to die for my students. I was in and out of the hospital from January to April and still working while I was sick (nothing contagious) because I 'had to be there for my kids.' I was miserable. I thought I'd leave education altogether. Over the summer, we moved to Puerto Rico. I'm still teaching, but I love it. The boundaries are so much better here."
"I'm not being gaslighted for not 'loving the kids' enough. Work stays at work. No one emails after 5 p.m. I clock out at 3:30 p.m., and I have an extra planning period. All the work I used to have to take home can get done at work now. I don't feel like I single-handedly need to save every kid in my classroom. Here, the school believes in working with families, and the families support the teachers.
"Are there issues? Absolutely. I don't have internet throughout the building, and I don't have my fancy smart board. Hell, I don't even have electricity in one classroom. But it's so much better than it was."
27."So many things. First, I figured I got paid $9 an hour to handle special needs and the future of our country, and other teachers didn't have it that much better. I also watched an entire class plagiarize an easy essay because they couldn't fathom how to write something original. Another time, I turned in a girl for skipping class, only to have to write a police report on why I didn't call her a stupid bitch and hit her. She never got punished for that. You're going to have to pay teachers a lot more to deal with that crap."
28."I stopped when my annual review with the new program dean focused on the 10% of student reviews that were negative rather than the 90% that were positive. There are too many aggravations working against teachers. At the least, the administration has to have your back."
29."When the corporate job offered me three times the salary and a 12% annual bonus. Now my kids can afford to go to the college where Dad used to teach."
30."Former teacher here. Every day, I used to go to work crying and come home crying. I'd work until 11 p.m. grading and planning, and then I'd wake up at 6 a.m. to start the workday at 7. It feels like you're in a constant battle with students, parents, and administrators. Every single one puts all the blame on you when something goes wrong. When I worked at a public school, students were hungry and victims of homelessness, violence, and drug-addicted parents. They understandably didn't care at all about school and were constantly disruptive to the kids who did. In the end, no one was able to learn anything with all the noise and chaos. And for $485 per week after taxes in one of the most expensive cities in the US? No thanks."
31."I taught seventh- and eighth-grade math and science in two different Title I schools in Texas. Most of the kids were great. They were polite and sweet, and they tried their best. The other 10% and their parents could — and often did — ruin everyone's day. I left after seven years when I was called a bitch one too many times. Support from admin? No way."
"I'm working in another field now and earn more than twice as much with a fraction of the stress, better benefits, and a vastly more civilized and respectful workplace. Teaching is overrated, underfunded, and a political and cultural scapegoat. No one wins."
32."Lunch lady in Minneapolis here. After COVID, the strike, distance learning, social upheaval from the murder of George Floyd, and the dismantling of the school board — yeah, it's all an issue. It's not as if schools were adequately funded before this happened. Education should be a joy, and it is the worst sort of burden here. It's underfunded, disrespected, and not prioritized. Our kids' learning environment is our teachers' working environment."
33."I was sexually harassed by a student, and admin told me there needed to be a pattern of behavior for it to be considered sexual harassment. I definitely got our union involved because it was a fight to have the kid moved to another classroom. I also quit once the school year ended."
"I loved my coworkers and the majority of my students, but I couldn't handle that abuse anymore."
34."Before I tell you the moment when I quit, I'll tell you the moments when I nearly quit. The first time was when a kid with serious mental health issues stabbed another kid with a pencil, and I was told to just keep a better eye on him. The second time was when a parent complained about me, and I was reprimanded without being told the nature of the complaint. The third time was when 16-year-old boys hit on me, and I actually considered going out drinking with them* because I had no social life. However, the moment I decided to quit was when I was hospitalized with exhaustion. My amazing boyfriend — who had been coming over, marking tests, and proofing papers every evening for months — laid down on the cold, hard hospital floor and slept beside me in case I was upset overnight. I realized that I wanted a life with him."
35."I left one school due to being emotionally abused by administrators. I taught a severe special ed class and was written up because my students had 'low muscle tone.' I was also screamed at because my students were not reading on grade level. Lady, I'm sorry, but I'm just trying to get student A to stop beating his head on the floor and spitting on people. I just need student B to learn to use the PECS system. I left midyear and still hate that woman."
36."I am one of the 300,000 teachers who left. After teaching over Zoom for the end of the 2020 school year, I left and have not regretted it one bit. I make less money now, but my stress level has dropped tremendously. It was one of the most rewarding jobs in the world, but the stress and pressure from admin and parents were not worth it."
37."I quit this year. I make less per hour but more per year, which means I don't have to stress about being granted extra summer jobs in order to make up the difference. However, it was the disrespect and harassment from the administration and somewhat by the parents that led me to quit more than the money."
"I'm glad I'm free, and I'm working to find jobs in my new field for my teacher friends."
38."I left teaching in 2017 after getting nonrenewed. I was almost 30 weeks pregnant, and the stress caused me to be hospitalized. It was the best choice of my life. The administration was awful. Though they claimed to support teachers, I was tormented by a 13-year-old thief for nearly a year, and no one helped. I make more money now being a caregiver for my disabled brother and don't have to lose sleep."
39."I'm out at the end of the year, and I'm so freaking grateful that I can't even begin to explain it. If I don’t leave, this is going to kill me. We give everything. Every student gets a part of us, and I wouldn't have it any other way, but the admin, politics, and pressure…I can't do it at the cost of my own mental health anymore."
"Still, I love my kids and speak to many of my former students."
40."One of my new coworkers is a former teacher. After 15 years of teaching high school biology, she decided to quit and change careers when she realized that the staff at Panera were getting paid more than she was. I used to be a biology teacher too. I quit a long time ago because Republican politicians were passing laws requiring biology teachers to say that evolution isn't real."
41."I had a 6-year-old pull a knife on me while screaming, 'I will kill you.' This was the culmination of a lot of various incidents with the same kid. What was most infuriating was that the parents claimed they had the sweetest little boy and we (the school) must be liars for saying otherwise. Eventually he was transferred to a special school after we filed a report on the various incidents. I felt really bad for the kid because when he wasn't freaking out over something, he would be the sweetest guy, asking a ton of questions and participating in the activities. However, he was highly prone to snapping into hysteria. I guess dealing with shitty parents was what made me change my career."
42."I had a student, maybe 11 or 12, sitting with me and having pizza. I asked how her life was going, and she said, 'Well, my dad's a drug dealer, so he's always got people coming over to sell or buy drugs or play cards, so I can't sleep. My mom's dying because she has a hole in her heart, and they can't fix it. And I have a boyfriend, but I'm afraid to tell my mom because she'll tell my dad and he'll beat me.' She said it so normally, like this was everyday stuff. As a mandatory reporter, I went to my dean of students and told him, and he just got irritated and said, 'Yeah, but that doesn't excuse her behavior.'"
43."I taught at a juvenile delinquent school. I knew when accusations from children required no proof or consistency, and being exonerated took divine intervention. A kid with a violent history a mile long swung a stapler at me, gashing my forehead (because he was dared to). I restrained him until help arrived, but 'hurt his wrist.' My school believed his story that I dropped the n-bomb on him, causing the outburst — even though two other staff members saw the entire thing."
44."My classroom seats were set up in a U shape. One day, two 16-year-old kids, who sat facing each other, silently challenged each other to fight while I was in the middle of a lesson. They suddenly jumped up from their chairs and came at each other with 8-inch knives as I stood between them. I was pretty built — I was a stonemason's apprentice in college to help pay my way through — but these kids were both bigger than I was. Without thinking, I grabbed each by their collar and shouted, 'SIT. DOWN.' I didn't start shaking until that evening. I was done a week later."
45."After 23 years, I quit teaching. I miss it very much, but I don't miss the administration, ridiculous policies, or 24-hour stress. We were told to focus on our basic (middle of the road) kids to get them to place as 'proficient' on state testing, and I'd actually get nervous teaching my below-basic students. I am not proud of this, but when I was called out for some of my honest and informative report card comments, I told my principal to fuck off and said that I quit! This came after about three years of absolutely rotten treatment by the district and admin."
"I've had friends cry after the superintendent called them out for a drop in their students' test scores. That day, I simply couldn't take it anymore. I'm very ashamed about how I left, and it's been seven years. I miss teaching terribly.
"My husband also makes a good living, so I am very lucky, as one could never survive on a teacher’s pay alone."
46."It's a lot of pressure, like carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders. Last year, I had a student miss about 75% of the school year. I called her parents all the time and had conferences with them about it, and they even received a court order over it. At the end of the year, this student (of course) showed less progress on her tests (don't get me started on tests), and incredibly, her parents came to fight the school about not doing enough for her. The administration also tried to blame us. Apparently, they wanted me to go to this student's house and bring her to school by myself."
47."I left after three years because I was tired of students cursing me out every day, admin always putting it on teachers to deal with consequences for bad behavior, and parents always backing their kids up (and sometimes cursing me out too). I loved my subject and most of my students, and I genuinely enjoyed educating and empowering kids to learn and find confidence in themselves. However, the handful of students and parents who pretty much abused me just took too much of a toll on my mental and physical health. I recently accepted a mostly remote job in fintech with a $33,000 pay increase, better benefits, and more time off. I'm already getting more support from my manager than I ever did from my admin, and I haven't even started the job yet."
"I left the school saying it was a break, since it was so early in my career, but I’m never going back. The average time teachers stay in the profession has been three to five years too long. The education system needs a huge overhaul, and fast, if they want to mitigate the shortage and keep good teachers."
48."I left 10 years ago. I didn't have any support from my admin or even a classroom (I traveled throughout the day). When I tried to discipline the kids, they just got sent back. The evaluations were also super biased, and to top it all off, I was making $32,000. I switched to retail and have no regrets."
49."I'm a former teacher in the New York City public schools. For three years, I taught at a special ed school for kids ages 4–15. I made $39,000 per year, plus $2,300 in bonuses for working through the summer. We went through seven principals and nine assistant principals because of a gang of teachers who thought it was funny to accuse every new administrator of child abuse. On top of that, there were absolutely no supplies. I wrote grants and spent a ton of my own money. Violence was also extremely high — both student to student and teacher to student. The police and/or the ambulance was there almost every day. Even the parents were often dangerous. We had the same father come into the school with a gun several times. Yes, we had a security guard at the front door. Apparently, that doesn't matter. The guy just walked right in every time."
If you are or were a teacher, did these stories resonate with you? Have you left or are you considering leaving the profession? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.
Dial 988 in the US to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The Trevor Project, which provides help and suicide-prevention resources for LGBTQ youth, is 1-866-488-7386. Find other international suicide helplines at Befrienders Worldwide (befrienders.org).
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.
If you are concerned that a child is experiencing or may be in danger of abuse, you can call or text the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-422-44531-800-422-2253 (4.A.CHILD); service can be provided in over 140 languages.
If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault, you can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE, which routes the caller to their nearest sexual assault service provider. You can also search for your local center here.