Teaching can be tough, right? Please… that’s the understatement of the year. It’s a job that demands a lot of us – long hours, tough students, and limited resources. And sometimes, despite our love for educating and helping our students, we start to feel like it’s time to move on to something new. But we just have no clue what else we can do. After all, you’re just a teacher, right? It’s all you’ve ever known. Nope… absolutely wrong. There is no such thing as “just a teacher.” Teaching isn’t your whole identity, so it’s time to start breaking the I’m just a teacher myth.
Step 1: The mindset to breaking the I’m just a teacher myth
Maybe you’ve had someone say it. Maybe you say it to yourself. However, the truth is there’s no such thing as “just a teacher.” For the last few years, teachers have gone through the range of being superheroes during a pandemic to being just a teacher who needs to give even more to the children. If I’m being honest, I’ve never liked the superhero label for teachers. Now, don’t get me wrong. Teachers are incredible people. But the superhero label implies that we have these extraordinary powers to go beyond normal human powers to solve every problem and rescue everyone.
That’s an impossible task to live up to. And when we can’t live up to it, we feel like we let the world down. Being real… we can’t carry the weight of everything that’s put on our shoulders. And once we realize that and finally decide to leave, our minds go back to the expectation to be superheroes. Then we continue to be stuck in an impossible situation. The cycle of guilt and doubt continues. After all, if we didn’t meet the expectations in the teaching world, what else can we do? Breaking the I’m just a teacher myth is crucial to moving forward to the happy life we deserve.
You don’t stay stuck inside 4 dingy walls that make you dread coming there every day. Don’t be afraid to leave because others will see you as just a teacher. Don’t let fear of failure or guilt keep you from creating the life you want. “The biggest mistake you could ever make is being too afraid to make one.”(Unknown) Changing your mindset is the first step in breaking the I’m just a teacher myth.
Step 2: The action to breaking the I'm just a teacher myth
Here’s the absolute truth that I need you to grasp. You’ve got tons of skills that can be applied to a whole range of different jobs. So the first action step to take to break out of that “just a teacher” mindset is to figure out your transferable skills.
You know, the skills you’ve learned from being a teacher that are useful in other areas of life. Maybe you’re great at communicating, or a pro at solving problems. Perhaps you’re amazing at time management or an expert at analyzing data. Make a list of these skills (it should be a MEGA list), and think about how they could be useful in a new career.
When you’ve identified your transferable skills, start checking out different industries to see where you might fit. Don’t limit yourself to fields that are related to teaching – there are tons of different jobs out there that could benefit from your skill set. If people can have a career making clothing for chickens, you can most certainly find your job.
Be careful not to fall back into the trap of “teaching is all I know.” Teaching is what you do, but what you know how to do from teaching is pretty awesome and valuable. If you get stuck on ideas for new careers, take a career assessment test. Speak with a career counselor to get some inspiration. You can even use AI to help find the right career, as Zach Long points out in this video in the Life After Teaching FB group. It can help to figure out what you’re good at, what you’re not so good at, what you enjoy doing, and what you hate doing. And if you need to simpler way, you can do this quick exercise to help you answer those questions.
Step 3: The way to move forward in breaking the I’m just a teacher myth
Inevitably at some point, you’re going to hit a growth wall. When that happens, you have to figure out why so you can move forward and kick your way through that growth wall. One thing that might be causing the seemingly unsurmountable growth wall is the people you’re around. This is one of the very reasons I stopped going to the teachers’ lounge to eat lunch during my last 3 years of teaching. While I had friends in there, the negativity of all of the crappy stuff going on just weighed me down.
There are so many things wrong with education but constantly focusing on that and not on how to change your life gets YOU nowhere. And if I tried to talk to them about maybe doing something else for a career, it was met with scoffing and doubt. I don’t remember who said this, but it makes so much sense. “When the pain of staying the same is bigger than the risk of stepping out of your comfort zone, that’s when you’ll go.” How true that is! Don’t allow yourself to be pulled back into the negativity. Focus your energy on moving forward and doing what is best for you and your family.
“Don’t watch the clock; do what it does. Keep going.” – (Sam Levenson ) Just keep taking action and moving forward. Don’t allow others to dictate your dreams for you. I guarantee you that if they see you breaking the “I’m just a teacher myth” and being successful a year or two from now, those same people will seek you out to find out how you did it if they want out of the misery.
Instead, surround yourself with positive people. And don’t forget to network! Connect with others who have made the transition from teaching to a new career. Join a professional organization, attend networking events, or get in touch with former colleagues who’ve moved on. Chatting with people who’ve been through the same process can be helpful, and give you the courage to go after your own career goals.
Also, you can start doing new things outside of teaching. Try taking a class or workshop on something you’re interested in, volunteer for a local organization, or start your own side hustle. All of these experiences can help you develop new skills and show you that you’re capable of so much more than just teaching. And before you think…I don’t have time for that, maybe think about setting boundaries so that you will have time for it.
Here’s the takeaway to breaking the I'm just a teacher myth
Remember–your happiness and well-being are just as important as anything else. Sometimes, we feel guilty about wanting to leave teaching because we think it means we’re giving up on our students or our profession. But that’s not true!
You are allowed to pursue your happiness and make a change. “Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your actions.” (- Dalai Lama) It’s never too late to start a new chapter in your life. Remember, teaching is just one part of who you are, and there are so many other things that you can do and be. So don’t feel guilty about wanting to explore new opportunities and follow your passions.
You have the power to create your happiness and success. All it takes is a mindset shift and a willingness to take risks. Embrace the unknown, and don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Believe in yourself, and know that you are capable of achieving great things. Remember, you are more than just a teacher, and you have so much to offer the world! It is way past time for breaking the “I’m just a teacher” myth. It’s time to CRUSH IT and go after what you want!