Ready to leave the classroom? Read on.
Years ago I attended a professional development training for teachers. The trainer was discussing the different types of people who become teachers. Some, she explained, enter the professional enthusiastically and with passion. Others become teachers later in life, desiring a career change in a helping profession. Many, however, are what she referred to as “reluctant teachers.”
Yup, that would be me.
I started college with a desire to help others, which naturally led me to pursue a degree in psychology. My mom was a teacher though, and so I ended up taking a lot of education courses. I figured that a double major in psychology and education would give me the chance to “teach for a while” until I figured out my “real” career path. Adorable.
I ended up teaching for ten years.
And while teaching opened up a lot of doors for me, I found the classroom to be a real drain on my soul.
It took me a while to discover that I wasn’t actually stuck there, and that I had developed a lot of applicable skills that I could apply to other roles outside the classroom. And let me tell you, this realization was truly glorious.
No more grading, no more lesson plans, no more angry parent phone calls, no more 5am alarm.
So, if you are looking for ways to leverage your teaching experience and also get out of the classroom immediately, read on.
The realization that I was burnt out on classroom teaching was a tough pill to swallow. I knew I loved helping people and especially students, but I also knew that the classroom teaching thing was wearing me down mentally and emotionally. I even started having weird stress-related symptoms like vertigo and hair-loss. That was really the straw that broke the camel’s back and led me to pursue other opportunities.
Once I decided I was done with teaching, I began applying for anything in the realm of international education, since much of my teaching experience had been international.
The first non-teaching job I landed was as an International Student Advisor working for a large non-profit. They valued my international teaching experience and it was easy to demonstrate how my teaching skills made me an excellent candidate for a student advising role.
Student advising can involve anything from admissions advising, academic advising, personal coaching and much more. I absolutely loved the flexibility of being able to help students reach their goals, without the whole song and dance of creating engaging and informative lessons in the hopes that 100% of my students would enjoy them. The “razzle-dazzle,” as I used to call it.
Advising typically occurs in a one-to-one format, which was also incredibly refreshing. As a person who deeply values building relationships, working with students individually felt like a huge level-up.
Many universities hire ex-teachers to work as advisors, but there are also plenty of non-profit and for-profit companies hiring for these roles as well.
Here are some places to seek out similar opportunities:
NAFSA: Association of International Educators
If you enjoy teaching but are tired of the classroom, tutoring is a great place to turn. As I mentioned previously, I personally enjoy working one-on-one with students, rather than in large groups.
According to Glassdoor, the average salary of private tutors is $48,359. I know many tutors who charge anywhere from $75-$200 per hour, depending on their experience and area of expertise. Chances are, if you’ve had some classroom teaching experience, you have honed certain skills or subject areas. Many high-dollar tutors help students with things such as executive functioning, study skills, math, reading, writing, test-prep, foreign languages etc.
Choose a topic or skill that you feel confident teaching and preferably one that you genuinely enjoy. Finding your own clients is certainly the most lucrative, but if you’re just starting out you can always make a profile on sites like this one, (although I don’t personally have any experience doing this).
The best way to find tutoring clients is through word-of-mouth. You can reach out to other teachers, parents, child psychologists or educators in your network and let them know about your offering. Often times, parents ask for tutoring referrals and many education professionals love having someone good to recommend.
Writing / editing
If you’re a teacher, chances are, you’re also a writer and an editor in some capacity. Maybe you’ve taught writing and helped students edit their writing. Or maybe you teach PE, but you have to find creative ways to write “your child is a gigantic pain in the ass” in a strengths-based and professional way. Whatever the case may be, you most likely have some experience writing and editing that can easily translate into this ever-expanding field.
Writing and editing can easily be turned into freelance gigs or even full-time jobs, depending on your level of commitment and experience.
If you’re not super confident with the more advanced English language and grammar rules, this is a great training to start with. It is an online crash-course in proofreading and editing. If you pass the final test with distinction, (I believe 80%), they guarantee you freelance editing work with Proofed. Taking an editing course will also likely improve your writing skills as well.
I have a dear friend and ex-colleague from my teaching days. She got out of the classroom around the same time I did, but she landed a job as a corporate trainer. Every time we talk now, we laugh about our old lives as teachers and always express mutual gratitude for our new, non-teaching roles.
Training is great for anyone who prefers to work with adults over children. Sometimes this is a natural byproduct of being a classroom teacher for a while. If this is you, know you are in good company.
Some teachers go on to become teacher-trainers and lead professional development workshops. Others go on to become trainers in other capacities not related to teaching. It is easy to see though how teaching skills such as the ability to engage a large group, and the ability to design creative lessons and present material in interesting and effective ways, could be easily applied to professional training. This was certainly the case for my friend.
Counseling / consulting
Saved the best for last, (in my humble opinion), as this is the role I find myself in today. Some people joke that consulting is not a real thing, but from where I sit, it’s actually one of the best ways to leverage previous experience and help others in the process. So many people become educators because they have a genuine desire to help and serve, but quickly realize that this is only one, small aspect of the daily life of a classroom teacher. Consulting is a great way to help people reach their goals. It is also a great role for anyone who enjoys working one-on-one with adults or adult students, and anyone who also desires to be their own boss.
There are many sub-fields that would fall under this category, all with varying education requirements. For example, school counseling is an excellent option if you are willing to go for a masters in counseling.
If, however, you have a masters in education like I do, or even if you just have some relevant experience, you might consider independent educational consulting. This field is a hidden gem and I am SO glad I discovered it.
Independent education consultants often work with students on the college admissions process, but not always. Some consultants work directly with schools or educational institutions to improve the way they function. Others may focus on students applying to graduate schools, therapeutic schools or international students.
The other great thing about this field is that there is room for professionals with different backgrounds and areas of interest. For example, I love helping students with their college essays and I also love using mindfulness in my everyday life. This led me to create a Mindful Essay Writing course that I offer to students as part of my consulting business. I also love to work one-on-one with international students to help them reach their college admissions goals. There’s a niche for that as well.
If you are interested in giving educational consulting a go, I highly recommend checking out IECA — Independent Educational Consultants Association. This is an incredible resource for anyone entering this field. Not only do they offer student and associate memberships, but with the membership comes access to a highly engaged, collegiate and supportive network of like-minded professionals. I’ve never been in any professional organization like it.
Another niche to consider is career consulting. Similar to educational consulting, but you are helping clients gain clarity about their career path and how to accomplish their career goals. There are plenty of ways to add this to your repertoire, even if you don't want to get a master's in counseling. I highly recommend joining NCDA - National Career Development Association. They offer a 12-week long course entitled "Facilitating Career Development" that leads to becoming a Certified Career Services Professional.
Please know that if you are a teacher, even a new one, who feels a burning desire to never to return to the classroom, you are not alone. There are plenty of opportunities out there to apply the skills you’ve built and do work that lights you up, rather than leaves you drained. If this is you, just know that you are not alone, and you’ve got this.