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You might feel stuck, dear teacher

Updated: Apr 20

But you actually have choices for your career

A cat stuck in a box with its paw and nose sticking out

Stuck. Pigeon-holed. Restricted. Boxed in.

Is this how you feel when you think about a career change?

Welcome to the “teachers who feel trapped” club! It’s a huge club, but it’s not one of those fun clubs you’re excited to join. :(

You’re in this club because you have been led to believe that career change and career choices are for other people. Not teachers.

What if I told you that teachers DO have choices?! That YOU have choices?! And that career change IS possible, if that’s what you decide you want.

I know this is true because I work with teachers who choose to stay in the classroom, choose to switch grades or schools or content area, choose to pursue work outside of the classroom, and choose to accept jobs in non-teaching (even non-education) professions.

There are alternatives to what you’re experiencing as a teacher now, but you might not believe it yet.

Reasons why you feel trapped

Here are some of the reasons why you’re in this “teachers who feel trapped” club (none of which are your fault), and why it's so hard to believe you have career options...

The education system is designed to keep you forever. The pension, the summers off, the decent (in some states) salary, etc...are a nice pair of golden handcuffs that keep you happy enough to stay.

You keep hearing “but you’re such a good teacher” over and over again, and you wonder: “why would I leave something I’m good at?” or “will my students suffer?”

You have a limited view of what kinds of work even exist because you are surrounded by teachers (most of whom teach their entire career) and you have very few examples of teachers taking their skills and experience beyond the classroom.

Other people imply or straight up tell you that there’s nothing else you could do. Colleagues, administrators, and even close friends and family are terrified you’ll leave them, throw a wrench in their own stability, or make them start questioning their own work.

You don’t have a clear picture of your skills and strengths because no PD ever focused on this.

Society doesn’t always highly value your work. In fact it picks it apart pretty hardcore, which doesn’t give you much confidence that you’re doing great things and have a lot to offer.

IT’S NO WONDER YOU FEEL STUCK. Good lord, how could you not? The forces above contract and tighten around you to become legitimate barriers to exploring a career change.

Free. Open. Possibility. Choice.

The good news is that you can start making choices right now.

When you start feeling trapped by everything above, you get to choose how you respond. You can tell yourself one of the following:

  1. "I guess this is just my reality. Teaching is all I can do, and I resign myself to it forever."

  2. "I’m going to stay in the classroom, but I’m going to rebel against it every day by being angry."

  3. "I’m not trapped. I have choices. I can choose to stay, and I'm also free to start exploring my other career possibilities."

I want option number 3 for you. Wouldn’t it be nice to approach your career dissatisfaction from this point of view? To truly believe you have options and to discover what they are?

I'd love to hear what you think!

Share your thoughts in the comments or send me an email at 

  • Do you feel trapped in the classroom? What's the primary culprit making you feel this way?

  • What would it take to help you believe you have a choice about what you do next in your career?


**Free quiz for teachers

Not sure if you want to leave teaching or not? Want help making a more confident choice one way or the other? Take my free quiz, Teachers: Should You Stay or Should You Go?

Or join my email list to learn more about how to get unstuck and explore career possibilities beyond the classroom.

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Val Nelson
Val Nelson
Sep 13, 2023

I love this post. It really captures an experience I've heard about so many times - that stuck feeling for teachers. I started out in teaching but I actually hit the wall early on, and frankly got a bit depressed and confused about what to do with my life. I had wanted to be a teacher for as long as I could remember. It felt like a calling and it felt like I was even good at it. Just couldn't maintain the energy for it. I think my introversion and high sensitivity were factors here. It took me a while to finally see a career counselor, and sorted a few things out in a couple sessions but I didn't stay…

Sep 25, 2023
Replying to

Thank you for sharing about your journey away from teaching, Val. Most of the teachers I meet are really good at their job! But, as you figured out, being good at what you do is just one factor of job satisfication and fulfillment. I'm glad you ultimately found work that aligns with who you are and what feels good!

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