I quit teaching in the middle of the school year because I was having panic attacks. I loved my job, but I didn't feel safe and prioritized.
- Beth, 31, is a former middle-school teacher in Texas who left her job in 2020.
- She knew she had to leave when she began having anxiety and crying a lot.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Beth, a 31-year-old former middle-school teacher in Texas who asked to use only her first name to protect professional relationships. Her identity and employment have been verified by Insider. The following has been edited for length and clarity.
I was drawn to
It wasn't for me. I loved creating a curriculum, but teaching at the elementary level was exhausting. So I moved on to older grades (fifth through eighth), and I loved it. I was in my second year of teaching middle school when the pandemic hit.
I absolutely love teaching and still do. But even before the pandemic, I realized there were problems with teaching in public
I spent hundreds of dollars a year as a teacher — on art supplies, notebooks, pencils, supplies for party days, snacks to give kids before the bus picked them up, prizes such as stickers and other small rewards, and more — and that's common among nonunionized
When the pandemic began, expectations about teaching were unclear and changed daily. But I took on digital learning as an exciting, new challenge.
We met many times as a campus online. People were still in the phase of trying to be funny with their Zoom backgrounds.
I hosted a Zoom meeting for one of my class periods, and almost 50 students showed up. It was chaos. I had to tell one of my students to put a shirt on.
I was already familiar with Zoom and quickly learned any new strategies for digital learning by watching YouTube videos about how to use Zoom and other platforms the school had adopted.
But many of my peers were stressed and overwhelmed with the change. Some teachers struggled with basic technology, such as adding an attachment to an email, so you can imagine that this was beyond their wheelhouse.
Summer 2020, I was nervous
Our school district had no plans to postpone the start of school in August or to start digitally. I started panicking when the numbers were bad. It didn't make sense to me.
I had strong anxiety episodes and also got depressed. My biggest fear was that I would bring COVID-19 to my parents, at whose house I dropped off my son every day that year.
I assumed, falsely, that our district would make the "right" decision to postpone school or start digitally, and that this announcement would come at the last second, as it had at spring break. That's why I didn't quit during the summer.
We started the school year in August in person with a small percentage of kids online. It was a complete mess.
On the first day of school, one of the elementary campuses lost internet connection. Along with one other adult, I had gym duty every morning. This consisted of socially distancing an entire campus of children — more than 200 preteens — on bleachers and enforcing mask-wearing.
By this time, COVID-19 had political implications, so many children fought against masks because of what their parents said.
The state of Texas gives you five paid personal-leave days a year (the days can accrue). After you've used all of your paid personal-leave days, you have to pay for them. My husband ended up using all of his paid leave days because our children's daycare shut down.
We also had a hard time at first with school buses because of shortages. I remember one day in particular, we waited almost an hour and a half after school for a bus to pick up students. After the first couple of days, buses arrived in a more timely manner.
I started having panic attacks, at home and at school
I was crying a lot. Other people were stressed, but the hardest part was that the higher-ups wanted to act like it was a normal school year.
I picked up my daughter — then 4 years old — from daycare one day, and she was in tears. Apparently, she had a meltdown at daycare, and her teacher threatened her with a trip to the principal's office. I saw then that she was struggling just as much as I was.
I decided then and there to quit. I went in the next day to the assistant superintendent's office and resigned. When you break your contract, there's a possibility that the district will revoke your certification so that you can't teach again. I realized this but went ahead and resigned on the grounds that I was afraid of exposing my parents. They didn't revoke my certification.
I faced a lot of resentment from other teachers. It was like I was being selfish and hyperanxious about the pandemic. Teachers can have a huge amount of guilt when leaving the classroom, because the students need them. Despite this, I stand by my decision to quit.
I've left teaching in public schools for good because I've seen firsthand that teacher safety isn't prioritized
I was already concerned with gun violence in schools before the pandemic hit. I refuse to die for my job — whether it's from a bullet or a virus.
Finances were definitely a huge concern when I stopped teaching. But I was so worried about our health — and my mental health was deteriorating so fast — that I was willing to take the leap.
My husband and I both withdrew money from our retirement savings to help bridge the gap between paychecks, and we sold one of our cars to pay off debt. I work part-time jobs to pay the bills while building up The Travel Fam, a blogging business that I started, and creating educational resources for homeschoolers.
At the end of 2020, I took a seasonal part-time supervisor position at UPS. This provided me with insurance and a small income while I figured out my next step.
I was offered a permanent position at UPS as a health and safety supervisor after the holidays and accepted it. I worked all of 2021 for UPS while writing for my blogs and preparing to make that a permanent job. In January, I left UPS, and now I blog full time.
I've floundered a bit as a blogger. But I've found a coach, and I'm taking lessons from her and using her SEO strategies to build traffic.
I've already seen some success on my blog, and I'm excited about working for myself.
I love to research, so I spend a lot of time reading and watching videos from people who are successful in blogging. I'm excited to continue sharing my experience with other teachers and homeschooling parents.
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