Monday, February 2, 2009

52 Teachers, 52 Lessons #4: Sometimes Quitting Is The Best Thing You Can Do!

This week's entry comes from one of my favorite bloggers, Joel of So You Want to Teach?, who has been keeping track of this project on his site:

Sometimes Quitting Is The Best Thing You Can Do!

Without a doubt, 9 Reasons To Quit Teaching (And 10 Reasons To Stick) is the most popular blog post I have ever written. I ask myself why that might be, but then I look and realize that much of the blog traffic comes to me from people looking to quit teaching.

I hope in this post to be able to clarify for you some of the best reasons to not quit teaching. But first, let's look at quitting from a different standpoint than perhaps we have considered before.

Quitters never win? Au contraire
The old school adage is that quitters never win. Unfortunately, that trite saying is too simplistic. Sometimes quitters are the only ones who win. Consider these examples:
  • In an auction, the one who doesn't quit often ends up with an overpriced item.
  • The boy who doesn't quit pursuing an uninterested girl often wastes a lot of time, burns bridges, misses out on other opportunities, and alienates the girl and her friends in the
  • In Vegas, the woman who quits while she is ahead is rare indeed. Usually people win and then squander most or all of their winnings trying to hit the jackpot again.
So as we can see from these examples, there are certain situations where quitting is simply the best choice. But what about in the teaching profession? Is quitting always the best choice? No way. But is quitting sometimes the best choice? Undoubtedly!

Quitters sometimes win?
Now we're getting the hang of things. Quitters sometimes win. Not always, but sometimes. The challenge is to distinguish the time for quitting from the time for sticking. So how do you know? It ultimately boils down to weighing the pros and cons. Standard advice when faced with a choice to quit or not. But sometimes we need to quit even when we don't think we do.

The longer we hold onto a sinking ship, the more dire our situation becomes.

Did you get that? That's huge. Let's look at another -- more involved -- real world imaginary example.

Imagine you have $100,000 invested in a good solid growth stock mutual fund with a long-term proven track record. Most financial advisors would be totally cool with that. But then imagine you also owe $100,000 on your house. Seems okay. But wait, if we look at it from another perspective, we can ask if you had your house paid off, would you take out a mortgage to invest in mutual funds? Most people would say no. It's the same situation, just turned around.

So you wake up one morning in early October 2008 and realize it's time to cash in, get out of debt, and free up your income to do nothing but build wealth instead of making payments to the bank each month. So you go out and sell your mutual funds, and pay off the house.

Then the second week of October happens, and the market falls. And falls. And falls. If you hadn't looked at your situation when you did, you might still be sitting there with $100,000 in the mortgage, and only $65,000 invested.

So ummm, I don't get it, how can I apply this in my classroom?
The thing is this:

Just because a situation looks good, that doesn't mean there is security.

Fear not, though. The inverse is also true.

Just because a situation seems dire, that doesn't mean it is insecure.

You have to really dig in and look at the situation a lot before making any decision.

So how can this make me a better teacher again?
Great question. Let's discuss it in the comments! I'll start off:
  • Sometimes our classroom management philosophy is convoluted and needs to be reexamined.
  • Sometimes what we've always done before doesn't fit the specific group of students we see before us. We need to modify.
  • Sometimes we need to relax on our rules a little bit.
  • Sometimes a different school (or a different subject, or a different state, or a different country) is exactly what we need to thrive.
  • Sometimes we do need to quit teaching. There are some valid reasons as well as some invalid reasons.
Read more about this project here or add the 52 teachers 52 lessons tag to your favorites. Email your entries to teachforeverATgmailDOTcom. Week 5 will be posted next Monday, February 9th.