Monday, May 23, 2011

The Decision to Leave Teaching

Well, it's official.  Shelly and I are leaving the teaching profession.  The decision has been in the works for a number of years.  We've been informally planning for this day since we decided to follow Dave Ramsey's plan and pay off our debt.  Paying off that debt is what ultimately gave us the freedom to leave.

We also fostered other sources of income, most based on our running adventures.  The popularity of Barefoot Running University has allowed us to leverage several contracted jobs, the most prominent being Merrell (the outdoor adventure company.)  I helped them develop some educational materials and they are sponsoring our family to travel around the US to educate others on good running form.  It will make for a memorable adventure, and we'll document it here

We were faced with the decision many teachers face on a regular basis.  The future does not look bright at the national, state, or local level.  Funds are being cut.  Pay is decreasing.  Benefits are decreasing.  Long-held staples like tenure and pensions are slowly disappearing.  Online education is gaining a foothold, which will likely cause a dramatic decrease in available teaching jobs.  Class sizes are going up.  Standardized testing in the name of "accountability" is destroying teacher autonomy.  Every teacher faces the decision to stay or go. 

Two factors weighed heavily on our decision.  First, we could no longer justify putting all our eggs in one basket.  The newly-volatile future of public education is NOT something we wanted to rely on.  Second, we realized teachers have some VERY marketable talents that are valuable to a wide range of industries.  Stepping out of the profession would give us several tangibles including:
  • More autonomy- we can fully utilize our strengths as teachers to teach using proven methods.  In short, we can produce maximum effect with minimal work.  We aren't bogged down my top-down curriculum and politics.
  • Better pay- We're no longer at the mercy of a fickle state legislature.  The market will determine our pay, and our ability as teachers gives us a sizable advantage over possible competitors.
  • Long-term security- This used to be a benefit of public education.  It was a reason to become a teacher.  Today, the future of our entire pension plan is in question.  Handling our retirement plan ourselves provides or long-term certainty.
There are other benefits, too, but these are the primary reasons we made this decision.  
Will we eventually go back?  Maybe. Honestly, it depends on where we settle down and the state of the local economy.  There's a lot of uncertainty in public education on a national level.  Teaching as we know it may be disappearing.  We may get involved in education on a different level as I believe there will be a lot of opportunities in the near future.  We'll see.

Until that time, Shelly and I are going to enjoy our new lives as nomadic running bums.  ;-)