Ever wanted to leave teaching?

Well, if you have, you’re not alone. Daniel Willingham on Britannica blog has a list of 10 famous people who left teaching to do great things. Not that they left teaching with the aim of becoming famous – you know what I mean; they left teaching and ended up doing great things. Still, I wonder if it’s worth leaving in case greatness follows? What I actually think is that amongst teachers there are some outstanding and extremely talented people.

D H Lawrence

Anyway, here’s the list of people (think about which one sounds a little like you):

The US president, John Adams; Alexander Graham Bell, who taught at a school for the deaf; Gail Borden who invented evaporated milk; the anti-slavery activist Levi Coffin; the American poet, Robert Frost; Andy Griffith of the Andy Griffith Show; the American president Lyndon B Johnson; the poet D H Lawrence; Gene Simmons of the rock band Kiss (who was reportedly fired for, amongst other things, replacing Shakespeare with Spiderman comics); and Carter G Woodson, who was was an essential figure in bringing Black history academic credibility as well as popularity.

Gene Symmons

Why are there no women in this list? Are there no women who have left teaching and achieved greatness? Have we all stayed to instil greatness into our students?

4 thoughts on “Ever wanted to leave teaching?”

  1. Thanks for that, Ian. Btw, great blog. Pictures of Germany in snow made me nostalgic, and thinking of quitting teaching to travel (‘Reise bildet’). I survived the rat poison commercial.

  2. It works the other way round too…

    It’s interesting when you start talking to them, just how many really outstanding teachers have at some point in their lives done something other than teach. Over the years I’ve met many teachers that just “stand out” as having something special about them. In nearly every instance, they came from a non-teaching background prior to retraining as a teacher, or had left teaching to do something else before coming back, or they somehow manage to moonlight a second job on top of their teaching career. In each case, their “real world” experience outside the classroom give them a noticeable edge.

    It would be an interesting thing to survey. I really do believe that doing something else outside of teaching makes a huge difference to how you view the dynamics inside the classroom. I think it also gives you flexibility, tolerance, high standards and a realistic outlook.

    And those (surprisingly many) teachers who do their first teaching prac at the school they attended as a student, before being offered a job there and working there for the rest of their teaching “career”… don’t even get me started on what’s wrong with that!

  3. What you say makes a lot of sense, Chris. Actually, I think that diversity of experience helps everyone in any job or role. Teachers often feel stuck after a while but may feel they can’t do anything else. Some are afraid to change schools, or just somehow find reasons to stay. It would be good if teachers had more flexibility, and the time to think or reflect. Most of the time it’s on with the job and just get everything done. Thanks for you comment.

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