14396077993_9269de7b29_bAccording to recent studies, nearly 40% of new teachers leave the classroom after three years. I’m not surprised by that number because that was my path.

I was teaching two subjects to two middle school grade levels, and putting in 60+ hour work weeks in a portable classroom with a leaky air conditioner. Parents yelled at me for giving their children homework, administrators denied my plans to bring in guest speakers, and a student kicked a hole in my wall. I was 24 years old, and after three years of anxiety in the trenches, I wasn’t sure I could do it forever.

In this way, I think education is like any career. How many college graduates are expected to stay in their first job for the rest of their lives?

I gave myself a quarter-life “sabbatical,” a year of worldwide backpacking in the most clichéd possible way. And then I found my way back.

Now in my fourth year in the classroom, I am planning on my fifth and sixth. This is rare, I think, because education is different from most careers in that any change in job title means an extreme change in responsibility. Most promotions take teachers out of the classroom, which inflates the very number cited above.  We do leave the classroom, but often to take a role as a school leader, counselor, or policy maker.

I am staying in the classroom because the work is hard and incredibly rewarding. I am staying because I have the privilege of shaping citizens in my middle school social studies class, and my long days are never repetitive and always intellectually stimulating. I am staying because I love seeing my students every day and building relationships that matter. I am staying because now I plan field trips to courthouses and colleges, and recently had the privilege of seeing the student who kicked the hole in my wall graduate early from high school and become a Nurse Assistant.

I am staying because I want to be a constant in an ever-changing world. And even though I am 26 years old, I think I just might like digging deep, pursuing the course of some resistance and infinite meaning.

To read more about making the decision to stay in the classroom or pursue other dreams, please read Should I Stay or Should I Go?.