How I Lost My Passion For Teaching

How I Lost My Passion For Teaching

I used to love teaching.

I used to be excited about teaching.

I used to be passionate about teaching.
So, what happened? I’m really not sure I can pinpoint the exact reason or situation that made me lose my passion for teaching. I feel like there’s a lot that plays into the reason why “I lost it.” For one, I just finished my 14th year teaching, and I’ve kind of fell into a slump. You know that feeling of doing the same thing – year after year, day after day? I started to feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. I taught third grade for two years, moved to Kindergarten for one year (quickly realized that kindergarten was not for me), moved back to third for one year, and then up to fourth where I’ve been teaching for the past ten years. Somewhere along the way, I lost my passion and energy towards teaching. I think it all started about the time Common Core State Standards were introduced in North Carolina. We were forced to quickly dig into these new and somewhat confusing standards, develop a brand new pacing guide that the whole county of fourth grade teachers could agree upon, come up with engaging and innovative lessons that would bring the Common Core alive in our classrooms, and do all of this with no textbooks, very little sleep, and a smile on our faces. It was hard at times. I did it though, and believe it or not, I did it with passion.
This went on for three years, and during those three years I slowly lost that passion. Parents became a daily problem. Complaints started with the opposition to Common Core. Most parents were automatically against it and very critical of teachers, our school system, and of course, the new curriculum. Since I was in a “tested grade” I watched the stress levels of parents rise. They worried constantly about their child passing the new End-of-Grade North Carolina Ready Test. This went to the point of stressing their own child out, which in turn affected me and my classroom. With anxiety high, parents seemed to literally look for things wrong in education, in the school system, and in my classroom. Their critiques came in all forms and on a variety of social media platforms. I felt as if I was constantly defending myself and teaching in general.
This became exhausting.

Then, I started noticing that many parents no longer supported teachers. Not that they ever really did, but I always had a handful of compassionate and encouraging parents that went above and beyond to support me as their child’s teacher. Over the past few years, I’ve noticed that number dwindle to maybe 1 or 2 parents each year. One thing I’ve learned in my career as a teacher is that your relationship with parents will make or break your year. It became harder and harder to keep parents “happy.” While I tried to teach responsibility; they were teaching their child how to make excuses. While I was teaching the latest Common Core method for solving math problems; they were teaching their child how to complain about why we don’t do math the “old way.” And so on and so forth. It became a vicious cycle. I was hurt one too many times this past year by parents who wanted to work against me instead of with me. I became very defensive when approached by parents about how or why I do what I do in my classroom – to the point where I just didn’t care anymore.

Here’s the bad part. My students noticed. My team noticed. My principal noticed. It was obvious – I had lost it.
I managed to finish the school year ( with a smile on my face. It definitely wasn’t easy, but I left knowing that I had to do something to regain my passion for teaching.
Not long ago, I was scrolling through my Twitter feed when I came across Angela Watson’s tweet about her new book, Unshakeable: 20 ways to enjoy teaching every day…no matter what. 
Well…HELLO!!! Guess what I did?
Yep, I ordered it right away. At the time I was busy ending the school year, and didn’t really have the time to dive into it until recently. One afternoon I grabbed her booked and started reading. Her first chapter hit home hard, and I found myself taking notes because I knew these were things I didn’t always do, but needed to remember to do. I jotted down the following while I read Chapter 1…
  • Be your authentic self. Your personality has a tremendous impact on your classroom, lessons, teaching, and even your students.
  • Be memorable. Watch students connect while giving them a glimpse of the real you.
  • Build rapport on a personal level. This will result in a tremendously strong bond between you and your students.
  • Look for daily life experiences outside of the classroom to enhance your lessons. This will make your instruction more relatable and meaningful for your students.
  • Be your authentic self and don’t fight it. You can’t fake passion. Passion = Energy = Efficiency
  • Figure out what passionate teaching looks like for you.
  • Be a passionate person. Surround yourself with people and influences that inspire you to be a passionate person.
  • Bring energy and enthusiasm into everything you do – inside and outside of the classroom.
  • Re-energize yourself daily! Spend time with loved ones, pursue personal interests, and find a way to take care of YOU each afternoon that’s re-energizing. It will make a tremendous difference in your creativity level, attitude, and productivity the following day.
  • Be aware of and plan to manage not only your time, but also your energy. Each day we wake up with more time, but not always more energy. Figure out how to manage your energy levels even if it means going to bed earlier.

You know how there’s some teachers that just seem to “do it all”? You know, that amazing teacher that seems to have life completely and perfectly balanced? You can probably think of one right now. Angela has the answer to how they do it all in her book. It’s actually a no-brainer, but I’ll let you read her book to find out!

Change can be good, right? I feel like at this point in my life, and in my teaching career, I need a change. So, next year I’m moving to the computer lab as the Instructional Technology Facilitator at my school. When my principal asked me if I’d like to try a new grade level, I didn’t hesitate to say to YES! I hope it’s a good move, and I pray it helps re-energize me and bring back my passion for teaching!

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  1. Oh, Kim – thank you for writing from your heart. I have had the pleasure to work with you for the past 10 years and I have learned so much from you. You are amazing – as a teacher, a colleague, a friend. I have seen you lose your passion this year. But, and more importantly, I have seen you full of passion – and I have seen what amazing results come from that passion. While we are terribly sad about losing you in fourth grade, second grade is getting a great new team member! I cannot wait to see what Kim Miller does in second grade with her renewed passion for what she does best.


  2. Wow! What an excellent post. You are right on the money, and your words struck a chord deep within my heart. I've been a teacher for 22 years, and I, too, have experienced what you described. The past 7-8 years have truly been a challenge and I wonder if it is time for me to exit…. I don't want to. I want to love what I do, and I want to feel supported and loved by my community. Maybe it is time for me to read this book! Thank you for sharing!

  3. This is an amazing post. Thanks for sharing. This year was a challenge for me as well. Between the combination of challenging students and parents as well as politics within my school it was really hard. I am so very glad this year is over and hope to start again in the fall with a rediscovered passion and love for teaching. I hope you have a wonderful transition to second grade. It is my favorite grade! I remember when I interned at your school and I was completely inspired by you and Monica and your whole team! You are a wonderful teacher. Enjoy your summer and wish you all the best in the fall! 🙂

  4. This is such a great post, Kim! I definitely have days where I feel the same way. It seems as if there is always something bringing teachers down whether it be parents, curriculum, fellow teachers, or administration. I hope you enjoy your year in second and that it brings a refreshed state of mind and recharged batteries to keep you going! 🙂

  5. Kim, thanks so much for being so transparent and vulnerable in this post. I think you've said what so, so many teacher (maybe all of us!) feel at one point or another. It's very normal, but it's also a turning point in our careers–will we stay in a job we no longer love and just go through the motions each day? Will we leave the field altogether and find something else? Or will be find a way to get back our passion and motivation?

    I think it's worth at least exploring some ways to love our jobs more before making a career switch (or deciding that teaching is just not fun anymore and resigning ourselves to misery until retirement!) I am looking forward to reading more of your thoughts during the study and I'm excited to have you join us!

  6. I want to reach out and hug you. I love the transparency of your post and honesty. As teachers we are often beat up and unappreciated. I am excited to follow you in your journey and move to a new grade level. I will also require much mentorship in my move to 4th. I don't think many people understand how hard teachers have it and then you add in NC's education issues and it's a can of worms. ((Hugs))

  7. Awe…thank you Monica! You know me well. 🙂 I'll miss you and our team so much. I can't even imagine teaching without you, and still can't believe that I'm actually going to have to. I hope and pray I'm doing the right thing, but more than likely you'll see me again in 4th one day!

    For a Love of Teaching

  8. Shelly – I'm still reading it, and it is great! It definitely opened my eyes to passionate teaching. After teaching several years, the constant demands, pressures and lack of support for teachers can start to weigh on you. I wanted to take a year off, and even considered exiting the teaching profession altogether. I'm giving it another shot though. A fresh start in a new grade level is hopefully just what I need!

    For a Love of Teaching

  9. Thank you Sarah! Hang in there girl! Teaching can be hard and challenging on a daily basis. However, as you already know, it can also be very rewarding! We have those years that we seem to muddle through each day in a fog, and challenging students, parents and politics only make it worse. It's my time to change or get out, so change it is! 🙂 I've heard so many good things about 2nd grade. I can't even begin to tell you how many teachers have told me that 2nd was their favorite! I'm going to miss Monica and our team so much though. I can't even imagine teaching without them. Thank you so much for your sweet words. They mean a lot!

    For a Love of Teaching

  10. Thank you Amanda! Teaching can be emotionally, mentally, and physically draining – put them all together and you have me! 😉 That's how I felt all year. It's definitely time for me to make a change. I hope you're right about 2nd grade, because I could use a refreshed state of mind and recharged batteries! Ha!

    For a Love of Teaching

  11. Thank you Angela! I'm really enjoying reading your book. You have opened my eyes to passionate teaching, and the part about time and energy hit home hard. That's an area I definitely need to work on. I don't want to quit teaching. The daily challenges, demands, and lack of support we often find in our profession starts to weigh on us as the years go by, but I still want to regain that passion and motivation I had so much of when I first started teaching. I can't wait to start the book study in July! I know it will be great and just what I need. You'll read more of my thoughts soon. I'm already working on my next post. 🙂

    For a Love of Teaching

  12. Awe…thank you Summer! (((hugs))) I was so hesitant to post it, and completely amazed at how many teachers have written to me to say…"That's me! I feel the same way!" I'm definitely glad I'm not alone. 🙂 You will love 4th grade! It really is a fun age to teach! Hang in there…and let me know if you need anything. I have 10 years worth of 4th grade stuff! Ha!

    For a Love of Teaching

  13. What a thought-provoking post! I think every teacher out there feels the same at one point in their careers. Your compassion shows through your honesty. If only it was like the good ole days of when we weren't so test driven. We could actually teach AND be creative without anyone asking us to fill out a form or show proof of standard. Students need to enjoy learning again and the pressure needs to go away. Thank you for sharing your thoughts! I especially like how you share your solution to making it better. One of my favorite sayings with students is "Make a wrong a right!" That is exactly what you did! Love to you!

    Rockin Resources

  14. Hello! I am ending my 4th year of teaching 4th grade. I just feel like all the passion I once had is gone. I feel beat down by parents, the system, administration, entitled kids and lack of adequate consequences for misbehavior. I have accepted a GT math position at our intermediate school next year. I am hoping that teaching just one subject, my favorite subject, will help me slow down and really focus on why I decided to become a teacher. In my 5th year I will be on my 4th school!!! I feel like I am always searching for something else, something more! Do you think that could be a sign I am doing the wrong thing with my life? I should add, not that this SHOULD matter, that I am a 36 year old male with a sleeve of tattoos (covered of course), a unique fashion sense, rockin beard (very well manicured)and high expectation. I believe in holding students accountable and all that added together makes me rather unpopular with some parents, which of course causes tension. I just feel stuck. Thank you

  15. I did a search on "regain your love for teaching" because I am in the midst of unit planning for the coming year. It's July 7 and I am beginning to panic. This will be my 17th year teaching. The "parent question" is forefront in my mind. At my first school, a high-tuition private school, parents were mostly very supportive and expected their kids to tow the line. Things have changed. Students have become more resistant and even rude. I have come to believe that preparation will be my salvation. I am praying for the discipline to manage time and energy. I try very hard to take care of myself. As far as energy is concerned, I am also a 50-something white male raising my three-year-old son with a woman who is the most wonderful mother imaginable. They deserve my time and energy! What distracts me? Thoughts of retirement attend me constantly.

  16. Matthew,
    I feel very strongly about holding students accountable! It sounds like you are doing exactly what you were called to do. You just need keep being your authentic self, build relationships with your students and parents from the very start of the year, and continue to focus on what you do best (and now your favorite subject to teach). I wish you the best this year! Hang in there and don't give up!

  17. It sounds like you've moved from a private school to a public school, which is definitely a different environment when it comes to students and parents. I can't stand the lack of parental support I've seen over the past 17 years I've been teaching. Each year it has dwindled more and more. The only advice I can give you is to form relationships with parents at the beginning of the year. Build trust and respect with them from the get-go. Keep your head and standards high. You will get through this. I wish you the best! I hope you have a great year!

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