“I am better now than I have been in my livable memory.”
A former teacher went viral after sharing how she felt leaving the education field, and it may not be what you expect to hear.
I used to be a teacher and now I work at Costco. This is my first year not having a winter break. I do not miss it at all. My pace of my work life now is so much better, I am not sick or exhausted like I used to be when I was a teacher. When I was a teacher I used my winter break basically to recover and go into the next semester of just surviving. fformerteachertteacherquittokccostcotiktokrretailworkereexteachertiktokccareertransitiont#teachersonbreak
In a TikTok that now has 4.2 million views, Maggie Perkins, who goes by @millenialmsfrizz on the platform, reflects on her post-teacher life. “I used to be a teacher, now I work at Costco,” she said in the clip. “This is my first year not having a winter break, and how do I feel? I feel great.”
“I just worked 7 days straight including Christmas Eve, and I feel fine. When I was a teacher, it was like I was just surviving every moment, and by the time I got to Christmas break I was so exhausted that I was literally sick. So, yeah, it feels pretty good to not be a teacher at this time.”
Many people shared similar experiences in the comments. One former teacher expressed support for Maggie’s decision to leave the field.
Someone else noticed that similarly to Maggie, their energy levels improved drastically after changing jobs.
Many others concurred, expressing that they feel better now than they did working as an educator.
And they aren’t the only ones who said goodbye to the classroom — more than 300,000 teachers left their jobs in between February 2020 and March 2022, according to the Wall Street Journal. It’s clear that the profession comes with many challenges, which are leaving educators no choice but to leave their jobs.
To learn a little more about the state of teaching right now, BuzzFeed spoke with Maggie to hear more about her experience leaving the field.
“I was a teacher for 8 years. This is my first year not teaching. I taught 6th grade ELA and social studies, [and] high school history,” told BuzzFeed. While teaching, she was also a full-time PhD student and teacher’s assistant at the University of Georgia. Now, Maggie works in the membership department at Costco.
“I finally left teaching because I ran out of reasons to stay. I began to see that I had no boundaries, and when I established boundaries I experienced intense gaslighting to coerce me to stay and be overworked,” she added.
“I left because I realized that conditions in education are getting worse, with no signs that they will get better any time soon. I left because my success as an educator was measured by how well I ignored systemic issues, how compliant I was, and how much trauma I could endure while smiling and doing it ‘for the kids.'”
Maggie noted that the main difference she sees between her current and former jobs is the way each employer respected her time and boundaries. “At Costco, I am able to walk away from my job after clocking out. Even if a member is unhappy, I am not going to be emailed by them, harassed by them or pressured to do something unethical to appease them,” she said. “As a teacher I was under constant pressure from parents and administrators, and was anxious all the time.”
Unfortunately, Maggie is not alone in feeling this way. A June 2022 Gallup poll revealed that K-12 teachers experience the highest rates of burnout compared to any other job in the US.
Interestingly, though, Maggie has noticed that some people become pretty uncomfortable when she reflects on how much happier she is now that she’s not working at a school. In the TikTok shown below, she reflects a little on why she thinks people react this way.
“It’s disruptive for people to see me happy in my career at Costco because it defies their idea of a servant — a teacher who gives their whole self to the classroom and to the students,” she said in the clip. “It makes people uncomfortable that I can walk away from draining myself and be happier in a job — that for them — has less merit.”
With more and more educators throwing in the towel, it’s clear that the American education system is in desperate need of change in order to keep teachers from turning away from their jobs. According to a survey from the Center for American Progress, a few ways that school districts can improve teacher retention rates are by offering competitive pay, providing opportunities for professional development, and prioritizing diversity and inclusion in recruiting processes.
However, that’s not to say that people who are unhappy in their current situations should wait around for things to change. People can take inspiration from Maggie, who gave what they could to education and decided they wanted to leave.
Maggie thinks it may be hard for others who are unhappy in their position to walk away because they may “deeply underestimate their skills and value.” She’d like to encourage others to remember how valuable their skills and contributions are beyond the classroom. “You are worth it,” she said. “The guilt and the shame that you might be feeling is a lie that is told to you in order to save a sinking ship, and they are willing to let you drown with it. Start taking the steps to make a change. You are not alone.”
What do you think? Are you a teacher with a relatable experience, or a friend of one who feels like this? Let me know in the comments!