Thinking of Quitting Secondary Ed English as a Junior

Hello everyone,

I got into secondary education because I love literature, I love helping people, and I love getting people excited about reading. But one semester into the program, I am in abject misery. I count down the minutes until I get to leave my placement and I spend the whole time panicking. I can’t connect with the kids or with my coop teacher. My methods classes are completely miserable.

I’m thinking about being a youth or kids’ librarian instead. I would graduate as an English major and have to do two years of grad school, which, given my anxiety, is a pretty daunting prospect-but not as daunting as trying to force myself through student teaching when I hate every second of it. This summer, I am going to shadow some librarians and see what their day to day lives are like.

I want to quit the program this summer, and I haven’t mostly because my parents and grandmother are helping me pay for college and don’t want me to quit. Any advice?

Teaching is an incredibly hard profession, and the drop out rate for teachers is high. It sounds like you recognized early that it’s not a good fit for you. I think it’s great that you recognized that now. There’s no shame in that. Library science is a good alternative, though it can be competitive. Shadowing a librarian seems like a good idea. Also, think about archival work, digitization, and other aspects of library science that may require less of you emotionally but still serve the world.

I just hope I can get some clarity. I think if I realize I like library science, I’ll feel a lot better about quitting.

Library science is a great profession for English majors - though I did not major in English in college (I majored in music and am now in a coordinated MLIS and MM program), I know of several English majors who went on to library school. You should definitely shadow a librarian or getting a job at your school’s library or your local library (if at all possible).

My D was, according to every teacher and professor she ever had, a natural born teacher. She earned her masters in sped and then lasted one year in the classroom. She now teaches teachers.

As for you, if you know already that it’s not for you, talk to your parents and cut your losses. My friend’s D lasted 2 years in the classroom and then got a master’s in library science. For the past few years, she has worked as a school librarian at a special ed school. She really enjoys it. just bear in mind that it might not be what you think. I have a friend who went back to school to become a librarian and quit two months into the course because it wasn’t what she envisioned.

Good luck.

Well, first, I want to encourage you to hold on a moment.

Many teachers struggle mightily in their first year. It’s pretty much a meme. That’s because all of the stuff they teach you in class is mostly theoretical stuff. The real skills - how to manage a classroom, connect with the children, work with your coworkers - that happens on the ground. Few people just immediately ‘click’. There are tons of stories out there from teachers (especially TFA teachers, but even those who went the traditional route) who struggled in the beginning, but once they got past the initial struggle, really blossomed and grew to love their teaching.

So my question for you is: do you think your bad experience is indicative of a total lack of love for teaching, or simply one bad experience? Is it possible that you’re in the wrong type of classroom or were paired with a co-op teacher that wasn’t a good fit for you? Do you have any other experiences with being in the classroom that you could draw on? Is your anxiety well-managed, or is that interfering with your ability to really connect the way you want to?

It may well be that teaching isn’t for you, and that library science is the field for you. I encourage you to go ahead and explore it! But I’d also say to reflect on your experience in the classroom and try to figure out what went wrong and whether that’s really a strong indication that you should leave teaching altogether.

What about finishing your degree and getting your master in literacy? That way you would be certified to teach reading K-12. You would be highly employable. I’m guessing you might not be interested teaching struggling readers so you would need to tailor your education and experience toward gifted learners. I think you might find what you are looking for in high achieving suburban or private schools. You may be able to find students who love literature as much as you do or who you could bring to loving literature.