This blog post has been months in the making. When I decided to resign from my special education teaching position last summer, I knew that I would get a lot of questions. Why did I do it, what am I doing now, what does the pay look like, etc. If you follow me over on Instagram and have watched my stories over the last few years, you know that I try my best to be as open about everything that I can. So here we are! Whether you’re just curious, or are looking to make a change as well, hopefully I can answer some of those questions!
Why I decided to quit my teaching job after 8 years:
This is a big question with some scary truths attached to it, some of which I don’t feel comfortable fully sharing. (But I’ll be as open as I can!)
We’ll start at the beginning. I started my teaching career as a K-2 Autism Teacher in North Carolina where I spent my first 2 years teaching at a year round school. I had no idea what I was doing, and I learned a LOT in those 2 years. Luckily, I had some amazing paraprofessionals that helped guide me. I decided to move back to Ohio in 2012 to be close to friends and family (plus truthfully, NC teachers get paid nothing, there are no unions, no pensions, and year round school was burning me out faster than I knew possible). I got a job back here in the Northeast Ohio area in a good school district teaching K-5 moderate to intensive needs. I spent the last 6 years teaching in this school district. There were many great days, but also many days that I would cry on my plan or on my way home from work. Obviously if you are a special education teacher, you already know, our job is HARD. It is overwhelming, emotionally and physically draining, and often unsupported.
This past school year, my Crohn’s disease was in a full blow flare. Fast forward to March 1st where all of a sudden everything I ate gave me extreme pain, pain that I had never felt before with my chronic illness. My health rapidly declined to the point where I couldn’t eat, could barely walk, and knew something was very wrong. I had some tests done where we found a stricture in my intestine (basically and area of scar tissue/inflammation so bad that it was almost fully obstructed) and it was decided I needed to have surgery ASAP. Things declined so quickly that I decided I needed to stop working until I had surgery, because I could barely function. I was out of work for about 6 weeks (during IEP season! oh hello stress!) and finally went back to work mid-April, doing half days at first. I pushed myself back full time a little faster than I should have because I felt an insane amount of guilt for leaving my paras and kids for so long.
When I got back to work, things were not as I left them. Everything was fine when I left – when I returned, not so much. There were a boat load of issues that were being blamed on me and I think I cried for about a week straight. My health immediately took a huge toll and I was terrified I was going to end up back in the hospital. I couldn’t trust people that I worked with, wasn’t allowed to perform certain aspects of my job, and it was in those days that I knew I needed to make a change.
In my years with this job, I got to know a BCBA from an outside agency that worked with one of my students. I texted her one day in the midst of this, jokingly asking her how much they paid and if she could give me enough hours to make ends meet (I say jokingly, but I also was dead serious). She sat down with me soon after and we decided I’d try out working as an ABA tutor during the month of June and if I liked it, I was going to work as one of her tutors and leave my job. Well – I loved it! The day that I sent that resignation letter was like having a huge weight lifted off my chest. I needed to do something with less stress, where I still got to work with kids with autism, but wouldn’t be put back in the hospital from extreme anxiety and stress taking it’s toll on my Crohn’s disease.
The pros and the cons:
-I work under a BCBA who occasionally observes me, but that’s it. No administration or anyone else to worry about.
-I make my own hours! Right now I just do this part time, and create for TpT during my off time. I chose to not work with any clients before 10am which is A.MAZ.ING.
-If I need to cancel a session because I am not feeling well, have an appointment, etc., I can do it with no issue.
-I don’t come home physically and emotionally exhausted every day. That alone is worth it.
-My health is better because I am not stressed and anxious 24/7.
-I have more time to do what I love. I love creating for TpT. I love reading. I love spending time with my family, friends, and boyfriend. When I was teaching, I was too tired to do any of this. I’d come home from work and lay on the couch staring at the TV or just lay in silence until it was time for bed.
-The pay is hourly, not salary, so if I don’t work, I don’t get paid. This includes if a family cancels on me, if I cancel, if it’s a holiday, etc.
-Taxes are not taken out. To me, this isn’t a big deal, but to many people it might be. When taxes aren’t taken out of your pay, you need to make sure you save money, because you will owe it at tax time. I have no problem doing this, but it’s something to consider!
-There is no health insurance. This was the BIGGEST part of my decision. For someone who has a chronic illness, I have to have good insurance. I pay a LOT of money monthly for healthcare, which is honestly very painful to do. I hate shelling out so much $$ for insurance. I purchased health care from the open marketplace, chose a plan with higher monthly payments but lower deductibles, and pay over 400 per month for healthcare (just for your reference!). Like I said, many people could choose a cheaper plan, but that wasn’t an option for me with my health issues.
Other questions I have received:
Are you a BCBA? What is your certification?
No, I am not a BCBA. To become a BCBA I would have to go back to school and at this time, I have no desire to do that. I just paid off my student loans in April, I don’t want anymore of those, LOL. I am the ABA Tutor and work underneath a BCBA. The BCBA sets up the programs for the children, and I put them into effect. So if a child was working on yes/no questions in their programs, I would be the one to bring materials, teach it, and take data on it. The BCBA graphs and reports all of the data. I do not have a certification – having an education degree and background working with children with autism was all that I needed.
Do you find it hard to work under a BCBA?
Not at all. The BCBA I work with is amazing. I’ve known her since 2012 and she used to come work in my classroom once a week with one of my students, so she knows me and how I do things. 🙂
Do you get benefits?
Like I stated before, there is no health insurance with this company (and I’d assume it’s the same for any ABA company). When I left my job, I gave up all my benefits, including my pension I’d one day receive. I only buy health insurance – I pay for dental out of pocket and same with vision.
Is the pay similar?
Well, this depends how much you make in your teaching job. Ohio teachers make better money than many other states out there (again, that was why I moved back from NC). I took a pay cut when I quit, especially because I do not work full time in ABA. All companies pay differently, and it depends on how much your client’s insurance pays as well. I’ve heard of companies paying anywhere from $25-$35 an hour, it all depends.
Does your caseload fluctuate?
Not really, no. I work with clients for 2 hour sessions multiple days per week, and that schedule stays the same week to week (unless there is a cancellation or holiday). We get e-mails if there are new clients that need hours, and I can choose to take them on or not, it’s totally up to me. I currently work with 3 clients, and am adding a 4th client in the next few weeks.
Are you happier? Will you ever go back?
I can absolutely say I am 100% happier and have no regrets. I hear stories from other teachers of things going on in their school and I breathe a sigh of relief that that isn’t my life anymore. The only thing I miss are my paras (we still talk quite a bit!) and my kids. Will I ever go back? I mean, never say never, buuuuut….I’m 99% sure that I’ll never go back. I love what I am doing now and it’s the perfect job for when I decide to start a family.
I hope this answered some of your questions! If you are thinking of making a change similar to this, just remember that nothing is forever. If you do something different for a year and go back, great! If you leave the field altogether, that’s ok too! You need to do what is right for YOU and your well being. This is the only life we get, and there is no reason to spend it unhappy or in a toxic environment. If you have any other questions for me, feel free to leave them in the comments! I am happy to answer them!