The Great Teacher Resignation

Quiet Quitting (Healthy Boundaries)

November 09, 2022 Alexandra Simon & JoDee Scissors Season 1 Episode 34
The Great Teacher Resignation
Quiet Quitting (Healthy Boundaries)
Show Notes Transcript

Today, Ali and JoDee are joined by former educator, Ph.D. student, and educator advocate, Maggie Perkins. Together, they will discuss quiet quitting as an educator, creating healthy personal and professional boundaries, and shifting what “normal” looks like for teachers. 

Connect with Maggie:


Podcast: Bad Teachers Club

Connect with Ali and JoDee:
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For episode transcriptions visit:

Ali  0:00  
All teachers are natural innovators, entertainers and problem solvers. They dream of growing old into the profession, teaching their kids kids. But sometimes career goals shift or change, and that makes opportunities outside of the classroom seem intangible questioning who am I, if I'm not a teacher? I'm your host, Alexandra Simon.

JoDee  0:31  
And I'm your co host, JoDee Scissors.

Ali  0:34  
This is The Great Teacher Resignation.

Today, we're joined by Maggie Perkins. Maggie is a former teacher, PhD student and educator advocate. After eight years of classroom instruction, she transitioned out, but uses TikTok to advocate for teacher needs in a rapidly declining educational landscape. Welcome to the show today, Maggie.

Maggie  1:02  
Hi, thank you. Glad to be here.

JoDee  1:04  
Glad you're here with us today. Ali and I've had a lot of conversations about you because she sent me the article featuring quiet quitting. And we're always trying to stay on top of current news, real time things that are happening in education and your article really resonated with us.

Maggie  1:21  
Yeah, that was not something I planned on being a big thing. Were a big part of my life. But like it kind of became that way. I was just scrolling TikTok like, and I'm somewhat on like corporate girly TikTok, I don't know how the "for you" page put me there, but it did. And so I've seen people talking about the corporate sense of quiet quitting. And then just my brain made a connection to healthy boundaries as an educator. And so I just like, popped off a quick video about the connections I saw. And it went viral pretty quickly. And I mean, in that video, I wasn't wearing any makeup, I was not like rehearsed at all, I was not planning for that to be like a video that a lot of people saw. But then something about that intersection between business and educators having like a similarly shared feeling, really took it into the media. And I ended up doing like seven or eight interviews about quiet quitting as an educator.

Ali  2:13  
Well, I would just say that that is a perfect example of how using social media can really leverage the voice of educators because I think they were largely left out of that kind of quiet quitting space. It was definitely more business at first, like different professions. And I agree, I can totally see the connection between educators and the idea of quiet quitting. So I don't know if you just want to tell us a little bit about how you began that quiet quitting when you were working in the classroom?

Unknown Speaker  2:45  
Yeah, absolutely. It really started for me in 2018, which is when I had my first daughter. And before that I had been the teacher who was, you know, the first one in the building, the last one out of the building. I was at all the events. I was working 60 hour weeks. And I loved it. I really enjoy doing it. But I was able to overextend myself because I didn't have children. And I also didn't have like boundaries. And so when I had my first daughter, if I didn't leave school, like the moment my bus duty ended, I would be fined, you know, by my daycare for picking her up late. And so it forced me to leave on time at least, but I was still taking work home. And I was still overextending myself. But it at least began for me this journey of like weaning myself off of this, you know, blurred line between home and work. And so I would leave on time, and then I would, you know, get my kid, I would get home, do bedtime, all that. And then I would stay up late grading papers and planning, but did at least have a line drawn between the two worlds at that point. And over the next three or four years, I continued to wean myself off of that, and eventually stopped taking work home and then eventually stopped coming early. And then eventually, you know, all these things began to fall into place where I was able to develop a boundary between work and life.

JoDee  3:57  
You're bringing up two different boundaries to, where there's like this time boundary, like you need personal time, you need family time, but there's also a financial boundary as well. And that's something I found when I was teaching or even currently now, is that if I want to go volunteer my time, that means that the hours that I'm away, let's just go say I'm volunteering at an event and it's going to be a six hour event. Well, where I live in the city, we pay our babysitter's 25 to $30 an hour. So that means like, yes, my time is being volunteered, but it is costing me to volunteer if I don't have a family member or my spouse here to help with childcare. And so that was the same when I was in the classroom. If I picked my daughter up late from her aftercare, I think it was $1 every minute. So there are consequences for teachers having to stay late or rush. So yeah, there are boundaries you have to set in both of those ways.

Ali  4:56  
Yeah, I really think that this is a common theme that comes up especially with female educators. You know, in the beginning of our careers, we don't yet have children sometimes and were maybe not coupled or married. And that really allows us a little bit more flexibility to do extras right? To take on other activities after school, to stay late grade papers. And it kind of creates this really unhealthy space and unhealthy boundaries for us that later on, we have to end up pivoting once we become parents, because it's unrealistic. Honestly, it's unrealistic to do even before you're a parent, for mental health, and just really for longevity. There's only so long that you can push yourself to that limit where you're working 12 plus hour days. And so I think we do it because we love what we do. And we're so passionate, we're so excited. And also, that's what everybody else did. That's what our mentors are telling us. This is what they do. And so, I almost feel like this quiet quitting could actually be a shift in culture, if we can get more people on board and just say, what are healthy boundaries for educators? Like, what can we do to really shift what normal looks like for teachers?

Maggie  6:14  
Yeah, absolutely. I definitely agree. And I think it's really important that you also included, it shouldn't matter whether or not you have children. Because I see this like value added to the validity of why does the teacher need to leave on time. So if I'm leaving on time to go get my kid, my principals like, she's fine, she could pick up her kid. I heard that all the time. But then, you know, if Mr. Jackson down the hallway, he's you know, 25, has no kids, and has no girlfriend. Oh, but Mr. Jackson can stay. Maybe Mr. Jackson wants to go hiking. Maybe he wants to just go home and take a nap. Maybe he wants to do anything with his own time. And that is valid. And he should be able to do that. We shouldn't have to literally have children in order for our personal lives to be respected. And I tried to say that as much as I can, in any space that I can. Because as a female dominated profession, like in a lot of people become teachers, because they want to keep up with their own kids like school schedule as well. That shouldn't be the only reason that we get validity or recognized for leaving.

JoDee  7:12  
You're absolutely right. And thanks for advocating for everybody. You shouldn't have to have a family to have your time for yourself, to have a healthy balance. And that's so true. If you have a family or not, or you're young, or you're tenured, whatever it is, you deserve a balance. And I think that starts with administration, setting those healthy boundaries. You shouldn't have to ask the new teachers all the time to get involved in everything. It's not okay. You're not going to retain them for a long time if you, if you burn them out in those first years. And I know my last district, like new teachers, they were committed to three years. You had to commit to three years. You could take a sabbatical in those if you needed it, but you had to fulfill your contract or you were fined basically. So I think that's great that you're advocating on both sides. And you seem to use TikTok to advocate. And so, I want to read a quote that you had said on TikTok. You said, "A year ago, I was overwhelmed, burnt out, living on fumes and prescriptions. A shell of myself." That was intense. So when did you know it was time to to get to the point where you were burnout, and you were having to use supplements to help you function? You know, what was that turning point for you?

Maggie  8:35  
I don't have an all at once moment. But it was sort of like when I was becoming unrecognizable and unhappy. I think for a while I was letting myself be unhappy. And then I would also let myself be like, Oh, this is a bad week, or it'll get better after a break. But then once I realized that this is how it is, and it's not going to get better than I was like we need to get out. And so for me, I have this like policy with myself where I have to pay attention to the red flags, and kind of be like, if in hindsight, if all these conditions of my job had been on the contract, had been part of the job description, would I have signed the contract? If the answer is no, then it's time for me to be out. So if I had known then that I would be doing two clubs, coming in early, staying late, responding to emails at 11 o'clock at night, you know, getting icky comments from my administrators, if those types of things had been on an honest job description, I wouldn't have signed the contract. So I was like, for those reasons, I'm out like Shark Tank. For those reasons I am out. I mean, I was taking a lot of prescriptions because I kept thinking that I have anxiety because I have anxiety. Turns out it was my job. So I was taking an anxiety medication. I wasn't sleeping well because of the stress of the job, of the emails, of the constant pressure. So I was taking a sleeping supplement. And sometimes it was a supplement. Sometimes it was a prescription. And I was taking ADHD medication. I do have ADHD, but I no longer take medication for it because the type of environment that I was in required that next level of support. And like I am pro medication. If you need to take something, I think you should take it. And at one point, I was on antidepressant as well, like I was taking so many things and consuming so much caffeine. Like there was just no limit to what I was trying to do to shove my body through this experience, and never stopped to be like, Oh, it's the environment that I'm in. It's not me. It's the environment that I'm in. And I had terrible migraines. It was just like, the list went on and on and on. And finally, I was just like, this is really messed up, and I gotta get out. And so I did. And I'm really happy now.

Ali  10:36  
JoDee you have a similar experience. Tell us about your experience. It really reminds me a lot of Maggie's.

JoDee  10:42  
Yeah, so I was getting really terrible headaches, and I wasn't able to sleep. And when I saw my doctor, the first thing he did was ask, what do you do for a living? And you know what his response was, I get a lot of patients like you. And that was almost like a shot to the heart. Because he was talking about my profession, you know, I'm like, super defensive about my profession. And I thought why, like, That can't be true. This is me. This is like, genetic, this is just who I am. I'm a person who can't turn my brain off. And he's like, No. And so I had to start journaling everyday, how I was feeling, what I was eating, what I was thinking about. And it came back to work. And that's where there was just like a huge rapid decline of grief that I felt. This loss of my career and who I was and what was next for me. And it felt like a death that you're anticipating happening. And it's just got like a feeling that's all at once. It was just snowballing until I could pick myself up to make a decision to make a change. And so I can feel you on that. Today, right now, I do not need anything to help me sleep. I do not need anything to help me reduce my stress. I have moments. Yes. And to be honest with you, when I transitioned, it went away. And I was like, I wasn't even anticipating it. I was like it's gone. It was so strange. 

Maggie  12:16  
What I really appreciate about the internet is that it allows us to connect with other teachers, no matter where they are in the world, and see people who are ahead of you in your journey. And then also be connected with people who are like getting that, that feeling that, that I'm going to leave soon. I don't know when it's going to be but it's going to be soon. And so it's like we're in all these different seasons of this transition. And I can look to people like you and other people on TikTok, who have made the transition and feel solidarity there. And I can also say, this is what I'm working on. This is what I'm unpacking. And this is where I'm currently at, like sharing moments that would be considered raw or vulnerable, you know, with the world. And I'm doing that because I know that when I heard that from people, it gave me comfort, it gave me strength, and it showed me what my way forward would be. So because I needed moments to not feel alone. Now it's my position to help other people not feel alone as well.

Ali  13:07  
That's such an important work that you're doing. I mean, I think in addition to helping individuals who are find themselves in positions like we did, it's also just changing the culture. It's something that I think is going to take a really long time. It seems like education sometimes is behind other fields. Like we see now a really big push in corporate culture to change the workplace, like to make it more balanced. Company culture is really important. When people are looking for jobs, they want to make sure that it's a good fit for them. They're not just taking any jobs. They're going to talk to other employees. They're going to see what the work life balance is like. What kind of parental leave do you get at this job. And the big companies we know like Google and Bloomberg, and there's lots of companies, they offer amazing parental leave for both parents. And with educators being so like female dominated, we're really behind the curve because we don't offer that level of support for families and for parents. And just the culture in general, I think what you both shared was just getting to that point where your body can't handle stress and anxiety. Because you've been in a profession for so many years that has just been causing that isn't healthy for anybody. And it's not sustainable. We can't keep expecting teachers to do that. So I hope that our conversations can help, you know, push that needle a little bit and inspire others to try to do this work and try to fix these problems but feels to me like it's systemic. Like we're not just going to have a solution tomorrow, unfortunately.

JoDee  14:49  
So Maggie, what's next for you? I know you're a PhD student. What are you studying? What is next for you right now?

Maggie  14:55  
So initially, I was studying teacher education because I went into the PhD thinking that I can help improve the quality of education by helping improve the quality of teachers in it. And then I realized that it's systemic. And so I was like, Well, I'm going to transition. So I am in a completely different department now. I was going to do like teacher attrition, and study, you know, why is particularly invested levers, which is people like us. People who have years of experience. They wanted to be teacher their whole career. They gave it their best shot, like they really, really tried to be a teacher for their whole career. And ultimately, they left. So invested levers, I think, should be for us, the canary in the mine. You know, if these people are leaving, why are they leaving? What can we learn from them? But even then, I feel like, it's too little too late, like this is gonna get a lot worse before it gets better. And even if there's quality research on it, people aren't gonna listen to that research. So my new shift is probably to study teacher emotionality, teacher identity, and teacher grief. Because those are three things that haven't been totally intersected yet. But as the great resignation is occurring within education, we have 1000s and 1000s of people who are experiencing loss of identity, grief of a career, like you mentioned, like all of these things that we feel like alone. We feel like we're the only person who formed their whole identity as a teacher. But like, everyone's passionate about it, but like, I shouldn't be mourning being a teacher. I shouldn't feel the sad when I go into Target and see the school supplies out. But it's experienced by so many people, and there isn't like a pool of research on this experience. And there needs to be because teachers gave so much and they deserve to be recognized. And I don't know where it's gonna go. So I don't know what's next. But I do think that's what I want to study. And for my income, I'm working for Costco, and I really enjoy it. And I make almost the same as I did as a teacher. But I think we didn't do the math on like how much I would have been making considering the overtime, I think I make the same. Because I'm also not spending money on my classroom too. So career wise, what's next is Costco. And PhD wise, what's next is the teacher identity, emotionality and grief study.

Ali  17:09  
I think you're on the right track, Maggie 100%. I bring this up a lot, because I'm a military spouse. But veterans go through the same thing when they leave military service. There's a lot of research that exists on that. And I see a lot of similarities here. You're spot on with studying this, because that is so much a part of our identity. JoDee and I talk about this a lot. It was really difficult for us and we love teaching. So I'm really glad to see that you're tackling this. And please like, let us know how we can help. But we, we love that you're doing this important work. And I'm glad that our listeners got to hear your story today.

Unknown Speaker  17:46  
Thank you. I love talking to other people who are like me, not in the same boat, maybe the same river, like we're going the same direction. And it's just very refreshing for me personally, to not feel alone. And to not feel like I'm shouting into a void, but like I need to be told like you're valid. But like, when you put so much into a career like teaching, it's your whole self. And so then when you lose that, or step away from it intentionally, it could be the harder maybe. Then it's just like this loss, this huge loss. And so talking to other people who are like me is incredibly healing for me too.

Ali  18:23  
Well, again, Maggie, we're so glad that you were able to join us on the show today. And for our listeners if you'd like to connect with Maggie, you can find her on TikTok at millennial Miss Frizz. I'm going to do that again. It's at millennial M S F R I Z Z. You can find her on Instagram at millennial underscore ms Frizzle,  F R I Z Z L E. And then on Spotify, check out her podcast, Bad Teachers Club Podcast.

If you liked The Great Teacher Resignation, give us a five star rating and follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music and Audible. Today's episode was written and recorded by me Alexandra Simon and my co host JoDee Scissors. Executive produced by Teacher Brain. Produced and edited by Emily Porter. Original Music: Emoji by Tubebackr. Special thanks to our sponsor Paper Planes Ed.