There’s an idea trending now, even though the concept has been around for many decades… It’s that of making the conscious decision to slowly back away and withdraw from your job and to no longer put in as much effort at work. If this seems sad and unproductive in your thinking, you are correct.
Silent quitting and “quietly quitting” in its current context involves active participation in the slow death of your career and livelihood, and it’s also prevalent in other areas of life.
My first personal experience with the concept of quietly quitting occurred during 1986. I had decided to return to college to earn a teaching credential after teacher Christa McAuliffe had perished, along with others in the Challenger Space Shuttle tragedy. I thought it best to take a part-time job in a public school classroom first, to make sure this career change would be the right one for me before spending time and money to prepare for this new lifestyle.
The closest elementary school to my house was within walking distance. I called first, and was told they did have an opening for a teaching assistant. I made an appointment and went in to meet with the school’s principal.
They ushered me into a small office upon my arrival. The door closed behind me and a lady named Mrs. Villanueva spoke to me in a quiet voice. I confirmed to her that I was not of Spanish or Hispanic origin, but that I did speak Spanish, albeit not fluently. We spoke in Spanish for a few minutes, laughing at the mistakes with idioms and verb tenses. She soon realized I possessed empathy and compassion and would do well with the student population at this school.
Then the conversation turned to more serious issues. She wanted to hire me as a teaching assistant for two different classrooms. One would be a second grade classroom, where the teacher needed help with the arts and crafts projects she created for her students to facilitate their English speaking, writing, and comprehension skills. Mrs. Villanueva became animated as she described this busy classroom environment and the joy it brought to the students and their families.
Looking both ways and reaching over me to make sure the door was completely closed, she then leaned in closer to speak to me in a hushed tone. The other classroom to which I would be assigned was fifth grade. The students in this classroom were struggling in all academic areas, especially mathematics.
“Mrs. Horka doesn’t teach math,” she told me.
Thinking I had misunderstood, I asked, “Then who teaches them math?”
“I’m hoping it will be you.” She widened her eyes before continuing.
“This could be an excellent experience for you. Do you enjoy mathematics?”
I carried on for several minutes about my love of numbers and how I had been given the nickname “The Mathematician” while I was in elementary school. And I had helped my own children, as well as many others over the years, including some adults who weren’t as skilled with math.
“Then I would like to offer you this job, with the hope that you will share your experience and skills with this group of young people who so desperately need you right now.”
We shook hands on this and I proceeded to fill out the paperwork that allowed me to spend time in a classroom. My fingerprints were approved by the Department of Justice, my recommendations were double-checked, and I was on my way to becoming a classroom teacher as I registered for my first education class at the university where I would matriculate full-time the following semester.
It was awkward at first. Mrs. Horka welcomed me with “Why would you want to work in a classroom full of noisy kids when you could get a job in a nice, air-conditioned office instead?” I mumbled something about loving children and wanting to help them learn. The kids beamed at my words, while she sat down at her desk in the back of the classroom and popped open a can of soda.
I was proud to stand in front of the class on that day. I held up the teacher’s edition and asked them what page or chapter or lesson they were on. Quickly, I realized they did not have an answer for that question, so I randomly chose a chapter on multiplication near the front of the book.
It was then that I realized that this teacher had been quietly quitting and hopelessly helping others to see that this job no longer suited her. I thought of it as retiring on the job. When people in my personal life asked me about my experience in the classroom as a teaching assistant, this is what I’d say…
“Mrs. Endo, the second grade teacher is amazing! She is so creative with her lessons and everything she does to make sure her little students have the best chance to succeed. Her energy is seemingly boundless and I love trying to keep up with her. I even take materials home so I can bring them back the following morning to use with that day’s lessons.”
“What about the fifth grade teacher… what’s that classroom like?” they would ask.
“That teacher is retired, I would answer.” When they gave me a puzzled look, I would expound on my comment.
“She hasn’t formally retired, so she still comes to school each day. But she doesn’t teach much and every child has fallen behind, especially with math. I get to teach them a lesson each day, and I even grade their homework and return it to them each day. I love these children and am very grateful for this opportunity.”
My time at this school with these people strengthened my resolve to earn my teaching credential and work as a classroom teacher. This is a career I worked at for twenty years and the experiences changed my life perspective forever.
Although the public school system was controlled and manipulated by a triumvirate of politicians, school board members, and district administrators, I found a way to circumnavigate the hostile waters and do what I believed was in the best interest of my pupils every single day. Everything we do prepares us for the rest of our life, I continue to believe.
“Quiet Quitting” goes on in every area of life, I believe. And yes, there have been times where I’ve been guilty of this thinking as well. Before starting my online business, a process I think of as “changing my life from the inside out” I regularly did not finish what I started. For days or weeks, but seldom for months I would get all excited about something I wanted to do, only to allow it to fall by the wayside.
The list is endless, but included writing, starting a business, traveling abroad, and more. Every single time, I would blame an outside force as my reason for giving up before getting past the initial stages of something I dreamed of achieving. The reason behind my actions was always based in fear, as my confidence and self-esteem were at an all time low for decades leading up to my personal and professional transformation. Quietly quitting was my defense mechanism.
When you begin to read and hear about people quietly quitting in mass, know that it isn’t simply millennials or any specific age group. When someone allows their hopes and dreams to fade away and settles for the path of least resistance, know that they are quietly quitting and hopelessly helping those around them to recognize their cry for help. Instead of ridiculing them of thinking less of them as a human being, extend your hand and offer them a step up to return to a world filled with hope and joy and the magic of being alive. I dare you.
I’m Connie Ragen Green, doing what I say I’ll do, inspiring and motivating others to live their dreams and goals by creating a lifestyle by design, and dedicating my life to service to people all over the world with a concept called “Service Above Self”. Come along with me, if you will and we will walk the path together.