Moving on from teaching

I have spent the weekend mulling over my options on whether to leave my teaching role or not. As with other decisions which I make, I vacillate between thinking I can just get back on the horse (my sick note signs me off until Thursday) and thinking that I don’t want to ever enter a classroom again.

I began this blog to try to get myself fit enough to teach again, however, as with all aspects of life other factors present themselves and throw a bit of confusion into the mix. I have been trying to tease out what aspects of the job I find so stressful. (All the while, I am trying to bear in mind that I am suffering from stress and anxiety and now might not be the right time to make fairly permanent life-changing decisions.)

So what is the problem? On the stress front, I do feel over-whelmed by the continual reinventing of the wheel in terms of teaching initiatives. In school, people are now so bogged down by the minutiae of the ‘science of learning’ that we sometimes forget that these children are experiencing a far bigger life outside of school and that our impact is fairly miniscule. I firmly believe that parents are the main educators of their children and as teachers we just tinker around the edges. Quite frankly, if you ask the average child, or their family, about skills vs content/ rigour vs engagement, they couldn’t give a monkey’s because they are dealing with the daily grind of life; the fact that their gran is ill, or their parents are splitting up or they have only had Wotsits for breakfast. I have always believed that strong teacher/ pupil relationships coupled with a passion for the subject is the most important thing in the classroom. Clearly, learning is important but there is a bigger picture out there which we all seem to have lost sight of. Parents want safe schools and cold, hard qualifications.

Anyway, that is an aside because the reason that I want to leave teaching is because I am exhausted by having to constantly manage the behaviour of thirty teenagers at a time. I am a good teacher; my lessons are well planned and my books are marked, the parents like me the students like me and my exam results are fine. However, like every other teacher up and down the country I spend my day encouraging children to be reasonable human beings and follow pretty arbitrary rules. “Please sit down/ please stop talking/ don’t push past her/ Don’t throw your rubbish on the floor/ Have you started writing? Do up your top button/ take off your nail varnish/ Listen! etc. etc” I have reached a point where I feel apathetic towards the ‘science of learning’ and worn down by behaviour management. It is time to go.

I have really considered the option of returning to the school with the support and friendship of some of the wonderful staff there, and my department and the wider school truly is filled with wonderful staff. However, when I engage with these thoughts, I feel a real tightening in my chest and the anxiety, which has led to me being off sick in the first place, starts to reemerge. I no longer feel that this path is an option. The risk of sinking back into the mire of deeper depression and anxiety is too great.

I have read a few blog posts about life after teaching. One of the biggest regrets I have about the demise of my career is the impact it will have on my sense of self. I always loved teaching; I felt so passionate about it that my husband was tempted back into teaching due to my evangelism. I have always felt proud to be a teacher and felt very frustrated by the moaning section of the profession. Whinging teachers are a real blight on all who they come into contact with.Teaching is an honourable and noble profession and I have always believed that anyone who is passionate about their subject – whatever that subject may be- owes it to society to teach it and share their passion for a few years, a bit like National Service. I still feel passionate about my subject but I have lost my need to imposes that on others, for the moment.

If you are involved in a vocational line of work you need to ‘feel the love’. Now that has gone, I need to move on. There is nothing wrong with the school so changing to another one would be a futile idea.  I am a bit scared but mainly I am excited about exploring the other options open to me now that I am the wiser side of 40.Dont forget your wellies. © John Millar

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2 Responses to Moving on from teaching

  1. Jill Berry says:

    “I have always believed that strong teacher/pupil relationships coupled with a passion for the subject is the most important thing in the classroom.” I absolutely agree with this, and feel sad that someone who sees clearly what’s crucial in education feels driven out of the profession. Your health and well-being do take precedence over your job and if you can’t teach and be well, then looking elsewhere is the only sensible option – though I have said before that trying a change of school first is sometimes a wise move. I know you feel that “there is nothing wrong with the school so changing to another one would be a futile idea” but sometimes a fresh start/new beginning CAN help people find equilibrium in a new teaching role.

    Interesting what you say about behaviour, too, and I know there’s a lot of debate about this at the moment. Schools do have to have systems in place to support teachers to manage behaviour, and we all need constant training to refresh our skills in this area, I think, and develop strategies so that we don’t feel ground down by it. I’ve said elsewhere this week that I don’t know of schools who don’t CARE about managing behaviour, but clearly there are many schools which haven’t yet got it right.

    Whatever you go on to do I hope you feel a sense of purpose and satisfaction and that some of the positive elements of teaching are aspects you can replicate in another profession. I wish you well.

    • Thank you so much for your kind comment Jill.

      I hope I can end my teaching career feeling that I did a good job for a number of years and benefitted a few students along the way. I have taught -excluding maternity leave- for the best part of 18 years which is a fair amount of time. I’d probably need a break from any job by now. I also hope that, as you say, I can take my skills and experience on with me to another job. And, if I leave now, I will probably continue to wax lyrical on all the virtues of teaching, in a rose-tinted spectacles way…

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