Education

Do I Miss Teaching?

teacher

Next week it will be six months since I taught my last lesson. That sounds a bit like an AA introduction doesn’t it?

“Hi my name is Zoe.” 

“Hi Zoe!”

“It has been six months since my last lesson.”

And then you all clap. I think. I’ve never been to AA but I’ve seen films.

Last year my resignation letter caused far more drama than I’d anticipated. I wrote it on a Saturday night whilst babysitting my nephew (he was only 18 months old at the time and asleep – I wasn’t just ignoring him for the whole evening.) It had been in my drafts since I’d told my head teacher I was leaving in the January (much to the disappointment of one breakfast TV show that rang to ask if I’d like to resign live on air – no I bloody don’t.) I posted it at about midnight and went to bed. The following morning I woke up to nine missed calls, a flurry emails and an invitation to go on BBC Breakfast the next day. By the time I got hold of my Head of school he told me he’d already read the post because a member of his family had shared it on Facebook. The week that followed was surreal and hugely overwhelming: from press turning up on my Mum’s doorstep,  to supportive phone calls from the wonderful Kevin Courtney and Martin Ellis-Hall.

Anyway. Now I’ve left. I didn’t have much time to process that over the summer as we were finishing the preparations for our wedding. Then we took 10 weeks to channel our inner-Palin and circumnavigate the globe and now we’re now settled into our new life in Amsterdam pursuing careers in writing.

amsterdam

An entire term has passed by without me entering a school. Do I miss it? Yes. I miss the teaching. Those sacred hours between 9am and 3pm when it was just me with my class hammering out how to multiply fractions, reading endlessly and learning about the world. I miss seeing children succeed and make progress, not always in neat, measurable steps, but progress nonetheless. I miss finding new ways to challenge my pupils, researching new ideas and trying them out. I miss laughing with (ok sometimes at) my class every single day.

monsters
I miss these monsters.
I miss the colleagues: teachers are some of the smartest, funniest and most interesting people I’ve ever met and our colleagues from the six schools we’ve worked in made up over 70% of our wedding guests and remain our dear friends. I miss the sense of community and camaraderie that comes from working in a school.

I don’t miss how much of my life I had to sacrifice to do the job well. I don’t miss: leaving the house before 7am, working until 7pm, working some more at weekends, inputting data, analysing data, feeling guilty about the data. Worrying about the results, worrying about forced academisation and worrying about Ofsted. I don’t miss the fear. The fear that’s felt by both my head teacher friends and my NQT friends.  Fear of being caught out, or of failing – because there is no time to fail any more. A head teacher cannot have a bad set of results and an NQT cannot have a bad lesson observation without questions being asked. I appreciate this isn’t true of every school. I was part of a new SLT who were hired to help improve an “RI school”  – which let’s face it was never going to be a straightforward job but it isn’t just RI schools feeling the fear. I don’t miss the frustration at having to tell parents of able writers that, because their child hadn’t used what the DfE call exclamation sentences, they were not meeting national expectations. Actually whilst we’re on it – I don’t miss the DfE at all.

I now have two things I never have as a teacher: time and energy. I exercise every day. There are some incredible people that can do that as well as work a 60 hour week but I was never one of them. I have time to speak to my husband – as in properly speak to him for hours. He’s one of my favourite people in the whole world but when we were both senior leaders we’d stagger through the weeks barely acknowledging one another, sleep and drink through the weekends and repeat. Now we have time to visit new places, go and see exhibitions, I even stay awake when we go to the cinema. I’m not too tired to answer the phone. The number of phone calls I didn’t answer simply because I couldn’t face talking. Not talking to that person just talking in general. I really noticed it this Christmas. In the past the Christmas holidays were a lighthouse in a rough sea that called to me throughout that long autumn term. It was a time to recover and recharge. This year I relaxed and took three days off from responding to emails etc… and I actually had enough energy to get out and see people. I was present for entire conversations and not thinking about work.

We have one life and I am determined not to spend mine working 60 hours a week for 40 years. I just can’t. Not because I’m afraid of hard work – I got my first job at 14, held down two jobs whilst studying at University, helped set up a business in my year out and then went into teaching. I am happy to work hard but I will no longer sacrifice my relationships with my friends and family, my health and my wellbeing for my career – no matter how worthy or noble the profession. Life is too short to only work.

I’m sure there are plenty of people reading this thinking, “What a load of crap – teaching doesn’t have to be like that and it isn’t at my school.” And that’s great. But it was very much my experience. The hours and energy it required were just not sustainable long term.

But I do miss it. And if the time or school came along where I could do the job well on a 40-45 hour week and if we ever get past this high-stakes testing and schools being judged on their ability to jump over an ever-raising bar then yeah, I’d be back.

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22 thoughts on “Do I Miss Teaching?

  1. This is so interesting because I am currently leaving a teaching job and I am undecided whether I will continue with this career. I may pursue work in a different subject or sector. I can safely say I will not miss the place I’m leaving!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is so sad. This is exactly what I felt like when I taught at a struggling public school in the States. Now I teach at a private international school in Poland and the difference is so startling. I’d like to go back to teaching in the US but I don’t know if I can expose myself to that level of stress again. It’s terrible, because we should not have to sacrifice our health and happiness to be good teachers.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I am reading this, completely understanding, because it’s Saturday and I just spent the last two and one half hours prepping for my next week of teaching. I look at my friends around me who don’t teach and see all the time they have for social life and wonder how. For now, God is calling me to stay in this, but I am working really hard to let imperfection be imperfection that I might take time for relationships.
    Thanks for sharing your story!

    Liked by 3 people

  4. The school was lucky to have you for as long as you were there. I was a reacher for five years and loved it. Even though I could retire from a civil service job I don’t like I am not sure I could manage the pressure and pace you describe. It’s a pity because working with young people is great!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve had the same experience, teaching elementary music at inner-city lower socioeconomic campuses, teaching archaic and sterile music literature that’s irrelevant to our youth. The desire to grow and be a self-directed learner yourself in this vocation amidst the complacency and indifference, caused me to resign after a year as well. I miss the hearts and souls.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I totally empathise with you. I left teaching nearly 10 years ago for exactly the same reasons. I was an Australian teacher and did the job for 16 years. The only thing I miss is the kids. I put in the same kind of hours you did and I was always tired and running on autopilot. I was also constantly getting sick with colds, flu and just plain tiredness. What has astounded me is that since I left the profession I’m hardly ever sick. I never got a cold or flu for 8 years! I think teaching ran my immune system to hell so leaving has been the best decision healthwise. Good on you for getting out, so many teachers think they can’t do anything else so they stay in the job. There are lots of opportunities out there though. Everytime I drive past a school early in the morning and see young teachers lumbering in with loads of stuff I think you poor buggers, the system will wear you out before you know it.

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  7. Well said. I’m in my 15th year as a middle school teacher in Canada and have finally learned that teaching is my career, but it does not define my life

    I woild in a very disadvantaged socio-economic area with children who are broken; while I do my best to provide the stability and love they so desparately need, I have grown to understand that my friends and family deserve my love and stability too.

    Congratulations on making a decision that works for you, and enjoy everything life has to offer.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Wow! Reading this at a great time for me- I am a student deciding if teaching is for me halfway through a Masters. Your writing makes me feel better about my decision to not. I didn’t like how drained and worn out I was- only in student observations! Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Teaching is not for sissies – I taught for over forty years and have started breathing freely at last and can enjoy reading with a clear conscience!

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  10. I love this article and I completely agree with you. I taught in a school for more than three years and I tutored pupils immediately after my graduation in 2008. But I stopped teaching in 2013 before my wedding. In 2016 I stopped tutoring.
    Do I miss teaching/tutoring? Yes, but rarely. I only miss my colleagues and students/pupils.
    Are we allowed to enjoy our life? Yes, definitely. You made the right decision.
    Thank you for writing this piece. πŸ™‚

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  11. Awesome post! Although a little tolling, sounds like an extremely rewarding experience to bond with children with that and live abroad. I’m actually off to teach in Barcelona hopefully next month to take a CELTA! Super excited!

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  12. I definitely identify with this post a lot, especially since this is Year One of teaching for me. I am only 23 and am teaching high schoolers – SCARY!! It is a rewarding job, but ALOTTTT of hours. I have debated many times about getting out of it, but I should probably at least stick it out another year or two to be sure. I’m so glad you are enjoying your life now and props to you for taking a stand for your happiness. I wish you good luck!

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  13. I am so sorry you left teaching. I totally get it, though!!! Winter data collection looming, and I can feel the anxiety cranking up. The paperwork. The grading. The charts. Just thinking about it makes me want to throw up. Godspeed in all your other travels and in your writing!!

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  14. Thank you for a true and realistic account of teaching life. I for one am in my NQT year and I am finding it bloody difficult! From an Ofsted visit in my first term as a new teacher (yes I could not believe it myself!) to now being overworked and extremely stressed every single day! I do love the job on the good days, yet I have days where I cannot imagine doing this, day in day out, for the rest of my life. I guess time will tell! But this was an incredibly eye-opening read. Thank you!

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  15. Wonderful post, I can totally relate to a lot of what you are saying as a teacher myself and still working in the profession – though I have been considering leaving for some time. Thanks for the insights πŸ™‚

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  16. Good luck to you! I’m in NQT year and am lucky enough to have found a part-time post. I still work blooming hard but it means I have the luxury of time out. I’m not sure I could hack going full time with the UK curriculum being what it is.

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