Okay, so I haven’t been inside a classroom since July and we’re now in September but teachers work in terms, right? On 1st September I stopped being paid by the academy trust where I’ve worked for seventeen years and became “self-employed.” After six weeks of fidgeting, being in school holiday mode and spending time with my kids, I suddenly had to find something to do, and some way to get paid.
When I started the new school year in September 2015 I told myself that it would be my last year as a full time teacher. Years of sixty hour weeks, the stress of appraisal and always feeling that I could never do enough had become too much. But I did almost forget my promise to myself for a few weeks as I settled into my new classes (I’m a MFL teacher) and began to enjoy the new term.
Everything came crashing down very quickly though with a very difficult lesson observation with a very difficult class. I struggled on for a few days before the next hurdle came up – marking scrutiny and I knew that I was likely to fail on that as well. To those who don’t know teaching, I’m not talking about unmarked students’ work here, I’m talking about books where I may have marked in the wrong colour pen or marked children’s books a little too often, when they should have marked a prescribed proportion themselves. That can be enough for a teacher to be viewed to be failing.
There followed a short period of sick leave for work related stress. I’m normally a resilient person and it was a shock to be not coping; I’ve worked in teacher support with a teachers’ union and I’m used to helping others through this.
When I managed to get back into work it was with the support of my head teacher and with the knowledge that this would indeed be my last year in teaching. Initially I didn’t even think I’d make it through the full year; I set myself goals to work toward – the end of term, the end of the next term, the end of the year.
I not only completed the year, I enjoyed the rest of the year – mostly. Teaching can be a love, hate thing, can’t it. I shuffled around looking at my options for life moving forward. I’m too old to retrain and becoming a nurse or a physiotherapist would be out of the frying pan into the fire. I realised I could stand to do a little bit of supply work, and lots of supply teachers are absolutely gushing these days about supply. I also have a small craft business which I now have the time to expand. I believe it’s called a micro-business, so maybe I can turn it into a small business. Most of all I want to do what I enjoy best. I want to help other teachers who’re feeling that same crisis of how to manage the constant scrutiny and seventy hours weeks so that they can become happier and healthier, whether they choose to stay in the job or not. It I can help one person; I’ll be a happy woman.