One year ago this week I brought my seventeen-year-long teaching contract to an end.
Having entered a profession which was high pressured and fast changing, I’d seen the role get higher pressured and faster changing as the years went on. I was still thriving on the fact that I got to spend time with young people every day, be creative and never get bored. However, I couldn’t see the workload and the high stakes appraisal getting any better.
I was lucky enough to leave whilst still enjoying the job. As a trade union secretary, I’d supported dozens of colleagues who were burnt out, depressed and despairing. I assisted deputy heads who’d been told that their once outstanding teaching now required improvement and NQTs who saw their dreams of a teaching career come crashing down around them in term one.
Many people believe that losing one’s job is one of the worst things that can ever happen. But I’ve never understood how this could be the case. Certainly, if you’re university educated, healthy and living in a safe, developed country, then you will pick yourself up, survive and thrive. I’ve met dozens of teachers who’ve known that leaving a job was the right thing for them. When I have caught up with them later, they’ve never regretted that decision.
You can always make more money but you can’t make more time. If you’re no longer enjoying it, it’s time for a difficult conversation with yourself.
Like many teachers who quit permanent contracts, I’ve spent much of the last year teaching supply. It worked for me because I still enjoy teaching and I still get on well with leaders in my old school.
Even when things started to get a little more like a proper job again with work scrutiny, meetings and a lesson observation I felt privileged to be doing such an enjoyable job without the weight of accountability and appraisal upon me. This weight is passed down from government to school to individual teacher.
In the past year, I have finally seen schools start to take notice of teacher wellbeing. It’s very early, all schools have a long way to go, and most haven’t started at all. It needs to happen. Student numbers are going up, teachers are leaving jobs and new teachers are not being recruited. The public are finally becoming aware of how tough it is.
The new school year sees me continuing to teach supply whilst developing my teacher wellbeing business. I’m thrilled to be doing both.
It’s going to be a great year.