By far and away, the most popular post I ever wrote was “When you know it’s time to go” – and now it’s a case of ‘Life After Teaching’. I thought I’d write a very little update on what it’s like…
Firstly, it’s probably worth mentioning that I’ve left at a pretty exciting time. My book is out. And I left knowing that I’d be able to work with the brilliant staff at Independent Thinking and do more with one of the loves of my life, the International Schools Theatre Association. So all in all, there were lots of things to look forward to. But like any break up, there is pain too.
On the first day of term, I drove past my school like a heartbroken lover, staring up the driveway and wondering if I should pop in. I even sent a message to my ex Head of Department, offering to come in and clean the fridge. I’ve had little moments of heartache as I’ve realised I won’t be going to the Year 11 prom (which is particularly devastating as I now fit into THAT dress) and I nearly wept when I bumped into some members of my form group at the supermarket and saw their faces light up when they saw me. You forget sometimes how much you love them when you’re knee deep in marking their punctuation free sentences.
But my goodness, I don’t miss the marking. I know it’s necessary. I know it is an act of love. But it can be soul destroying and the twitter conversation last night in which it became clear that across both primary and secondary, the increased expectations that staff will be marking for around 3/4 hours every single night reminded me that we’ve moved beyond the boundaries of what can be considered to be humane expectations of our teachers. Even without marking, the habit of working well into the evening is really hard to break – especially after 21 years. I find myself sitting at my computer doing tasks I don’t even need to do because I can’t think of anything else to do simply out of force of habit. Evenings remain firmly programmed in my brain as “work time”.
But mornings are another matter. I swim. I do yoga. I used to try to do both, but to do so meant getting up at 5. Now, some days I can do it after dropping the littlest one off at school. I feel better – healthier, more rested and more alive. And my own children have noticed a difference – they seem more relaxed. I don’t bark at them to leave me alone. We laugh together.
I miss the classroom; the camaraderie, the challenge. I miss my colleagues – their generosity and spirit. But I don’t miss the bureaucracy. I don’t miss chasing data. I don’t miss doing things because Ofsted might want it. I don’t miss that at all.
And as for money. Well I’m poorer. I donated all my royalties to charity (so some child in Africa might well now get a pen) and I keep saying yes to things that don’t pay. I need to stop relying on my savings to get by. But the things I am doing are so interesting. I get to go to different places, meet different people, think in different ways. There are many ways of being rich. And I feel lucky to be richly stimulated.
I wish this fulfilment could come in school. Why is it that people have to leave teaching to feel trusted and respected; to feel that they have professional autonomy and the ability to take risks and try new things? What a crying shame.
I’ll keep updating the Life After Teaching posts. And maybe one day, I’ll be writing a ‘When You Know it’s Time to Go Home” blog. But until then….if you are thinking of leaving, make sure you know what you’ll miss and consider whether it’s worth it. Accept that you may earn less, but feel richer in other ways. Put some savings aside. Then leap and trust…