On Leaving Teaching

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I have handed in my resignation. I am leaving teaching. Only teachers will understand the significance of this action because only teachers understand that it’s a lifestyle rather than a profession. For the first time in 18 years I will not have the summer ‘off’; my ‘new year’s resolutions’ won’t start on September the 1st; time will not dictate when I sit, stand, eat or go to the toilet; walking down a corridor will not result in a barrage of requests from students, ‘Miss, can I ask about the homework…’ ‘Miss, is it alright if I hand my homework in tomorrow’, ‘Miss, can I have a lunch pass’. I will no longer hang out in fuggy staff rooms; there will be no more 60 hour weeks, no more three line whips for attendance at school events and no more Saturday and Sunday marking, planning and preparing.

Why am I leaving? For the first time since I entered the profession, we have reached a tipping point. Teaching has moved slowly from the noble profession – think the philosophy of John Keating in Dead Poets’ Society (yes, it’s real, that’s why teachers enter the profession in the first place) to the commodification of education. This year the NUT joined forces with the ATL, international teaching unions, NGOs and parents to lobby the annual general meeting of one of the world’s largest edu-businesses, Pearson – calling on them to cease profiting from children, for an end to high stakes testing and to assert that education is a human right, not a private commodity.

I currently work in the private sector where grades are the be all and end all – parents have the monetary power to assert their rights; more hours, more contact, more one-to-one support, more resources. And while I don’t have a problem with this as such – we have lovely parents, and gorgeous kids – I really struggle with the fact that only a minority get such excellent education. Meanwhile, in the maintained sector, the monitoring of teaching and learning is not about the student’s experience, but about the teacher’s performance – about pay, in fact; OFSTED assess a teacher’s performance based on a student’s outcome while simultaneously refusing to acknowledge that ultimately only the student has the power to fail or succeed; that degree of aspiration, poverty, health, self-esteem and well-being all play a much bigger part in a child’s school performance. I’m all for accountability; but it’s not working.

Will I miss teaching? Yes. It is the most stimulating, exciting, challenging, entertaining and joyful job in the world. But it is also the most politically disputed, discussed, debated and conflicted profession today. It’s like working in a verbal and ideological war zone – there’s a limit to such an existence, and I have definitely reached mine.

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9 thoughts on “On Leaving Teaching

  1. Claire Davidson

    I’m also leaving teaching and writing a blog! Ha, great minds think alike! I won a National Teaching Award in 2004 and have been a passionate advocate of the teaching profession for 23 years, but now I’m writing about why I can’t stand it anymore (not without a conscience, I might add.) I think you write well and am interested to know how you are getting on. I’m planning to do something quite menial in the interim period between finishing teaching and finding what I really want to do…and I can’t wait! Menial feels great!

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    1. suzannetriviere67 Post author

      Hi Claire,
      Thanks for the comment – very kind! I must admit I have been so busy I haven’t felt inclined to blog about it. Leaving has been a rollercoaster ride; partly because I had to go back to provide Department support – the guy who took my job went off sick after ten days so I am back two days a week till Easter; partly because I felt SO lost without the relentless workload of teaching (and I was doing 65 hours a week); partly because I was at home so much more and I was NOT used to that; teachers become part of a vibrant and lively community and I really missed that. But the positives? Health and well-being, pure and simple. Having led and driven things forward for 18 years I am also now in the process of looking for a ‘menial’ position – at the moment applying for a Wider Participation role at The University of Sussex – I still feel most at home in an educational environment. You’ve given me a good nudge – I must get blogging again. Stay in touch and good luck!

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  2. Helen

    Hi, I have been reading your posts with interest as I am a teacher in my 40s with a young family and find myself in a position where I am feeling with more and more conviction that teaching doesn’t work for me anymore. I find myself in a similar situation, but am worried about simply leaving with nothing else to go to. It has been really helpful reading about your experiences.

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    1. suzannetriviere67 Post author

      I’ve found it all a really interesting process. I hope you find the next good thing for you. I’m going to try blogging a bit about my new experiences over the next few weeks. Good luck!

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  3. Lorraine Cooper

    Hi. I left my position as head of a department last Easter because I just could not ‘take it’ anymore for many of the reasons that you have identified in this blog. I also am in my forties with two young children (both pre schoolers when I left) and could not cope with the demands of the job, the demands of a young family, the extreme and unfair accountability that SLT’s impose driven by OfSted, and the comments of the wider community that have always been there of teachers short working days and long holidays that seemed cruel. Even after more than a year it does pain me when I think about the fact that I have left and I recognise that I loved teaching and was very good at it.

    However, in the past year I have not been idle. I have done a maternity contract which stimulated me but also confirmed to me that I do not want to remain in the profession. I also have had the time to have ‘hobbies’ and I feel that this is where I feel that I have been finding out who I am again. My house had been seriously neglected and one of the tasks that I allowed myself was to decorate it and furnish it on as little money as possible. This has been a wonderful experience and one I have become passionate about and found that I am good at. As a result I have just completed a painting and decorating course and am setting myself up in business as a lady decorator. I have worked out that, given the hours that I did as a teacher, I can earn more money this way, build my work around my children, still feed my creative urge and give my brain a complete break.

    I agree with you when you say that leaving has been an interesting process. It has been painful but it has also been an adventure. I now feel that instead of constantly trying to change and improve myself for my job I have changed and improved my job for me. This now feels right!

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      1. Siobhan O'Mahony

        Hi Suzanna, I really enjoyed reading your post, it offered some real practical advice which is often missing from similar articles on leaving teaching. I have worked as a Further Education Lecturer and then as an Assessor for over 15 years and I am also trying desperately to change careers. I am leaving for the same reason as many others, mountains of paperwork, long hours, almost spoon feeding learners as everyone must pass, impossible targets and don’t even get me started on Ofsted. I don’t enjoy it anymore so I know it is time to move on. I really enjoy the interaction with the learners but the focus of teaching has changed, it is a numbers game. I worked as a freelance Assessor for over 6 years, the company went into administration without telling anyone and I was left over £3,500 out of pocket with unpaid wages and learners were left without qualifications, the directors of the company set up another company while this was happening and are still accessing government funding, this is common practice with training providers, the whole industry is becoming morally repugnant and purely money focussed. This was one of the many signs I had that made me realise it was time to go. I know I will take a salary drop but what price sanity! Getting out of teaching takes planning and time so I started volunteering with the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, one day a week, last year as I would like to gain a more advice and guidance type role as this is the part of teaching I really did enjoy. I really enjoy this but there is little hope of paid employment but it does give me some additional experience which hopefully I can use. I am applying for jobs that have a more advice and guidance focus in the last few months, while doing some teaching through an agency. I have not had any success but trying not to get disheartened as I can pick up some assessing/teaching in September if all else fails, which is not really what I want to do and sounds awful I know, but I cannot afford to be out of work. The real problem I have at the moment is the sheer amount of time that I am spending filling out application forms! I cannot believe how much detail is required and how seriously tedious the whole process is when you are on page 17 and still being asked to explain how you meet every criteria and give a real example of how you have met this (there are never less than 15 criteria). Nobody will accept a CV anymore so this is how it is now and it is the application form that will get you the interview. I am 51 which again may make me less of an attractive candidate for many but I am hoping that companies may see experience not age. I am trying not to become disheartened by this as I know it will take time and hopefully it will be worth it in the end.

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      2. suzannetriviere67 Post author

        Thank you for your comment – it sounds like it’s been a hard journey so far hit you’re right not to get disheartened, a good job will come. I can understand how you feel which is one reason why I stepped away from education completely. Have you considered that? If you want some advice on shaping a CV for admin work get in touch – I am loving it though the transition was really hard. Good luck with everything. My email is suzannetriviere67@hotmail.co.uk

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      3. Siobhan O'Mahony

        Thank you for your reply Suzanne, yes it is a long process to try and change but I will stick with it. Thank you for your kind offer regarding my CV,but I have managed to get my first interview next week! I will let you know how it goes, even if I am not successful it does feel positive to get an interview.

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