Two Months Away from Teaching: What I’ve Learned

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I quit teaching in January. It wasn’t a neatly planned exit: it began as a run-of-the-mill start of term bout of flu, and became a state of stress-induced panic. A few weeks of headaches and sleepless nights later, I’d firmly decided that my teaching days were over.

It was scary. Teaching has become a gruelling profession, but it was still a well-paid and secure one, and I had rent to pay. Expensive rent.

So I applied for dozens of jobs: admin roles at universities (I’m lucky to live in a city that has two of them), librarian jobs, retail jobs. I didn’t get a very good response. I was probably competing with dozens – perhaps hundreds – of applicants who had more direct experience for the role. So the first thing I learnt was that switching career paths is far from straightforward. I kind of expected it, but part of me was also thinking, I have two degrees. I have management experience, albeit in a school. I am EMPLOYABLE.

Perhaps if I kept going with the applications, or acquired some sort of admin qualification, I could make the change. A steady job in an office environment has an appeal it never held when I was at university and trying to make my very first career decisions. Offices seemed soulless and boring to me then. I wanted the intellectual challenge and lively day-to-day of the classroom, and I got what I asked for. Nine years later, I may have had a little too much ‘challenge’, a little too much of ‘lively’. Now a nice little role at a desk inputting data and organising emails sounds quite pleasant and peaceful.

Then, just to see, I put my CV online to say I was interested in doing teaching supply. It was back-up, and not really what I wanted to do. Then my email inbox went INSANE. I was contacted by twelve recruitment agencies within the space of about forty minutes. I couldn’t keep up with the voicemails.

Then I realised I could get paid pretty well for supply work, and my attitude changed. There was high demand, and it felt really nice to be wanted. I liked the idea of not being tied down by a permanent contract, too – if I didn’t like the school, or I got stressed again, I didn’t have to stay. I had five real-life job offers in one week.

I learned the earning power of my PGCE and eight years’ worth of teaching experience, especially since I teach English, a core subject that is struggling to recruit new teachers. I worked out I could earn the same money teaching four days a week as I did in full-time work with a TLR. I could pay the rent after all! Success! Not only that, I secured work at a private sixth form college where I’d be teaching one-to-one. Previously, I’d taught an A Level class of 25 students, and the marking had sent me slightly insane. One student, though? Really? I only have to mark one essay?!

I have work lined up until exam time, and then I’m going to mark for an exam board, working at home, picking up odd days of supply if I feel like it. I’ve also had an offer of work from a publishers, writing and reviewing teachers’ resources and content for a student text book. I might have to work August (shock horror!) – I’m considering signing up for more tutoring – but it’s nice to feel in control and to make my own choices. After all, I could go on holiday in July instead, and find a cheap deal for the first time in my life.

I’ve learned that it’s harder to quit teaching than I thought. It’s difficult to leave what you know. However, I feel more in control of my own destiny now, and much happier. I might seek a permanent role for September, but I don’t want to work full-time again, and I don’t want a TLR. I’d rather find other ways of making that extra money, because I know now that it’s possible.

The best thing about the last two months has been feeling like myself again. It took a while, but I’m writing again – lots – and painting, and being creative. I feel calm and happy, and I’m going to work hard to stay that way.

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