So, this blog has been a long time coming! I am feeling nervous and excited to be finally doing it, writing it and putting it out there! I’ve gone to write it a few times but it hasn’t felt right; it feels right now. I am 100% content with my decision so now is the best time to tell you about this decision and why I’ve made it. Keeping this all bottled up has prevented me from writing a few blogs. Just because it is a HUGE part of who I am on this very day and without explaining it, I don’t feel I can move on with my blogs in any way. I blog about all things that I come across on my journey of happiness and sometimes that can include bad experiences, but I try and do what I always try and do in real life and turn them into something positive, to learn from them and be grateful that they happened. This is one of those things! However, this has been an emotional 6 months for me so some of this may not always seem positive but trust me, it has a happy ending!
So, for those of you who don’t know, I have been teaching since 2010, 5 of those years in one school and before I go any further, I feel I must tell you about this school. It was (and is) such an AMAZING place! I know what you’re thinking, she has nothing to compare it to but, I don’t think I need to compare it to anything; when you know it’s pretty great, it’s pretty great! ALL the staff who work there are the most hard-working people I have ever met. They put their absolute all into everything they do and EVERYTHING they do is done to ensure that those pupils have an AMAZING start to life and an AMAZING education. They strive to make sure all the pupils are safe, feel safe, feel wanted and worth something; they succeed! Whether they believe it or not, they succeed; they change lives and I absolutely LOVED being a part of that team which is what made my decision incredibly difficult; my decision to leave. To leave people I love, a job I once loved and pupils who I thought were great and who I wanted to give my all to; I left it all behind! “Why?” you may ask! Well, that’s what I’m going to try and explain in this blog. I know everyone will have an opinion on this one but I’m just going to be brutally (at times, painfully for me) honest and hope you accept it! For you to understand my decision, you need to understand how I felt emotionally at the time. So, just after Christmas when I was feeling my best and my worst all at once, I made a small account of how I was feeling. So I could remember I guess but also knowing that I would need to explain it to people someday. Since I’ve made this decision, people have asked me “why” so many times so hopefully this helps them too! The best way for me to explain it is if I let you read my account. So what you read below is from me, from my heart, a small diary if you will. Anything in pink is a comment I have made now, haha!
*Takes deep breath in* here goes…
06/01/2016 – Hitting rock bottom
The way I feel…
So, I’m currently sat on my bed with four books by my side ready to mark and I feel scared to even open one. I also feel scared about how the pupils will feel if I don’t and I feel scared that people will think I’m not doing a good job if I don’t but all the same…I’m scared to open them.
I’m currently off work.
I’m currently crying.
I’m currently a mess.
To quote from one of my favourite films ‘Definitely, Maybe’ my “shit is a mess” (sorry mum) and I hate being a mess, it’s just not who I am!
My life isn’t a mess, my life is great. I just got engaged to the love of my life and had the best two weeks of my life over Christmas, the BEST two weeks; with family, friends, smiles and happiness.
To say that the end of the holidays was sad is an understatement. It was like a huge crash down to reality and a crash I was inevitably going to suffer in. It was a crash that I selfishly involved my fiancé and my mum in, they are my rocks! It was a crash that I couldn’t see the end of! It felt and still feels like a whirlpool!
I woke up on Monday and after a sleepless night, I couldn’t breathe. I felt the time creeping up on me and knew I would have to put my work clothes on soon and leave my home and my fiancé and go to work. I didn’t want to, no, I couldn’t! I called my mum and I cried. I sat on my bed and cried; I couldn’t face it, so I didn’t and here I am now, sitting on my bed crying!
Thinking about going to work scares me …I’m scared about not being the best I can be or need to be to succeed in the world of teaching. People keep telling me that I can only do my best and I can only be good enough….which is fine and I KNOW the pressure comes from me most of the time as I like to be the best. I know I like to do everything to the best of my ability and make everything great and I KNOW you can’t always do that in the world of teaching but I want the chance to thrive, I want to do well. I want everyone to think I’m doing well.
I’m sitting here and I’m terrified about what people will think, will they think I’m weak? Will they think I can’t handle the job? Do I hide it from people? Do I tell them the truth? What will they think if I do hide it? What will they think if I tell them?
13/01/16 – Making the decision
I went back. I got to the end of what felt like a very dark tunnel and I went back. To say it was hard is also a huge understatement; I wasn’t out of the whirlpool just yet.On my first day back I cried, all day long. One step into my classroom and I cried. What made me go in? I was scared of letting people down; I was scared of drowning in my whirlpool.
In reflection this was my best decision to date. It meant that when I did eventually leave I could leave knowing I had done my absolute best (and you’ll see why that’s important later on).
School is still like a huge pressure…when it’s not there, I feel a weight lifted, I feel like me. When it’s around, I feel like I can’t breathe. The to-do list is never ending and I know it’s the same in any job and I like to be busy, I like that you are always busy in school; I’m not work-shy and I never have been but have you ever been so busy that peeing can’t be on the agenda? That’s where I am, that’s what teaching is for me; no time to pee! It feels like there is no time to breathe! The pressure though, the pressure is unreal, you have to keep everyone happy, your colleagues, your bosses, the pupils, the parents, the governors, the inspectors, the prospectus pupils and in that long list of people, you tend to put yourself and your family and friends last, how ridiculous is that? Well, I think I’ve got to a point where I’m sick of doing that, trying endlessly to please other people, taking on their pressures and their deadlines in order to sacrifice my own, in order to sacrifice my home-life.
The immense amount of pressure to ensure that those specific pupils get the C, the immense amount of pressure to ensure you’re always ahead of the game, never behind on your marking (not even by a book, in case that book is the book that is scrutinised, in case that book belongs to a child who has worked so hard on their work). To put this into perspective, I have 8 year 8 classes this year, 30 odd (more or less) books per class, with over 10 pages to mark in each book, you do the maths (2,400 pages just in case you can’t be bothered and that’s just one year group and one subject too)! In just 8 weeks, I’ll have to do it all again! Why not just tick and flick I hear you ask? Read it, see they’ve done a good job and tick it? NOT GOOD ENOUGH! One incorrect spelling not acted on and not corrected and asked to correct = fail! One book where the pupil hasn’t looked at what you’ve written and acted on what you’ve asked them to = fail! The pressure to be an “excellent” teacher (even though that’s almost impossible according to Estyn) and the pressure of what will happen if you’re not; the observations, being graded as an “adequate” teacher even though you know you’re not (how do I know? The pupils come to my lesson, they sit down, they enjoy and they go away knowing or feeling something they haven’t known or felt before). It’s the pressure of someone always thinking you’re not a “good” teacher but an “adequate” one! Some people are happy with that and that’s absolutely fine but someone like me, who likes to be “good” at what they do and at times “excellent” knowing that they can’t get “good” or “excellent” as the school’s results aren’t “good” or “excellent” crushes me! If your school isn’t getting the grades, you can’t either!
Results day is the best day ever and I can’t wait for it! I honestly feel like I am a parent every time it comes around! I watch these pupils work so hard and pray it pays off. My mum once said to me that “if you do your best, no one can ever ask for more” and I constantly pass that on to my pupils. I say “just know you are doing your best” I tell them to ask themselves “am I doing my best?” and if the answer is yes then no one can ever say you didn’t do enough! So for those pupils, for the ones who HAVE done their best I so hope they have done well and not for me but for them! I want them to achieve and would burst with PRIDE if I saw them happy (and have done in the past)! Now this day is a controversial one, it’s one of my favourite days as a teacher but also one of my least favourite. IF the pupils have done well, if they have achieved what you have predicted they would, you can breathe. However, there will be pupils who perhaps don’t do their best, don’t give their all and have other priorities and if THEY haven’t achieved what you know they COULD HAVE and predicted they would, YOU’D have questions to answer and the answer of “he never listened in class” or “she told me she did not revise at home” would never quite cut it! “What MORE could YOU have done?” would be the question to me and my answer right now would be “nothing, I could do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING more, my job and these pupils have my life, I have given my life to this!” Then what? What else am I supposed to do? Well, I’ll tell you, then I’ll have to go away, EVALUATE and ANALYSE these results, write a whole document on how much below or above the target they were, write number after number, work out percentage for a range of different groups of pupils, explaining for each group why targets were or were not met. Compare our results to other schools and explain why they were lower/higher! All this using specific language tailored to the needs of the inspector! THE INSPECTOR!
Now, I don’t want you to think I am moaning about the senior team in the school, I most definitely am not! Believe me, they have their own questions to answer to the people above them, they have their pressures and they have their jobs on the line! I am in no position to sit here and blame them, they are doing the job they have been told to do and they are only asking the questions they have been demanded to ask as their jobs are literally on the line if they don’t (and most of the time even if they do). They are the people who give up even MORE of their lives to be in that school and make sure that school is running as it is expected to run! How they do it, I’ll never know!
I’m also not moaning about the pupils either. We have some amazing pupils in this school who could achieve great things and I know it’s our job to make sure they do but there is only so much we can do. We teach; if they don’t listen, if they zone out, if they don’t go away and apply their knowledge and build on their knowledge and do their best to prepare for these exams, what more is there that we can do?
There are other pressures too; the pressure of writing report after report and when you finally finish year 9, there’s year 8 to do and you try SOO hard to make them all personal, even if you teach 8 classes of 30 children! Then it’s finding the time to create literacy and numeracy tasks to a standard someone else has set, that you don’t always agree with but you’re only the expert in teaching so why should you know what the children need to do to develop? Then, when you’ve created them, the pupils do them and you spend your evenings marking them and marking the homework and marking the mocks and grading the pupils for the third time that year. It really is relentless. “Relentless” has fast become my most used word and I think it’s because it’s such a good description of the job; relentless. It’s not that I don’t think all this is important in a school, I can see the importance of it ALL and that’s why I want to do it so well BUT to give all these jobs to one person, to put all these responsibilities under one umbrella is unrealistic, demanding and downright destructive. It’s like saying “right, we know you’re the dentist, but now you also need to do the work of the dental nurse, the hygienist, the orthodontist and the receptionist. Oh dear, your dental work is suffering, you are adequate. No, hang on, this time you’re inadequate, we must come and see you again in 2 weeks and see if you’ve approved. Now on top of all the above, you have to prepare for us to come back and watch you with that patient (whose teeth are all falling out) and at the end of the appointment if that patient’s teeth aren’t all in perfect condition, you may be out of a job!”
I loved teaching, I honestly did but someone has set this bar way too high and I’m sorry but I struggle to find anyone who can jump it! I know there are people, I know it sounds like I am being dramatic but I am just being honest, this is how I felt at the time. Can I also point out that at the time, I tried so hard not to share my negativity, and I tried SO hard to be positive. I would NEVER EVER let the pupils know I wasn’t happy and I would try so hard to keep it from other staff just because it didn’t feel fair and I hate not being positive, it’s just not who I am. Yes, I shared my feelings with some of my friends at work, that’s natural but I tried so hard not to!
I am sick of people saying “but you get such amazing holidays, isn’t that enough?” (Sorry if you ever said that to me, it’s not personal). Yes, teachers get incredible holidays; INCREDIBLE and for that we are grateful but my GOD do we need it! If not for a chance to see people but for our sanity! They are never really what they seem though. I honestly think that out of the 13 weeks of holidays we get, I fully rest and go into holiday mode for about 2 of them, maybe 3. No, I am NOT being dramatic, that is honestly what I think. If I’m lucky enough to go on holiday, I will rest for that week, if ever I go back West, yes I will rest! However, the amount of time I spend marking, planning, evaluating and dreading in the holidays consumes me and my time and I’m not able to enjoy that time at all. Some people do and for those people, the holidays are amazing! I am not one of those people. I want to make my lessons enjoyable and fun so, because term time is so crazy, I use my holiday time to plan and create resources. I want my learning environment to be amazing so, I spent the majority of my time (and money) last summer creating displays (which, get this, I still haven’t had time to put up and the only time I would have is if I came in in the holidays). I want my books to be up to date so that I don’t get questioned in a book scrutiny and so that the children can learn so, I spend my time, in the holidays marking the ones I couldn’t get to on my weekends or evenings in term time. Term time is so crazy now with all the other jobs we need to do and meetings to attend that this is the only time we get to catch up on our real teaching role! The one I love. So, don’t get me wrong, I do the above because that’s what I love to do but I do it in MY time and my holiday time because I don’t have the time any other time!
My planner that I tried so hard to make positive!
I want my smile back and not the fake one, the real one! I want to see my family and my friends and when I see them, I don’t want to think about the amount of work that awaits for me at home, I want to think about nothing! I want to live in that moment and teaching is preventing this from happening! I am trying everything to get back on track, counselling, hypnotherapy, mindfulness, all of which are helping in different ways but nothing can stop the pressure.
So I’ve made my decision. I can’t do it anymore.
24/03/16 – Resignation day
I did it, I handed in my notice. It all became too much and I had to let go. Giving up teaching has to be one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Genuinely, giving in that piece of paper that said I wanted to let go was tough. I walked down the corridor in the school that had become my second home and looked at the walls, the stairs, and the doors. I took a deep breath in and looked around me at the things I might be taking for granted, the feeling of comfort. Tears rolled down my face as I realised I had to let go of a job and a workplace that had gripped my heart for so long. It may be hard to believe but I love what I do, I love it and, without sounding big headed, I think I’m actually quite good at it! Not only do I love what I do, I love who I work with every day. I started in the school 5 years ago, a timid, quiet, shy girl who would go red if any attention was put on her and I haven’t looked back since. The staff there took me under their wings and helped me make that place my safe place where I was surrounded by not only work colleagues but friends. So, why leave? I hear you ask. I’m leaving because teaching isn’t what I wanted it to be, what I had hoped for so long it would be, it wasn’t what I had been picturing since I was 6 years old.
I’m leaving because as some people may say, I care too much! Yes, that is possible. I care way too much about a number of things, I care too much about the outcomes (that are sometimes impossible to achieve), I care too much about what others think, I care too much about finishing something that can never be finished, perfecting something that can never be perfected and being something I can never be! I am leaving because I care TOO much to just be happy being never good enough!
I love teaching and I’m incredibly sad that it has come to this (I don’t think any amount of words can or will explain how sad) but it has and I can’t do it anymore. If I want to be me, if I want to be happy, I have to get out. I have to start putting me, my family, my friends, my fiancé (now husband, yay) first; I have to. So I am and oh my goodness, it terrifies me! Everyone keeps telling me that resigning is brave. I don’t know if I agree. Right now, I feel like resigning is reckless, is selfish and is scary! I don’t know where brave fits into that. Doing it though, helps me to breathe a huge sigh of relief; I can see the light! I have been travelling down a very dark, scary tunnel and the only things that have kept me going forward (albeit in a slow and shaky manner) are my friends, fiancé and family. If it wasn’t for them, I would have stopped in that dark tunnel and stayed there for a very long time, never moving forward, never reaching the light! I can see how some people do and I feel incredibly lucky that I didn’t!
I’m no political marvel who can go into detail about who’s doing what to education and why it seems to be going this way. I can’t comment on a specific political party and how they’ve failed education because I just don’t know enough about it to be making political statements and stand against someone (and if I did, all my friends would question where the knowledge had come from). However, all I know is that whoever is doing whatever to our education system is failing the adult generation and the next generation massively. All I know is I pride myself on being the best and doing my best for the pupils and in the light of an inspection, my best was and would never be enough, causing me to break. Even though I put my heart and soul into my teaching, did my absolute best for my pupils, put my life on hold to mark their books and spend my time after school rehearsing with them, that wasn’t enough, I had to do more and I still knew I was never going to be excellent. My colleagues would tell me I was but, I knew Estyn would never see me as that and that the pressure would keep piling on. I also know that the amount of work I was expected to do drove me into the ground and stripped me of my love of my profession and is stripping our pupils of the love of learning, the love of going to school. Teachers are too stressed to smile, too tired to perform, too over-worked to remember whether it’s their niece’s or nephew’s birthday on the weekend and too deflated to make the most of the time that they’re not in work.
So, it’s done and this feels like the happiest and saddest day all in one.
So, that’s my story. That’s how I got to where I am today and reading this back, I know some of it seems incoherent but I guess that was my mind at the time! I have cried my eyes out reading this but have also ended on a high, knowing I did the right thing for me and for those around me! I know it sounds like one long rant but this was the only way I could show you how teaching can and is to this day, affecting people.
Words fail me. All I know is I love teaching and I’ve had to give it up. I was willing to give my all to those children but it was never going to be enough and now teaching has lost me and loads of others like me just because it’s become something other than teaching, it’s become relentless, it’s become impossible! It became a job I didn’t recognise anymore and I became a person I didn’t recognise anymore! (Thank God Dan still wanted to marry me!! Haha)!
I KNOW there will be people out there who will read this and think “oh, another teacher on a rant!” and I pity those people. I am not ranting, I am merely pointing out how this profession has made me (and I know so many others) feel. I am NOT in any way saying that other jobs aren’t difficult and demanding! I know they are and I am not oblivious to that! I am not looking for pity or praise; I am just putting this out there so that I can move on and hopefully show others that they are not on their own. I know that when you feel this way, it can be an incredibly lonely place but you are NOT alone! With the help from my mum, dad (who makes me feel like he’s proud of me whatever I do and wherever I am, always his princess), HUSBAND, other family and friends, I dragged myself out of the whirlpool and you can too!
So, I left and for the first time EVER since I handed in my resignation, I see why that was brave! It felt stupid but it wasn’t. I felt like I was letting people down, most importantly pupils down, but I wasn’t! They will continue; they will go on and if they want to succeed then they will, as long as they do their best! My colleagues will go on working their butts off and I will still keep in touch with all the wonderful people but it was brave because I made the decision that day to start living again! To risk everything I have ever known and loved to start fresh and boy does it feel good, it is absolutely terrifying but it feels so good! I want to tell you allll about how good it feels, what I’ve done and where I am now, today, but I think for now, enough is enough. Until next time!