I can’t quite believe there are now only ten days to go until I turn the notorious grand age of 40, but there you are. It is. Time waits for no (wo)man.
I just glanced at my calendar and realised one of the reasons life is whizzing by at such terrific speed is mainly because I am:
a) a teacher (so never enough hours in the day to teach the ever increasing overloaded National Curriculum, or mark the reams of written work required of 8 year olds) and:
b) I have a child, and having a child means your calendar is taken over and beholden to social events and appointments (especially if you have one through which social services are involved) revolving around said child which sees each week passing you by in a daze. In fact my whole life seems to be beholden to two schools and the systems and routines which dictate a ‘civilised’ society. (Oh I was having a right old moan at the school gates today Haha!) And I was called a maverick by a colleague today (in a good humoured way, but nevertheless she’s right; the older I get the more I want to shout: “STUFF YOU SOCIETY AND YOUR STUPID EXPECTATIONS AND CONFORMITY!” And of course SuperTramp’s ‘Logical Song’ plays on a loop in my head most days…)
All this brings me to number 10 in my ‘achievements’ for the year leading up to my 40th and that is…
#10: I Resigned From my Job, (then didn’t.)
Which sounds like a non achievement I grant you, but bear with.
I have been wanting to quit teaching for a while now. Partly because trying to do a good job at it, and foster my 7 year old nephew and be able to give him the quality time he needs, is quite a juggling act. Now whereas many people do it (raise children and teach full time, whereas I’ve only worked mornings now for four years) I was still finding it too much. I was still stressed and snappy and this is not a good state of affairs. On top of the workload (planning on a Saturday being part of that) and selfishly wanting to pursue writing my book more, there is the added problem of just being me and how I feel about the education system.
It was bad enough when I was simply immersed in its silliness as a teacher; its ridiculous excuse for a system whereby children and young people are shoe horned into a one size fits all education, and expected to conform bugged me enough then. Yes, I know I sound very left wing, but I guess I am. I know a curriculum has to be this way, IE all children get the same, but it is the expectation of the end result for ALL, as well as the enormous pressure put on teachers to make silk purses out of sow’s ears which I can’t climb on board with.
Now I have to deal with the stupid system as a parent (by which enormous pressure is now mounted on me from little one’s school as well as Social Services) I really find it hard on board. Last year, I was slowly starting to feel my life bogged down in school, school, school. (Still do as it happens.) Don’t get me wrong, as with all teachers I love actually teaching, but I cannot reconcile myself any longer to what it asks of my conscience. Testing, testing, testing. Constantly. Labelling children, expecting children of aged 6 to understand the intricacies of fractions. Honestly, I can’t write about it without my blood boiling. The fact is teaching in this education system is no longer a long term option for me. I know that and have known it for a while. In Education, in our education system you have no choice but to conform. I don’t feel able to conform any more. I’ve never been especially good at it anyway.
So by February of this year I’d begun to put a plan of action into place to leave teaching. I planned to work by cleaning private homes 3 days a week and pick up some private tutoring on a Saturday, and some evenings, leaving me 2 days in the week to write.
That was the plan. I knew money would go right down, so I started to make plans to deal with that. I bought myself a Chrome Book (mentioned in my previous post) as I’d no loner have access to a laptop from work, and in March I handed in my resignation. I wasn’t going to leave until the summer term ended, and that would therefore give me 6-7 weeks to start finding work. If work didn’t come readily at first I figured I could always do supply teaching to keep afloat.
Some of my friends and some of my family were concerned. Some were supportive. Colleagues were surprised; others weren’t, but few seemed able to hide their amusement when I told them what I’d be doing instead. But I’m not one to especially care what others think so on I ploughed with my escape plan!
Isn’t it funny though how people can’t grasp how anyone would be prepared to give up what was essentially a well paid part time job (8:30-1:00(ish) 5 mornings a week) to go and clean other people’s house for a pittance, even if it means more freedom from the rat race and from an oppressive system? How can someone with a profession even think to want to go and be someone’s cleaner? But you know, I like helping people. Being of service, which is kind of what teaching is but on someone else’s terms. Knowing this was the year I turned officially middle aged, and knowing I will never, ever return to full time teaching again, this felt like the right time to take the bull by the horns and just do it.
Was I scared? Well, until I actually did it, yes. And then I handed in my resignation and it felt as though a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. The light at the end of the tunnel was extremely enticing even if the thought of tightening in my belt was a little concerning.
However, it isn’t as though it’s the first time I’ve done something similar. Back in 2010, I resigned from my full time teaching position, earning £36,000 a year, to simply go on supply teaching. It was hard, financially for a while, but having had a stress related depression for over 6 months and knowing that it was the workload of teaching and how I felt about the whole system which contributed to that, the only way I could see was out.
Not completely out, but out a little bit. Then of course at the end of 2011 I took on the care of my nephew, and though I do get paid a fostering allowance for that, in order to foster him I needed to give up teaching (even on supply contracts) full time. So my wage reduced yet again and hence the only working part time for the past 4 years. However, part time work seemed rapidly to involve working (either planning, marking or teaching) up to 35 hours a week. Now sorry, but to me that’s nearly a full time ordinary job and yes, it may not be the 60 hours a full time teacher works, but you know what? We all make choices about work and I don’t want to work myself into the ground just to enjoy a few weeks of the year. I want to enjoy all of my year. 35 hours a week on a part time basis/wage is not part time. I foster my nephew which is a full time job and he needs me to be emotionally competent for him, not overworked. Teaching doesn’t allow for me to be emotionally competent at all times. Others may be able to do it; I’ve found I can’t.
So…the status quo remained, with me working full mornings, until this year when work became increasingly stressful due to building works, and so having to move classroom a lot and having two higher set maths groups to teach (which I found really hard as maths is just not my forte and at upper primary level, the average Joe on the street might be horrified at what a 10 year old is expected to do. I know I have become increasingly concerned).
So yes, I resigned from teaching. I knew I’d be taking a risk, giving up the pension and the sick pay and the holiday pay and the security of regular work, but to me, I don’t see what all this has to offer any more towards my quality of life. So there I was all set to walk off out into the proverbial sunset on July 17th. Nervous, sure, but exilerated and liberated at the same time. My head was in the zone for self sufficiency and finding new work and new challenges and working on my book more.
But then… two weeks from the summer break, my headteacher came to me. They’d not been able to find a suitable replacement for my role and he offered me some slightly different terms and conditions to stay on until Christmas. Highly attractive terms actually to me. It wouldn’t mean more money, it would mean less, but as I’d been willing to take a much vaster drop in wage already then this wasn’t a problem to me. Firstly there would be two lessons instead of three to teach, plus a later start and no other responsibilities like playground duty or assembly (hymn practice) which I used to lead every Wednesday. There would be no subject lead, (I’d just not found any time to do that anyway, and the stress of not doing something can be as stressful as doing it.) There would be no PPA time either, but that was fine to me, as I’d simply be coming in and teaching. Nothing else. I would be allowed to choose the sets I taught. The contract would be temporary, so the light at the end of the tunnel remained, which I think psychologically was important for me. He said I could see how I went and maybe the new arrangements would suit me and perhaps I’d change my mind about going. (I doubted I would…)
So since September started, I now work from 9am (so I get to drop my nephew at school rather than at a before school club so no fees there) and I teach two lower Maths sets from 9:30 until 11:45. I then mark for an hour and go home at 12:45. I plan on a Thursday evening and that takes about an hour and half. In total I work a solid (yet no extra) 20 hours a week in terms of teaching, which is a good job being as my nephew just started junior school and the homework demands are in the realms of the ridiculous so I seem to be doing the day job at night too now! (Tonight has seen me blow my top, yet again as he a) either grapples with something too hard he hasn’t yet been taught or b) he can do, but is too lazy to bother. Grrrr!)
20 hours is a part time job. 35 hours wasn’t. I feel now I have the right work/life balance. At last.
So anyway, here I am, back to partly conforming within the system with my slightly non-conformist new teaching role, and I’ve asked my Head if I can stay in this contract until the end of the academic year as it suits me well right now and I am about 100 times less stressed than I was last year. (I didn’t especially want to leave mid academic year anyway, which is why I’d planned to leave in the summer.) I still get the benefit of doing what I love and am good at, ( I think, I HOPE!), together with a regular wage with decent hours and time for my nephew. (Even if most of it is spent doing the job of his teachers because the curriculum is too overloaded for them to cover it all with him. Ho hum.) The role would only be there for this year and next year maximum anyway as it will become an obsolete role then, so I’d be looking for something else in July 2017 whatever had happened. I’m still waiting to find out the final decision as to whether I can stay until the end of this academic year, as there is a new Head starting in January and so it’ll be his and the governors’ decision whether to extend my current temporary contract or not. Either way I’m not panicking about pensions and pay-packets. What will be will be. I’ve had a couple of years out of pension contributions and been on temporary contracts now for six years. This might worry some, especially those without a spouse or partner to fall back on as I haven’t, but I just have found the whole thing more freeing, so there’s the achievement, and I’m happier than I’ve been in along while.
Also means I get time to write more of this meaningless drivel!
Thanks for stopping by and reading, those of you who still do. :)