There have been times I've considered quitting:
- While I was studying, I remember being in tears at the schedule I was facing. In school all week, up all hours preparing everything required for training (pages of lesson plans, resources of every shape and size; EVERYTHING was laminated and far more elaborate than it ever needed to be), holding down a part-time job to pay for my university course; all while living away from home for the first time.
- My first ever observation as an NQT was absolutely horrific. It was a lesson on shapes - sorting them into a carroll diagram based on their properties. I'd prepared every possible resource, like I'd been doing 'on placement'. We had the shapes to draw around, A3 paper to share, the world's most whizz-bang slide show, and it wasn't good enough. Had my children actually learnt anything?
- Where I was teaching at the time, the feeling of our school being branded 'RI' in an inspection was shattering. We'd worked so hard to successfully improve standards after a couple of years dipped, but our historical data was too important to consider scrapping a pre-decided verdict, in favour of examining some of the current progress in learning we were exhibiting.
So why didn't I leave?
Each of these instances, and several more in the years gone by, have taught me an important lesson:
- Effort - I strongly believe that this profession will give you back, what you put in. This job isn't easy, and your to-do list will never be complete, but keep chipping away at it, and you'll see the benefits. Try to prioritise and remember that everyone in your school is in the same boat. At times, you'll feel like everyone is doing a better job, but they're just better at covering it up.
- Realism - trying to get 30 eight-year olds to draw around a set of shapes, when they're sharing both the shapes and paper, was a stupid idea. Simplify your lessons to what needs to be taught, and then a decent context to drive the learning. Keep resources to the essentials and consider the shelf-life of what you're doing. If your action won't have impact, don't act on it.
- Resilience - we are surrounded by criticism, as part of life (not just teaching), so learn to deal with it. If it's constructive, you can do something with it; if it's a comment for comments' sake, force a smile, and file it in the bin. Idiotic comments are fuelled by our own reaction to them; the same is true on the playground.
Cut to 5 years later.
I've enjoyed a year in a new school, after feeling professionally confident enough to jump ship from everything I knew!
I've launched teachmrn.com, where my constant rambling is creeping up to 50,000 views!
I've created an app designed to support parents with reading at home!
...and there was that time I split my trousers at the London Science Museum.
There's nothing further from my mind, than quitting this glorious business.
However, there is one thing I am giving up; reading miserable "Why I'm leaving" articles. If you don't like it, put in the effort to change it. Be realistic about the timescale. And be prepared to tackle critique on the way.
Don't pour your time into composing a short essay on 'how it used to be', which will only be read by people who already know everything you're going to say, or people who can't relate, thus rendering your misplaced efforts as another poster for the 'recruitment crisis'. We know the stresses; we do it too. Anyone who doesn't will just assume you're complaining about not receiving an extra week's holiday after your 3.30pm finish. There's nothing wrong with this profession - it's just the way you're being asked to go about it.
We need you to stay strong, stick to your values, and take your expertise to another school that really need you!
The 5 Year Curse is a myth, and I'm pleased to have made the right choices to ensure my longevity in this rewarding career.