A Fresh Start



Well it’s been a long time coming but today I handed in my notice to work. I’m leaving the world of education after ten years in schools and the college and I couldn’t be happier.

It’s taken a lot of thinking and discussion but ultimately I was miserable and it was causing me to be ill and there’s no point in putting myself through that when there is an exit available to me. Some would probably ask if I’d ever been happy being a teacher and the truth is yes I was – but only really when I was with the kids during my time in secondary schools. I have taught some brilliant, funny, sparky, interesting, clever and thoughtful pupils over the years and it’s not because of them I have left the profession – but the adults that surround it instead.

I left the secondary sector for two reasons: the adults and Curriculum for Excellence. The adults were not just within the school but parents who felt blaming teachers (not me most of the time I would hasten to add) for every short coming their darling offspring had. There is so much I could say and rant about – even name names but that doesn’t get us anywhere and only serves to give these people the satisfaction of knowing they got to me.

I would make a couple of general points though. Some would say that me walking away from the kids I said I enjoyed teaching is almost contradictory, and that I should have stayed to help them but it gets to a point where you genuinely feel that what you can offer it not what they need anymore. Curriculum for Excellence has so much in it that makes me feel that way, and I wholeheartedly applaud those who have stuck with it despite how terrible it is. Another thing is the current upward trend of those getting additional help in exams from the SQA. I fully support additional learning needs and know several people who work as teachers and as auxiliaries in this area and the work they do with the time and budget is impressive, but too often parents are using the lax approach of the SQA to their child’s advantage. A child who genuinely struggles with Autism, Aspergers, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Dyscalcula and other learning difficulties should be fully supported – but now kids whose minds wander, write slowly, need to chat and get time out breaks during exams is frankly taking the piss out of the system and of the other kids.

When I was at school there was a thing called being thick and despite what politically correct people will tell you it is still very much alive. The throwing around of labels by canny parents is making a mockery of the system and diluting the support for those who really need it. I seriously want to know what is wrong with not being able to do something – we can’t all be great at everything, life’s not like that, so why do we persist in making schools follow the “everyone wins” mantra. Which leads me on to parent power. Parents should have an interest in their child’s education – but that shouldn’t involve a hotline to the senior staff and teachers being accused of x, y and z in the word of a student against the word of a professional. Yes there needs to be suitable checks in place but the scrutiny of teachers now is driving them out of the profession and off with stress and depression. We need to hold our teachers up as role models and stop beating them down with small mistakes.

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve seen lots of my former pupils graduating and although you were only a small part of their education there is a real sense of pride in seeing them achieve – and by the same token I’ve met with former pupils who went straight to work and are doing well for themselves now. You’re not there to be liked (and I know I was hated by more than liked me) but you hope that you helped them in some way – not always in academic terms but that you were open, honest and able to discuss things with them and help them to see the world in a slightly different way. I know I was shaped by my experiences with some of my teachers – some of whom I still keep in touch with on Facebook, just as my former pupils do.

The move to college was to try to develop my skills to get out of education in the long-term – all it achieved was to make me ill as the academic sausage factory became too claustrophobic to deal with on a day-to-day basis. While the team I worked with were fantastic, there were so many issues beyond that office that it dragged me down and left me reaching for new pills and more consultations. I knew very quickly that it wasn’t for me but the step backwards to secondary didn’t appeal. I knew I had to move on and now I’m well enough to do that with a clear head and high hopes.

I am proud of most of what I achieved in education, I think overall I did the right thing by the pupils. And while there will always be those who would rather a picture of my face on a dartboard than sitting at the bar for a chat I don’t think I hated any of them – none that spring to mind anyway. While I need to get away from it just now I would never rule out going back one day, but for now I’ve done my time at the chalk-face. Goodbye education – it’s been…interesting

Onward and upward


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