Rewinding, but the song has changed.



Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain – and most fools do. Benjamin Franklin

Guilty as charged. As a teacher, for the best part of a decade, I complained about all different aspects of the job: CfE, Parents, Colleagues, the kids, me. But I loved the job and I miss it in many ways.

So I’m going back. There is one major reason for this change of direction and it’s the fact I have changed a hugely fundamental thing – me.

When I went into teaching I started off on the wrong foot coming into a profession off the back of a major illness – cancer. Less than two months after being given the all clear I thought the best thing to do was to get working and carry on with my life. In some ways it helped but in others it was the completely wrong move for me. For a year or more I was still dealing with the aftermath of the impact the diagnosis had on me. Doing that at the same time as finding your way through a new career was not the right thing and many bad habits were formed.

Then there was a second diagnosis that changed things. Depression and Anxiety disorder. As time went on my symptoms were getting worse and I was trapped in a loop of mood swings that impacted on day-to-day work. I’d love the job one day and the next I’d loathe it. It was only once I’d left the job and was working at the college that I was diagnosed as bipolar. That changed so much in my life and mind. While it took time to bed in, now I am in a much better place because of the meds, the support from others and my own understanding of the condition.

With hindsight I was all over the place at points during my teaching career – not a surprise considering I’m a manic-depressive. But there is much more to be positive about in education. It’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination – CfE is still a woolly and unwieldy framework – but rather than sit outside the system and complain about it, I want to go into the middle of it and work to ensure every pupil gets the best chance possible.

I look at my kids and think that it is wrong just to condemn the whole of secondary education – we need people in there who will fight for the pupils and work hard to get them the best possible outcomes. I’m not trying to portray myself as some kind of magic wand waving prodigal son, I just want to try my best and help this generation of youngsters be all they can be. My experiences in the Further and Higher Education systems have shown me the bigger picture for these kids – not only seeing the narrow nature of teaching my subject but looking at how and where they are heading to.

This could be a huge mistake – it could break me, as the college experience did – but I’m determined to at least try. Seems strange that so many are leaving the profession I’m heading back into the fray, but if I don’t try it now I may never bother. The thing I always loved about the job will still be there – the kids. While I may wind them up and not always be a ray of sunshine I am tremendously proud of all the pupils I still speak to and keep in touch with from previous schools and many have been very kind in their comments about me too. That’s what I miss, the working relationship that allows you to challenge pupils and see them improve and flourish. 

No more complaining from the outside, time to roll up my sleeves again and get back to it. One step at a time, build my confidence and keep an eye on my manic depression to ensure I am getting the balance right, there’s no reason I can’t complete my second decade in teaching with a more positive view. Fingers crossed.


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