In 2013 I left Secondary teaching. Next week I’m stepping back into the burning building as everyone else appears to be running from it. Why? Because I’m ready to stop moaning about the system and start making it work instead.
Teachers moan a lot – to each other, to their friends and family and to anyone who will listen. Part of it is the complete lack of understanding from those who think it’s an easy job with lots of holidays. To those people I’d always say try it for a year if you think it’s so easy and we’ll talk after that. The reason they moan is simple though – it’s not the marking, meetings, CPD or paperwork, it’s because they really do care about the kids they teach.
Any decent teacher’s priority are the pupils who sit in front of them each week – and despite what my face says that includes me. I might wind them up and poke fun at them but I did the job for them and I know that going back this will continue to be the case. So why did I leave? Well there were a few reasons including me not coping with my mental health particularly well and blaming everything else; there were some people I needed to get away from as they were not helping that issue either; and the CfE that was marching towards the senior phase frankly scared me.
Curriculum for Excellence in itself is not an issue – the outcomes and philosophy behind it is something that any teacher strives to do anyway. The changes were not always going to have a positive impact on the pupils. They could effectively leave at the end of S4 without any substantial qualifications to their name and I felt strongly that this was wrong. Also the repetitiveness of the syllabus from S3 and up was something I felt undermined the great work that was being done by teachers across departments. When you are trying to find new ways to present ideas but the structure is monotonous, it felt like a losing battle.
The thing is that nothing has changed in the three years since I left. CfE continues (although the tweaks are starting to happen) and the other issues of work/life balance and my health are the same. But an important thing has changed – me.
It’s taken the time away from the job to see it for what it is. Over the last year and a half I have worked with pupils from backgrounds that don’t traditionally progress to Further and Higher Education and I have been reminded that these kids are the whole reason I loved the job. Working with these individuals and helping them get the best out of their time at school is an essential job and I need to stop bitching and moaning and get back to what I do best – being a teacher.
Over the years I have been very fortunate to have had former pupils get in touch with me to compliment my role in their school lives. To know I’ve had a positive influence makes the whole thing worthwhile. I know I’ll still moan, I’ll struggle with aspects of the job and I’ll still feel that CfE is not a great structure – but I have some perspective now and hopefully that time away will allow me to return in a more positive and constructive way.
The other thing is that if I don’t try again I’ll never know if I could have been successful or not. I feel that I owe it to myself to give it another try. I hope my manic depression doesn’t get in the way as it did at times previously, but since i was last in a classroom I am in a stronger position of understanding the condition and being on the right medication for the condition. I do worry that there is a chance that I might not cope and I’ll have to draw a line under my teaching career once and for all, but I have to at least try.
Rather than moaning about the job from the outside it’s time to go in and get my head down and make the best of the situation and help the next generation of learners be the best they can be. Along the way i hope that I can do the same for myself.