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My job quest for peace of mind

For many years, as a reader of The TES, I have been aware of letters and articles from disgruntled teachers who cannot find a job. The disgruntlement has been centred largely on the expectation that people think them over-qualified, or too old, or too expensive.

Younger teachers also express disenchantment with a system that selects on unknown or hidden criteria. They experience debriefings that may be justifications for rejection but which bear no semblance to the reality that went on behind closed doors during the final selection process. In following the advice from such encounters, applicants then fall foul of the next appointing team who debrief with quite different suggestions.

I have reflected on such phrases as "there, but for the Grace of God, go I", and have sided with the writers in mental commiseration, or with the selection team in the difficulty of their choice. Were some of the disgruntled applicants actually inviting prejudice and rejection? Did they apply because they really wanted that job, rather than a job?

Now I too have reached the situation where I convinced myself I was too old and too experienced, rather than thinking positively about what I have done. I have heard myself saying so at interview, and talking myself out of a job. Having risen to the dizzy heights of head of department within 10 years, and sat in that grade for a further 20, I resigned, like Marcus Short (Talkback, July 28), from the increased paperwork and administrative chores, and sought a lower grade.

It proved difficult to get, but I didn't become jaundiced. I recognised that sooner or later (in my case, later), someone, somewhere, would recognise me for what I am. If Harry Ree (who went from being a professor at York University to teaching French in an inner London comprehensive), why not me?

I am now in a lowest-grade teaching post, but still on a respectable salary with very little admin hassle, and I am enjoying teaching as much as I did in my first job. I have time to give to children who want to know more, I have time to mark work carefully, and I can organise extra activities that only three years ago I couldn't consider.

Now the phrase "happy as a sandboy" becomes appropriate. At no time did I despair: Mr Micawber's guiding principle was my inspiration. I believed it - and it happened. I am 53 and a teacher re-born. Take heart, and take a salary cut if you get the chance.

Robin Holman is a science teacher in the London borough of Bromley. He writes under a pseudonym.

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