Becoming a sidekick has given me superpowers

6th March 2015 at 00:00

Three years ago, I hung up my whistle and put away my planning folders after a 17-year career as a primary teacher. When I first entered the profession I couldn't believe people would actually pay me to do a job that felt like a genuine privilege and was so much fun.

But three years ago, lesson observations were mounting and the expectations for endless assessments were growing. After a series of bereavements, I decided I didn't have the energy to go on. I was frustrated that time with my family was becoming increasingly rare. Bedtime stories lost their sparkle as I watched the clock, waiting for the moment when I could sneak away to open my laptop and finish the day's work or get on with some planning.

But after a year away, I began to miss working in education. I knew I didn't want to return to the relentless grind of the teaching profession, so I volunteered at a local primary and then moved on to become a teaching assistant at another school.

And I love it.

I can spend time talking to the children, listening to their ideas and really focusing on their needs, because I have the energy to do so. The children, rather than the administrative tasks, are now firmly back at the top of my agenda.

An increasing number of ex-teachers are enjoying the liberation of working as teaching assistants. We are a growing army. The downside, of course, is that the salary is significantly reduced. My daughter's piano lessons had to stop and my little boy's swimming classes have bitten the dust. I also worry about how we will pay for the next oil delivery to run the central heating or whether we will have enough money to replace our weary car.

So will I ever return to being a classroom teacher? Who knows? For now I like the idea of being an uber-teaching assistant (to borrow a friend's description) who struggles to pay the bills, rather than a jaded teacher always chasing her tail. And my own kids have got their mother back, which is precious indeed.

The writer is a teaching assistant in Yorkshire

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