Eighteen months ago I did what many teachers dream of doing. I resigned.
I had no job to go to and no clear plan for the future. I knew only that I could not set one more target, spend one more weekend preparing for an observation or implement one more directive from a non-teaching management team. So I said farewell to my students, waved goodbye to my colleagues and departed for the great unknown outside the classroom.
I always wanted to teach, and I have been in a classroom with my days timetabled for me since I was 5. Leaving teaching was like leaving home, with all its reassuring familiarity. I had been in that particular job for 10 years. I left colleagues who were close friends and students I knew well. Even now, I feel a tremendous sense of loss.
At night, I lie awake wondering whether I made the right decision. It is easy to wallow in nostalgic memories of best lessons and staffroom camaraderie. Yes, there are other areas in education for me to pursue, other work to be had - but nothing is quite like the buzz of the classroom.
What I forget, of course, is that the cause of my despair was what happened outside the classroom: endless and increasing paperwork - much of which appeared to be a tick-box exercise in case the inspectors arrived - and the imposing of uniformity on everything from delivery to assessment, so that attempts to be creative or individual became virtually impossible. I was tired of the media's constant presentation of teachers as incompetent people doing a job that anyone who had been to school could do better, and of the government's endless pronouncements.
Did I do the right thing? Was I just exhausted and taking everything too much to heart? Probably the right answer to both those questions is "Yes". And probably I will return to teaching at some point. Meanwhile, when I talk to other teachers who have left the profession, I am comforted and saddened to discover that I am not alone in wondering what happened to the job I loved.
The writer is an ex-teacher from England
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