So it’s finally time to confirm that I’ve handed in my notice. My final day of teaching is Wednesday 23rd October. I start a new job outside of teaching on the 1st November.
The big question is – what has driven me to turn my back on a career that I have invested pretty much 25 years in, that I have loved (and still do love some of it), and that has been a huge privilege to work with some of the best young people?
I am not a teacher who chose to do a PGCE after my degree to try teaching out. I wanted to be a teacher from the age of 17. I did a 4 year BSc(Ed) course at St. Luke’s School of Education, University of Exeter and after a sabbatical year started my first job in Sept 2002 in a fantastic maths department in a school in Surrey. I was blessed with a brilliant mentor and the most amazing Head of Department who was (and still is) a huge inspiration to me.
Very early on, my fiancee (now wife) and I quickly realised that the job was at times all consuming (She is a primary teacher). At the end of year 2 we decided that before we got married we needed to see the world in order to re-align our priorities and “work to live” not “live to work”. We had an amazing 6 months travelling then came home, got married and relocated to Wiltshire.
My first role as a 2nd in maths was a bit of a mixed bag. Some really horrific times where I doubted if this job was for me, and some amazing highs. I met a deputy head who was the most inspiring person who spurred me on when times were hard and worked with some great teachers in other departments who I am still in contact with now.
I moved to another school after 5 years for another 2nd role and after a further year took up my first Head of Department role. Wow! Nothing, not even the NCSL Middle Leadership training I did could have prepared me for what was involved in running your own team. That 5 1/2 years at times were a blur. Some huge achievements both for me personally and for my team. Some more huge lows, including a couple of calls to Union reps for issues that required their support. After some major issues with some questionable management practices that I won’t go into here I moved to the school I am now leaving.
The change couldn’t have been more different. The school helped me to fall in love with teaching again. I re-discovered what teaching a class of enthusiastic, focused, well behaved, motivated young people felt like. I could focus again on pedagogy rather than constantly fire-fighting. I was leading a fantastic team that was on a par with the first department I worked with, and I was working for a Headteacher who had a clarity of vision that I hadn’t seen before and I could see myself working for her and the school for many years.
During this journey into management we had endured numerous curriculum re-writes, OFSTED framework changes, changes in governments, numerous changes of Education Secretaries, and the national picture was constantly changing. There was also the issue of a lack of pay rise since 2010. These constant changes meant more work, but with an ever decreasing (in real terms) salary. Doing more for less.
The pressure to deliver results in a maths team is something that unless you have taught maths, english, or science at secondary level you simply cannot understand what it requires of you. This pressure over the 7 years as a middle leader made me have to chose between my own children, and the children in the school(s) I was working in. My children are now 11 and 8. When you hear phrases come out of their mouths like “Daddy never laughs” and “why is Daddy always sad” your heart breaks. When you come home and within 5 minutes you are telling them off because you are so stressed after work that you are like a coiled spring. When everything becomes hard to get done because the huge levels of stress is making you so tired from lack of sleep, unable to concentrate, getting you to the point where you are unwell, unable to exercise due to injuries that are likely to have been exacerbated by stress, and going to see your doctor due to the impact of extreme stress on your health, you realise that something has to change.
I reached this point in February this year.
It was time to make a change. Time to make a choice. My family v the children in my classroom.
The job had got to the point where it was simply impossible to be the sort of husband and father I wanted to be, as well as the kind of teacher and leader I wanted to be. I loved both of them. But there was no longer room in my life to be able to do both. One had to go. It was a simple choice where there was only going to be one winner.
So I got in touch with one of my oldest friends who agreed to help me write a CV for the first time in nearly 20 years. After spending my entire Easter holiday getting it done it was sent to some companies to see if there were any posts available.
In early May I was contacted by a company and called to interview. I heard before May half term that they’d like to offer me a role leading a team of people and I accepted. At this point I spoke to my Head and informed her that I had accepted another job and would be resigning. I was however unable to formally resign as I needed to negotiate a start date.
When I was finally able to resign I left my Head’s office and cried. The only feeling I can compare it to was when my Grandparents passed. It genuinely felt like I was grieving. I was losing something that I had invested 24 years into. I’d given blood, sweat, tears, and every possible emotion you can imagine to this life.
The day after was a Friday. I came to work feeling lighter. I felt less stressed than I had for months, probably years. I went home that weekend and enjoyed myself with my children. The first time I’d felt able to do this for longer than I wish to remember. I laughed. Actually laughed with my boys. I played cricket in the garden. Watched them in their squash lesson. Smiled without it being forced. Relaxed. I mean actually relaxed. I didn’t do any work at all.
It’s now a few weeks since I resigned. I’m finally getting excited about what I’m moving on to. I’m relaxing at home. Enjoying being a Dad. Working hard to be a much better husband. The house is less stressed. I am less stressed.
All of this makes me realise that I have made the right decision.
I’ll still be involved in education. I’m going to be doing some maths tutoring. I’m a primary school governor and hope to get much more involved in this over the coming years. I’m still going to attend conferences and hope to be accepted to speak at some too. I still feel that I have much to offer education, but am going to do it from a position of a former teacher.