Should you leave teaching?

I intended to write this blogpost months ago, before I’d actually left, but something more topical always seemed to pop up. It also feels like a bit of a cheat, since this is all now written in retrospect and, for me, the answer was clearly ‘yes’. However, if you’re currently teaching, wishing you were out, and wondering if leaving might be the right decision, let me paint a picture of where I was in the run up to departure.

Bye bye!

Prior to going, a number of colleagues also departed (either through their own volition or by being pushed) and when the first one went I remember thinking that they had taken the easy way out and feeling quite disdainful of their choice. However, as the pressures mounted and my unhappiness grew it became apparent that, for my own health and wellbeing, it was what I also needed to do.

Guilty dog.

Before resigning, my initial feeling was one of guilt: guilt about leaving the kids, who really need a consistent adult presence in their lives, guilt about leaving the school while it was undergoing a lot of external pressure and guilt about the effect not working would have on my family.

The constant guilt developed into stress, as I tried to ignore the guilt and focus on work. That put me under even more pressure, as I tried even harder to get better at I job I was extraordinarily unhappy and feeling increasingly unconfident in.

Finally, I felt like leaving would be a cop out, that I’d taken the easy option instead of overcoming this challenging situation. I thought that my colleagues would form the same opinion of me that I’d formed of that first departing teacher and I’d simply become one of those 40% of teachers who leave in their first five years.

After resigning, the feelings changed. There was a real sense of relief: this was the right thing to do. The hardest part, it turns out, was actually doing it. Not a single colleague criticised the choice and the senior leadership team were surprisingly supportive. I found that I stopped crying during my drives home and it was as if a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.

All of which, sounds a bit cheesy.

So what next?

So that’s very nice indeed but whether leaving is the right choice of you? Only you can decide. If you are stressed and miserable in your teaching position, something does need to change but you need to identify what it is that is making you feel that way and why. Is it the class? Your colleagues? The location? The work/life balance?

When I left my first school, I wasn’t happy. I had a challenging class, it was a long commute and while most of my colleagues were sound, the head was a bit weird and I fundamentally disagreed with a lot of their ideas about teaching. So, I moved to a school much nearer home with nice colleagues and a better understanding of how young children should be taught. I started September 1st full of optimism but by September 3rd I had a familiar feeling of dread about being a teacher.  Three months later, I’d handed in my notice.


A refugee from my old school.

Today I had a placement at a school I last visited three years ago (it’s actually the one I refused to go back to because I got a parking ticket last time). When signing in I saw the familiar face of the woman whose classroom I inherited, at my old school.

Paul Daniels

Talking to her at the end of the day, it sounds like it was just as bad in her day as when I left. Microscopic observations, unfair gradings and stressed-out teachers. She seems much happier in her new school. For a moment I wondered if I’d be happier teaching full time again, just in a different setting. Then I came to my senses.

Almost famous: How I defeated ISIS, won the heart of Vanessa Feltz and convinced the nation of my vision for education. Sort of.

A strange thing happened last week.

I randomly checked my Facebook messages and there was one from an old colleague, who I worked with in a former life (meaning, prior to teaching). That colleague now works for BBC London and had heard that Vanessa Feltz would be talking about the fact that now 40% of teachers don’t complete their first year of teaching (a whole new cohort of 1ofthe40percenters, right there) and would I like to contribute? Sod it, I thought, why not?

So my poor parenting kicked in and I occupied the kids with some biscuits and Postman Pat: The Movie

(incidentally, it’s awful) and waited for the call back.

Unfortunately when I did get the call back it was to say that I’d been bumped as the programme was going to focus on school children doing cultural exchanges with ISIS in Syria because it’s the Easter holidays.

My first reaction was ‘Oh well, I was only doing my friend a favour’ but then my second was that we can not let the terrorists win like this! For ISIS to deprive me of the chance of appearing on the Vanessa Feltz show means that they have already scored a significant victory against the decadent Western infidels. We can not let the terrorists win like this!


Luckily, the next morning (having travelled to London to see my parents and therefore becoming a much more legitimate guest for BBC London), while still in my pyjamas, I got a phone call asking if I’d be on air in a couple of hours. Why not?   So, having scribbled some prep and given the kids a couple more biscuits and the rest of Postman Pat: The Movie, I got called back and put on air.

I vanessadidn’t really know what to expect and Vanessa Feltz did get my name slightly wrong (which is good, I guess, for the continuing anonymity of this blog). I did my best to answer her questions coherently, even correcting her suggestion that most teachers are usually home by 5.30 instead of still working and I feel, having listened back on iPlayer, that while I mostly rambled on about being a dad and the main reason for leaving to become a supply was to spend more time with my kids, I wasn’t a complete shambles.

At one point she asked me, since I’d gone into supply, if I’d taken myself off the career ladder, missing the chance to become a Headteacher or Head of Department, to which I answered that I guess I had but also – and this is true – that I’d never seen myself as either of those things. I always pictured myself as in the class and the good thing about supply is that you leave your work at work. She replied that it was the first time she’d heard being a supply teacher considered a step forwards.

I’m not sure it is a step forward (and said so) but, as I also mentioned, my priorities have changed and would I reach retirement at 68 and say I was glad that I spent every Saturday working? I didn’t think I would.

So, you can imagine my excitement the next morning when I knew the papers would be full of the revolution that I had begun and job offers from the BBC would be filling up my email. Sadly, most of the press seemed to be occupied with talking about the leaders election debate and the heckler that got chucked out of the studio.

I suspect they threw her out because of the potent political message she had to spread.