Leaving Teaching – Reflecting on an Amazing Career
19 years in education is a long time! If you are thinking of leaving teaching I’m sure you too are reflecting on what could be. Of course this post could easily be diverted by the political changes over the years. By national strategies, Brain Gym, VAK and every other random idea that has been thrown at us over the year – there really have been lots of these fads.
I didn’t want this post to be like that – I wanted to really think about everything that I have gained. I want to think about what has been, and hopefully inspire others to think about what we gain from this career. The last two years are not the sum of my career, (and I wrote about this here) and government tinkering does not define our day to day work. This, really, is my love letter to the job I love.
I do feel some kind of mention for the national strategies is warranted however. The obsession with timing my lessons, teacher talk and ‘plenary’ activities shaped how I teach, honed my explanations and (whisper it) – made me a better teacher!
Taking me out of my comfort zone! What comes after leaving teaching?
The old ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ has never been truer. The sheer variety of roles I’ve held, the activities I’ve led and ‘acting’ in front of the children. It has meant that I’ve learnt all kinds of different crafts, that I’ve visited places I wouldn’t have even thought of going to, tried activites that I would have never attempted! I will never forget, as an NQT, being told I was going to lead PE based purely on a history of playing squash and going running. Next job was leading the Out of School Hours provision – and running film clubs, code clubs etc! (Remember the OHSL posts – and the surveys exploring the hours children were active!) And so in no particular order here are ways teaching helped me grow:
- The adventure residentials – each and every extended school trip I’ve been on has allowed me to try something new, to push myself and to develop my own skills. Doing this with a bunch of ridiculously excited children who are often doing things for the first time is just an added bonus (more of that later!)
- Academic curiosity! The ever changing curriculum. I think in my career there have been at least two big changes – and various tweaks. Plus the fact that each school likes to do things that little bit differently. And I love that! I love reading books about the stone age over a half term so that I know what I am talking about. Love the visits to the different museums, art galleries, theatres that I have been to over the years. Loved changing year groups – the recent history curriculum shake up – the books I have got to read. It really has been perfect for me!
- Art! Any kind of art teaching has been something I have had to practice and try beforehand – sharing my own doubts with the children but being enthusiastic about my (small) achievements! Children really are the best at boosting your confidence!
Those amazing ' first time' moments...
This is the bread and butter of teaching isn’t it? Not just being able to pass on knowledge and skills but being there when these things are witnessed ot mastered for the first time.
The ‘light-bulb’ moments – when your explanation really just ‘works’!
This is what I will miss the most. Teaching is, I think, unique in this. From visiting places (taking inner-city children to the coast for the first time!), to using 3D printers – there are so many opportunities for the children to inpsire us!
Those 'hard to reach' children
This is where I think I have gained the most from teaching – empathy – an understanding the different way the world is experienced. Being able to support families and children through the system. Finding different ways of reaching these children and supporting them has been a true privilege. This is a situation where being a leader really does have reach.
Sharing interests and hobbies!
A strange plus I think – is there any other job where you can think – ‘ah , I wonder if that would work as an after school club?!’ or ‘ ‘I can’t wait to share that with my class!’ – From stick insects, Ray Harryhausen, deep space exploration, whatever novel I happen to be reading- all kinds of things have inspired me to inspire my class! My favourite over the years – Code Club – I have loved doing ‘Code Club’ – such a brilliant organisation and very very easy to set up. And something that all children can get something out of. Some past posts explore this:
Over the years I have also taken inspiration from the children. We have had a brilliant time with ‘Film Club’ – ‘Debate Mate’ – Reading Clubs at lunchtime. All things that have been borne out of either mine, or the children’s interests! And lets face it – sharing amazing films with children is a huge privilege.
Meeting amazing people!
Not just meeting teachers – who we all know a very special breed of people – but all of those people who work their socks off to make our education system somehow work! Amazing social workers; inspirational head teachers; teaching assistants who know their commnunity better than anyone; sports coaches who how to reach the most unreachable children – some of the most generous, empathatic and hard-working people work in our schools. I have been very lucky to meet some of the best!
And finally ... a life long career?
Leading a school has also been exceptionally rewarding – but as I am leaving teaching really wanted to focus on that – someone asked me if I would recommend teaching as a career. My inital reply of ‘uhm no’ saddened me – but upon reflection I realised that it is a job I would recommend. But it is also a job that you need to be realistic about – that you need to be prepared to step back sometimes, that can, and very often does, become all encompassing. And this is because it is fulfilling, it is exciting, it is different every day, laugh every day and so it deserves to have your full attention. I’ve loved every bit of
I would really love to collect some optimism and memories here, if you would like to share!