One of our regular readers asked for me to share this story anonymously. After 3 years teaching and a lot of recent soul-searching, they have decided to leave their school, and here are their reasons why.
I’ve decided to resign.
This wasn’t a rushed decision, but one that I am content with.
I am going to look for work at another school, as I’m not sure whether I’m just not suited to the profession, or if it’s just time for a change.
Last term, I had significant issues with my mental and physical health. My school is filled with wonderful colleagues and students, but, for me, my time felt like it was a choice between administration and teaching. I felt overwhelmed by the things I hadn’t done but needed to do (although admittedly my perfectionist streak did not help this at all) and I could not find the joy.
Writing it down, this sounds pretty insignificant, but I felt that, without my enthusiasm, I was not doing the best by my students, colleagues or myself.
After many tears and a couple of embarrassing outbursts, I took the holidays to recuperate and think about it. And once I’d decided, I felt relieved.
The hardest part was not telling the students
How did I feel?
I felt relieved that the end was in sight. I was determined my students would not notice a difference in my preparation and I would teach to the best of my ability. I felt this was easier once I had a definite end date. I also did my best to prepare resources for the rest of the year, so colleagues don’t have to do extra.
It is complicated when I think about leaving my students, because we’ve built relationships and I’m so excited to see where they’re all heading; they are truly amazing humans who inspire me in my lessons.
I am confident they’ll have the best support and opportunities – life goes on after all. And honestly, there are also those lessons where I know that at least some of them won’t miss me at all and that’s ok.
What reasons do I have for leaving?
In teaching, you are offered so much advice about self-care and putting yourself first, but it’s not something I’ve ever really thought about before. This year, I definitely didn’t put myself first and ended up in so many directions I nearly broke. So now it is time to consider myself and I’ve realised that where I was is not where I saw myself in the future.
I think it’s also a good time to expand on my experience by working in different schools and building my skill set. Finally, I will have time to do that filing!
What comments or attitudes have I had so far?
Everyone has been understanding and willing to help out. My friends and family are supportive and some of them have finally felt able to tell me that they’ve been worried about me without me snapping at them, and I totally agree. Some people have worried about my future (Do you have a job to go to? What will you do for money? Where are you going next?), but I think now is the right time to make a career change as I don’t have to worry about a mortgage or dependants.
When my students found out there were mixed reactions (as expected), but it was actually a lovely, if bittersweet, last week. I do often think that we don’t give students enough credit for their emotional insight and ability to read between the lines, but it was also good to be honest with my senior students and let them know that their health must always come first and it is ok to need to step back and take some time to look after yourself. Unexpectedly, parents also sent in their support, which was truly heart-warming and made me question my decision.
I am leaving them in experienced and highly professional hands so I am confident they’ll continue to be just as successful. it’s hard to think that they’re someone else’s students now!
Overall, it has been bittersweet and both over and underwhelming.
I was lucky enough to have a partner who whisked me away from it all as soon as semester finished, so that I haven’t had time to dwell on it. I think it’ll kick in on Monday, when I don’t have to go into school, when I realise I really won’t be teaching those inspiring minds again. But I think this is a positive change. I am really looking forward to reading through my theory books, making resources I haven’t had time to do yet and typing up my PD notes (see – perfectionist!).
What have I learned?
From my experience, I’d say teaching is like a relationship. The good has to outweigh the bad on a holistic level, otherwise you are doing both yourself and the other half a disservice. Take time to yourself to look at your behaviours and relationships with others. Teaching can be somewhat all-consuming, likely because the tendency to let it align with good teaching characteristics and in the early years of your career it is near impossible to step back and realise they will be ok!
In future, I will make sure I use this experience positively to carve out ‘me-time’ in my week and realise that not everything has to be perfect all of the time.
About the Author:
Emily is a secondary science and math teacher in Australia. She enjoys blogging about her experiences, facilitating the ‘light bulb’ moment in her students, and drinking tea and wine. Emily is currently on maternity leave with her first child. You can read more teaching articles from Emily here, or about her life as a new mum over at Actual Mums.