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I Resigned Yesterday

I resigned yesterday.

I think I always wanted to be a teacher. When I was in my 20s, I was picturing myself at nursery level or as a lecturer. I have always known I would end up in education. That kind of thing is in your blood, right? Or maybe I just like telling people what to do. Who knows?

As young as 3, I was trying (to no avail) to teach the dogs in my nan’s front garden. I know, sad. I had no siblings or cousins at the time, and life was rather uneventful.

Teacher at Heart

People started trusting me with babies from a very young age. I remember looking after my little brother when I was 9. He was not always a happy customer. Check him out in my aunt’s wedding dress! OK, that is not really ‘teaching’ as such, but grown-ups put their trust (and small human beings!) in my hands when I was quite young.

Doudou déguisé en mariée

As young as 17, I was tutoring and I loved every minute of it. There was something incredibly rewarding about the progress and increased understanding I could see session after session.

My teaching career started fourteen years ago as a fresh-faced language assistant in North London. I had no intention of becoming a secondary school teacher (ever!). Teenagers were definitely not my public of choice, probably because I remembered how hormonal and unreasonable I had been myself as a teenager. I had no patience and I could not see myself trying to teach teenagers, with their fiery tempers and unpredictable behaviour. Working with as a language assistant in a secondary school was an eye-opener. It proved me wrong. Teacher training was my next step… and this is what we got up to:

Teacher Training

I have taught hundreds of young people over the years. As grown-ups do, a lot of then now have careers. Some are plumbers, teachers, businessmen, pharmacists, hairdressers, shop assistants, bankers. Some got married, had children. One of them became a chef in a Thai restaurant, another one is a drummer in a band, a few teach and another one is training to be a doctor. They did not all have a passion for French, but I feel incredibly proud I had something to do with their education.

I have taught French, Religion, Computer Science, Vocational courses and Literacy. I have been on more school trips than I can remember. I have a lifetime of happy memories. There was laughter, there were days out and there were tears.

The fact of the matter is, with four children under seven, I cannot actually afford to work. How infuriating is that? I am at the top of the teachers’ pay scale, yet I cannot afford to work. Teaching is my vocation. I want to work part-time whilst my children are so little, so I do not miss anything, but I want to work. I want to contribute to society and help shape young people’s minds, yet the costs of childcare are higher than my salary. It saddens me deeply.

First and foremost, I will miss the children.
I will miss my colleagues, especially the ones who became close friends over the years. I will keep in touch with them, but I will miss not being with them at work.
I will miss the ‘family feel’ we have at school; the strong sense of community that kept me motivated even at the toughest of times.
I will miss my classroom. It has been my second home for the past twelve years.
I will miss the thrill I feel at the start of every lesson with a new class.
I will miss launching into a lesson with a group of reluctant students, knowing that at some point, they will enjoy my lessons (whether they like it or not).
I will miss being a Professional, a role-model showing young adults that a job need not be a chore, that if you choose the right career path, you can thrive.
I will miss helping 6th formers with their university applications and writing reference letters highlighting their strengths.
I will miss observing colleagues who really make a difference to children’s education.
I will miss sharing my expertise, my love of translation or syntax with young people.
I will miss planning lessons after getting feedback from my classes, adapting my teaching to what helps them learn best.
I will miss passing on my passion for French literature, music and cinema.
I will miss creating mock exams and assessments (how boring am I?).
I will miss sharing the intricacies of my beautiful mother tongue.
I will miss the incredible team of support staff we have at work.
I will miss Manny, our IT superhero.
I will miss Joan, a legend in the school, who used to make a fry up for teachers at break time every single morning when I started teaching.
I will even miss Elisabeth, the lovely Columbian cleaner, who speaks Spanish to me every day simply because I once mentioned I liked listening to Spanish being spoken. I definitely did not say I wanted a conversation in Spanish!
I will miss my breakfast and cup of coffee whilst checking my emails.
I will even miss the Frenchies’ moaning in our office (hi girls!).
I will miss planning my outfits and coordinating colours.
I will miss putting on make-up and trying to hide (more or less successfully) the fact I had less than three hours’ broken sleep.
I will miss the shy “thank you” I often get from students.
I will miss Jumpy saying, “You goin kool, maman?” (Are you going to school, mummy?)

I will not miss feeling guilty for missing events that are important to my own children.
I will not miss marking and planning until 2 or 3 a.m. every working day to stay ‘on top of it’.
I will not miss going to school during the holidays because there is so much to do.
I will not miss the fact teachers are accountable for every single one of their students’ results.
I will not miss the fact things are looked at the wrong way round: surely the students should be held responsible for their own failure, lack of work or motivation, not their educators?
I will not miss the ever-increasing scrutiny of everything and anything.
I will not miss the bureaucracy for the sake of shuffling paper.
I will not miss the fact that 75% of a teacher’s time is spent filling in paperwork, writing plans, analysing data or marking books.
I will not miss the meetings that take hours but could have been summarised in an email and read in five minutes.
I will not miss the ‘new initiatives’ that will last a couple of years to be scrapped and replaced with different ones, suspiciously similar to what we were doing 10 years ago. Anyone remember ‘brain gym’?
I will not miss the changes in the syllabus, just when I am starting to feel at ease with the previous one.
I will not miss the stifling pressure put on teachers to ensure every single student passes everything. Not everyone is a C student. At school, I was an A* student in Maths, DT, Geography and English, average in French and PE but an E student in Science and History. It was fine. I accepted that, and I focused on my strengths. Had I been spoon-fed the Science syllabus and passed, I might have thought I was good enough to become a doctor. I would probably have made the wrong decisions. I would have failed later, when I was at university, when it really mattered.

I resigned yesterday and I am scared. I am excited, too. A new chapter is beginning.

The question now is do I give up my vocation, my passion and launch into full-on pro-blogging, or do I keep part-time blogging and doing some supply teaching to keep my foot in education?

What do you think? What would you do?


  1. 01/06/2015 / 6:35 am

    Mel, what an amazing career you’ve had as a teacher, and what a shame you can’t hold on to it because of the ever-present issue of childcare costs exceeding (pretty decent) salaries. It is a preposterous situation and I’ve been there myself.

    That said, it does sound like there were a ridiculous amount of political issues that made being a teacher (as it is being a nurse) a chore. All of the reasons you chose that career in the first place are overshadowed by things that suddenly take a lot of the pleasure out of the job – and that sucks.

    At the time I resigned, I didn’t look back or think twice. I had been in a fairly niche role, and the thought of doing nursing in a ward environment on a bank shift basis was soul-destroying, not to mention equally as taxing on our family life.

    Fast-forward 18 months, and now I could really do with some contracted work, even just a tiny bit, for the purpose of bumping up our mortgage-borrowing ability. The earnings I make freelance would be plenty, if they contracted, as they would count now. That is my only regret, if I even have one, of resigning and not looking back.

    I guess this is my long-winded way of saying that I love writing (blogging) and I can totally tell that you do too (you’re amazing). I suspect that you could launch into a pretty successful pro-blogging career fairly quickly (if you’re not already there), and would be able to maintain that whilst not forking out a fortune for childcare in the meantime.

    I also suspect that you love blogging just as much (if not more) than your teaching career. After all, this is your very own creation, filled with everything you. People love your blog, they (like I) have warmed to you and you could take blogging wherever you want to go with it.

    If you really have an itch to teach, then do a little bit part-time to keep in touch with it and keep your foot in the door. But this is a chance for you to flex your creative muscles and let your other talents shine. So I reckon just grab this opportunity and do it (blog!). And before this comment turns into an entire mini blog post in itself, I’m going to grab another coffee and sign out for now.

    Now, please email me some dates for meeting up. We had this planned for March, and I know that I’ve been snowed at this of life! Much love to you honey xxx

    • Mel
      02/06/2015 / 1:03 am

      I do love blogging, but it’s not the same as teaching, being around teenagers and feeling like you’re making a difference… I hope I don’t look back. It’s quite scary! I’ll email you dates now. xx

  2. Fionnuala
    02/06/2015 / 9:11 am

    Wow Mel! I would say you should take a few weeks to decide on what you want to do, whether supply teaching, tuition or pro-blogging. When I finished up at work to go on maternity leave, I was involved in a really interesting project and the thought of handing it over to someone else was awful. Now I’ve been home for 11 months and have recently made the decision to stay at home till Sept. 2016, when the baby turns 2. Even thought I enjoyed my job a lot, I have got so used to mothering, homemaking, gardening and blogging that I want to make the most of it while I can. My two older boys are thrilled that I am home more.
    So, don’t make any rash decisions. Take a bit of time. And whatever you do, don’t give up this fabulous blog!

    • Mel
      18/06/2015 / 11:22 pm

      You’re spot on my lovely! I’ve decided to give it time. My husband always says that when you have to take a tough decision, the best way to deal with it is to do nothing. Things happen for a reason and there’s usually something positive coming out of a seemingly negative situation.

  3. Gaya
    06/06/2015 / 9:42 am

    Hi! You’re an amazing teacher and I’m going to miss your lessons and all the advice you’ve given me over the years! It still feels unreal that I’ve finished with school but as you said it’s a new chapter! Your strength is definately in teaching as well as blogging! I’ve seen your passion for teaching when you’ve taught me especially at A levels and I don’t think you should lose touch with it! Maybe you should try tutoring as part time if the hours of supply doesn’t work out? You’ll be amazing at it! Best of luck with the blogging! You’ve come so far with it and we’re proud of you! x

    • Mel
      07/06/2015 / 12:39 am

      Merci ma belle, tu es un ange!

      It’s because of students like you that I love teaching so much. You make it fun, interesting, rewarding. You’re right, tutoring might be another option. Yesterday, I was leading a session at another bloggers’ conference and I loved every second of it. Public speaking could be the way forward, although I would miss the continuity and getting to know my ‘students’ (well, audience).

      Thank you so much for the present you and the girls gave us. You could not have chosen anything more perfect. That shows how well you know us.

      We’ve got to keep in touch, sweetie!

  4. Helen
    21/06/2015 / 12:58 pm

    Hey Mel! Waaaow that is a big step but I am happy for you because for as long as I remember you had that decision in your heart after the birth of your girl.
    All I have to say is that you were an awesome superheroe head of department always on top of the game and ready to help the kids to acheive better. I am happy you have made my life as a head of department cause you never sleep you always want everything to be spotless. I appreciate you as a person.
    As you see even after resigning you can’t help yourself blogging! Ggggggggg

    • Mel
      28/06/2015 / 9:55 pm

      Thanks you sweetie, your comment means a lot! You’re right: I still don’t sleep, he he! Blogging is loads of fun, but I will miss those teenagers (and the French girlies!) so much!

  5. Hannah
    25/06/2015 / 7:48 am

    Hi. I just found your blog today and I love it – good work, a real inspiration.
    I read your article about quitting teaching via the TES twitter feed, I really admire your motivation as a teacher but to post the question “How can it cost me more to pay for child care than I would earn by teaching” is surely ridiculous. You have four kids under the age of 7.
    I’m so sorry you’ve had to quit a job you really love and looking at the comments here you are really clearly a loss to the profession. But we talk to the young people in our schools all the time about making choices. You haven’t been forced to quit, you chose to have a big family.

    • Mel
      25/06/2015 / 11:50 pm

      Hi Hannah, thanks for your comment. I know, I did choose to have four children. I love them more than you could ever imagine, but I wish I could keep teaching a couple of days per week. Leaving the career you love is a scary thought, but such is life.

  6. Kate
    27/06/2015 / 8:37 am

    I have also come to this via the TES and don’t understand how you can make the claim that you can’t afford to teach. You have implied you are on at least the equivalent of MPS 6, so would still earn a reasonable amount working 0.5 to 0.6. Government provided or funded child care is more generous now than it has ever been and you appear to be a dual income family with two adults who could share the school runs etc.
    Have you really done the maths? There are plenty of women, including single parents, with young children who teach and juggle the realities of child care with their work. If you really want to carry on working, teaching part-time should be a viable option. If you want to be at home for your children, that is perfectly understandable.

    • Mel
      28/06/2015 / 9:51 pm

      Hi Kate, I have really done the Maths, and wish teaching part-time was a viable option, but my youngest three are not at school yet (one of them is at preschool three hours per day) so they are with our childminder full-time.

      My little boy, in Year 2, still needs someone to look after him in the mornings and afternoons as well as walk him to/from school as we all leave home by 7.15 a.m. at the latest to drop our children in two different places so my husband and I are on time for school (7.45-8 a.m. start for him, 8.15 a.m. for me). We try our very best to collect them by 5.30 p.m. but with after-school meetings, it is not always possible.

      If having an au-pair was an option, I could definitely afford to work, but we only have two bedrooms, so the house would be a bit crammed.

      What do you mean by Government provided or funded child care? I might not know about that (it would help a lot if you had more details!).

  7. Kate
    28/06/2015 / 10:17 pm

    Hi Mel
    Go to http://www.gov.uk for details – hope it helps. All 2 – 4 year olds are entitled to 15 hours a week free childcare with approved providers, including childminders. You could also look into Tax Credits.

    • Mel
      28/06/2015 / 10:46 pm

      Thanks a lot for that Kate. We do get childcare vouchers, and they really made a difference when I went back to work at the end of my first maternity leave. They were covering over half of our childcare costs with one baby. It is a brilliant scheme.

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