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.
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.
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:
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?