Life after Teaching

This is my 20th year as a qualified teacher.  Twenty years in a profession that has changed beyond recognition.  According to definition, a teacher is a person who teaches, especially in a school whereas a tutor is a private teacher, typically one who teaches a single pupil or a very small group.  I am now a tutor.

I love teaching.  I love being part of the learning process.  I love working with children.

What I don’t love is:

  • having my creativity stifled by indicators and outcomes
  • watching colleagues buckle under stress or being targeted rather than supported
  • being observed and judged by people who no longer teach
  • regularly meeting targets with token recognition
  • the expectation that you will work in your holidays
  • the school day starting at 7:30am and finishing at 9:30pm
  • the data driven ethos which eradicates the person
  • watching too many children struggle at school every day because they are not making progress according to an unrealistic trajectory
  • the lack of funding for schools
  • being blamed for a number of society’s ills
  • the constant change in policy, curriculum and practice
  • despite giving my all, it’s still not enough

For teachers who are reading this, thank you for all you do for our children, probably at the sacrifice of your own.  For parents and carers, please bear in mind that teachers are working under increasing pressure to meet targets and implement new policies; this is not their agenda but imposed on them.  For Justine Greening and all MPs who care about education, education in crisis.  Please act now.  Talk to children, talk to parents, talk to teachers – find out what it’s really like in schools beyond the OFSTED reports and league tables.  Education is in jeopardy.

For the first time in 20 years I feel free of judgement.  Teachers are constantly being judged both professionally and personally and this constant monitoring and scrutiny is both soul-destroying and damaging.  Of all the teachers I know, and I know many, very few are happy.  Many are considering leaving the profession because of the poor working conditions, unrealistic expectations and lack of recognition.

There is a life after teaching and it can be good.  I don’t want to see anymore committed and effective teachers leaving the profession but I also don’t want to see another colleague destroyed both physically and emotionally by the unrealistic demands expected of them.

As we settle in to half term I raise a glass to all who are defined as ‘teachers’.  I will always be a teacher at heart but thankful that I’m not one at the moment.

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47 thoughts on “Life after Teaching

  1. I was a secondary school teacher for 37 years and I loved teaching, I loved the kids and would never have wanted to do another job. However, I agree with everything you say. What annoyed me most was people who didn’t teach giving advice on how to teach! As long as you like kids, are passionate and knowledgeable about your subject and really care about individuals ,you are doing a great job. People who have come into teaching recently and are fast tracked to management read charts and data all day long…. don’t know the kids…..can’t write a decent sentence (often) …and try to tell the Head of English how to improve results ….. results which have been steadily improving over the last ten years (but they always have to be better than the last year, despite the very different cohort!) GRrh , don’t get me started!

    Despite this really missing teaching in my retirement!
    I don’t miss working all day Sunday and Friday evenings marking 20 A level essays, 31 GSCE essays and countless KS3 books! Easter holidays were always marking coursework, Christmas holidays marking mock exams……

    The very thought of that now makes me wonder how I did it!
    I’m now enjoying guilt free reading for pleasure and actually going out!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Likewise, I have no idea how I used to do it all. If only teachers were given the free rein they deserve to creatively and passionately teach – I think the outcomes would be astonishing. My kids love the teachers who have ‘an edge’ and are probably every SMTs ‘headache’. The ones that don’t do the data input, analyse the target groups or mark according to policy but they are the ones who inspire and encourage a love for learning. Huge congrats for your 37 years and I’m sure adjusting to a life of guilt free weekends and holidays has taken some getting used to. Enjoy every minute – you so deserve it! xxx

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I was a primary teacher for 13 years, 10 of which in a school and the last three on supply. I was poorly towards the end, nearly having a nervous breakdown due to a slave driving head with a jeckle and Hyde personality. I quit the profession in July after a child made an unfounded allegation against me in a school I didn’t know. The joys of supply where you are drafted in and no one gives a monkeys if you are ok. I started my own cleaning business in August and have never regretted leaving teaching. I have many friends who are still teaching who have said they wish they were brave enough to do what I have done and start from scratch. As your article says, there is definitely life after teaching.

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  3. I attempted to quit 3 years ago after 18 years, but was drawn back into a school after going there on supply. Ended up making me ill, unreasonable expectations and a culture of Academisation fear within management. Finally got out last year and I am never looking back. Ok, I’ve had to do some supply, and although it is hard, I can choose not to go. Got a job working in a school library and loving it. Still enjoy the contact with pupils and the difference in my outlook on life is extraordinary. I noticed it this week more than ever as the feeling of reaching the end of term and falling off a cliff just didn’t happen. I might not have the teacher wage but I am just so rich in so many other ways now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I absolutely get what you mean by with that ‘falling off a cliff’ feeling. I was also shattered whilst teaching. Constantly exhausted and dragging myself towards the weekend/holidays. I’m so pleased to hear the change has worked for you. Enjoy your break! x

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  4. After becoming extremely poorly due to stress (and other things) I had a complete change of heart about where my life and career were heading. No more aspiring deputy course, no more head of an STF within a primary school. We moved to Spain and I now teach part time in an international school and am given total free reign over what and how I teach. Yes my planning has to be submitted, yes I have to assess but there is zero pressure, just happy teachers and happy pupils! I’ll take that! No regrets!

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  5. I read a lot of these rants and I completely agree with almost all of what is said within them. I find the profession highly frustrating at times because we rewrite the wheel over and over and over again, round and round in circles we go. New initiative, new name, no same initiatives reinvented under a new name, repeatedly. Some things you agree with, some you don’t. Some things you can put up with, others you find very difficult to accept. In spite of it all though, I’ve resigned myself to the challenging working conditions of teaching and on the balance of it all, for me at least, in consideration of job satisfaction and salary, teaching is good and reasonably fair to me on the whole. I love my job as much as anyone else who would say they love their job too and in that respect I cannot, no I must not, complain, or get dragged down with those who do. It makes me sad to see others going through the motions without the passion they once had, worse still to see newly qualified teachers coming through with the same attitude. I’ll do what I can, where I can to improve the situation for my colleagues but I’m resigned to the frustrations of the job where I have no other choice. It’s a wonderful work that we do but it is still work and there’s certain parameters in our work that we all have to accept. I try to stay positive about my job, after all, the alternative clearly isnt an option, otherwise why would we choose to go on groaning?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If my personal circumstances had not changed I would have written exactly what you have above. It is so important to try to keep your head above the negativity and politics and make the situation as good as it can be. Good luck and enjoy your half term!

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I felt this way for a while… how long have you been teaching?
      The negativity and all other issues have eve tally caught up to me… I was a resilient optimist for so long…

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  6. It is a profession that is undervalued and under respected by all. It is a vocation with heartfelt love for children, their well being and their success in life.
    When I retired i was asked would I consider doing supply work Likely / unlikely. I replied NOT LIKELY.

    I STILL HAVE THE URGE TO TEACH!

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  7. I’ve been fighting the good fight for 12 years and have recently begun applying for jobs outside of teaching. It’s saddening that so many are leaving and I can’t help but worry for the demands on new and experienced teachers. Out of a group of 8 teacher friends from all over the country I am the last one and unfortunately/hopefully in the classroom until the end of the academic year. If anyone has career advice it is very welcome!

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  8. I have recently given up work (early years teacher of 10 years) after having my third child and realising that it was no longer financially viable to be at work! I always knew the job was crazy but since taking a step back (and my husband still working as a secondary teacher) I see it even more so! I also wonder if I’ll ever return to the profession or wether I’ll take a different route when the time comes for all my children to be at school???

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  9. After over 7 years on the job teaching finally broke me in October 2016. I was admitted to hospital with suicidal ideation and took 6 weeks off work to recover. I used the time to rest, reflect but also study programming and digital design. I’m back in the school that broke me, where I failed, because I’m the main earner in my family so I have to. I’ve looked into supply or moving to another school but now Heads turn me away because of my time off or it just means travelling further and earning less to essentially do the same thing. The only things getting me through the days are my 1 year old daughter and the hour or so of coding study I manage to do each night. I’m getting out of teaching as soon as my coding skills are good enough to secure another job.

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  10. I left teaching after 16 years last year. I do miss it but I value the time with my family who never want me to go back to it. I was miserable, frustrated, exhausted, demoralized and undervalued. I’m sad to feel this way about something I was so passionate about. But happy I’ve moved on and can live my life .

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  11. I qualified in 1979 and finally escaped a bullying head in 2005. I still miss teaching, miss the kids and the knowledge that I am doing something good, something useful: but my mental health was broken and I wish I had got out earlier, perhaps whole. That head still comes to belittle me in nightmares. I hope those reading this have better luck, or more inner strength, than me.

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  12. I agree with what you said… and I’m only 16 years in! I have a wonderful year 8 and Year 11 class, and challenging years 7, 9 and 10. They all receive my support and care.. but I find it easier to work with years 8 and 11. I’m weighed down with marking, targets… but more importantly paperwork that is probably not looked at by anyone! Does this paperwork benefit the pupils? Does it benefit anyone? Not sure…

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  13. Am 28 years into my teaching career and flagging. My husband now does supply and teaches pottery after being made ill teaching in a failing High School. Consequently as the main earner I have to keep going, but would welcome any advice about possible career options at the age of 55!

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    1. Tough isn’t it. Career options are limited particularly as the main earner. I can remember when I first started teaching my anticipated retirement date was 2028 at 55. Even now that seems achievable. To teach until 67 is a different story altogether. Good luck Pam x

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    2. Likewise – I’ve been teaching for nearly 32 years and expected to retire at 60, if not earlier. The thought of going on till I’m 67 is laughable. Even though things are OK at the moment, I know that it can all go wrong without any warning and my resilience is wearing thin. So if anyone has any career advise I’m listening.

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  14. Your first four words in your bullet points got me, ‘your creativity was stifled…’. I retired last August after 34 at the chalkface, haunted by bouts of depression and fed up of judgement, managing education, not teaching. Feel for my colleagues who came into teaching with a great skill set, but stood still due to workload and now feel old and not so useful, treading water until they decide to call it…

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  15. I’ve only done three years and already I feel shattered, stuck in a box of what I can and can’t do. I hate seeing the children being forced fed maths and English in such a way it has taken away any inmagination. Art…what’s that? Everyday I wake up and pull myself into a job that I so desperately want to love. The children are the only thing that keeps me going, for now.

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  16. All your comments ring so true with me; I am 56 next month and entered the teaching profession late in life at the age of 40 with a love of children and a driving passion to make a difference. It took just four years for all those points you make to suck the soul out of me and I had a nervous breakdown. I left teaching but returned two years later with renewed vigour to give it another go in a different school feeling that maybe this time it would be different. No. No it definitely isn’t. “How hard can it be teaching little kids?”, some unenlighted acquaintance once said to me. How hard indeed. So, here I am on the precipice of another breakdown with the added complications of menopause and empty nest syndrome. I have taught in every key stage in primary education and I can truly say that I love being with the children and enjoy all the different characteristics each stage brings. But I am broken, I am ill and I haven’t the energy to carry on in this profession. It just makes me so sad and sadder still to see that I am not alone in this, so many fantastic teachers are suffering the same fate. This just can’t be right, can it?

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    1. It’s so wrong isn’t it. Teaching should be the most enjoyable job in the world. Every day working with young minds full of awe and curiosity. I hope you recover soon and find contentment elsewhere. Take care.

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  17. An ex colleague of mine,who is still teaching, once said,’management’s job (include government) is to get as much work out of me as possible, my job is to build as much satisfaction into the job I can’ It’s a good attitude for survival.

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  18. I’ve just left teaching mainstream secondary science after 17yrs. I’m now a TA at an RNIB school and a ‘tutor’ teaching science on the children’s ward in a local hospital. Both jobs are a million miles away from teaching but I still have to use teachers skills (without any pressure). There is life after teaching and it’s so much more enjoyable 😊

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    1. I can empathise and have experience of all that you write about here. I was asked today if I would consider a post teaching again… I can’t say I would. I’m saddens that so many teachers are leaving the profession because of the current climate of fear and control. I worry for the future of education. Thank you for sharing with me.

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  19. Hello Mrs Brown,
    8 years ago I was taught by your husband and he ,along with a certain sociology teacher, inspired my love of education and making someone passionate about learning. After leaving them, I went on to be the first member of my family to even think about going to university let alone attend two Russell groups and qualified as a primary school teacher. I am currently in my fourth year of teaching and have sent myself into some difficult teaching environments to help those that need it most. It is no doubt a killer of a career and it is not the sunshine and roses it is advertised as however I just wanted to let you know this so that at least we can remember, we are making that difference, even if it is the punishing task that it shouldn’t be. I know this because I am the evidence of a great teacher’s determination and now I know that ,whatever the results tables are saying, maybe one day I’ll inspire someone too.

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    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to write Emily. I am sure than one day you will inspire someone as Dylan did for you. I’m sure if there was a way of teachers hearing how much they have inspired people, they would feel a great deal better about themselves and recognise more the impact they have. Unfortunately, after many years in education, the countless changes to policy and expectations often make us forget that teachers inspire individuals on a daily basis. Good luck in your career, you sound amazing!

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  20. Truth. I’m in special education and it’s even worse there. So far I’m in my seventh year teaching, and I can’t imagine making it to retirement. Burnout looms over us all. Keep fighting the good fight and thanks for sharing.

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  21. It is difficult to keep the momentum–I am 22 years in. Currently, I am looking at a stack of papers that I should be grading! I was wondering if you would consider contributing to a new publication I put together a few weeks ago, called Teaching in Trump’s America. It is a medium.com publication that is trying highlight authentic teacher voices without the noise of politicians and educational “experts. Here is the link, if you wish to check it out: https://medium.com/teaching-in-trumps-america . Thank you for your time and consideration.

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