I Don’t Know Where I’m Going, But I Sure Know Where I’ve Been


Right now is an exciting- and horrifying– time for me. After five years doing a job that I love, but that certainly doesn’t love me, I’ve finally taken the brave decision to walk away.

Since being thirteen years old, I have always wanted to teach. My entire life from that point was dictated by this desire: the courses I took at college, the degree I paid £9,000+ to complete at University, the optional courses that I took whilst there.

Almost a decade after this initial revelation and I began my postgraduate teaching degree. And I was good at it: a natural.

And then something snapped. The pressure I put on myself was insurmountable. But still I persisted. I was still good. Outstanding. I was still making a difference.

As the years passed by, as the workload increased, as the pressure placed on schools by the government, and on teachers by the schools mounted, I kept going.

Some days were easier than others: working with SEN pupils is amazingly rewarding- creating bonds that allowed us to work together in ways that others thought was impossible; seeing my top set create the most beautiful prose was incredible, as were our chats about politics; teaching younger ones the joy of creative writing using drama and silliness to engage them was a joy.

But eventually enough has to be enough.

Last year new changes came in. Changes that would make it harder for the brightest to achieve the top level and almost impossible for those with special educational needs, or those who were already disaffected, to engage with or succeed at school.

The other day I heard someone shout my “teacher name” at me from across the street. At first I didn’t recognise him. He was a student who had suffered with extreme ADHD. Someone who had struggled through five years of education that was NOT tailored to him or his skill-sets. Someone who I always feared wouldn’t succeed, due to his lack of GCSEs.

He was driving a work van.

This idea of GCSE’s = success is a lie.

A lie that we’re fed and consequently feed the children whom we teach. Teachers are judged, yearly, on their ability to get children their ‘targeted’ grade and as a result we fall into this trap of believing that these grades are the be-all-and-end-all.

They’re not.

I’ve toyed with leaving before, but held back for two reasons:

  1. I do, genuinely, love many aspects of my job. I am proud of the things that I do, and it is a huge part of my identity.
  2. I don’t know what else to do. I have no ‘real life’ jobs that I’m qualified to do. The things I’m good at: writing, organising travel, crafting, photography aren’t ‘grown up’, ‘stable’ jobs (or if they are, are almost impossible to break into)- it’s for this reason that I never pursued my initial desire (pre-13) to become an artist.

But I’ve come to realise one thing: that the status-quo will, eventually, kill me and even without a definitive plan I need out.

I already feel like my youth has been stolen by my (work-related) illness and my profession. A job so exhausting that I would live for the holidays that would transform me; a job so exhausting that I couldn’t socialise or go out any day other than a Saturday. I am old before my time.

So, I will see out one final year: we will re-mortgage the house, save what we can, give the required notice at work and then, as the new year is rung in, a new adventure will begin.

I will become a Northern (female) Del Boy, pursuing the things that make me well, rather than ill: writing, travelling, photography, crafting, up-cycling, and all things vintage.

I am the phoenix, and I will rise from these ashes.


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