Break

I handed in a ‘career break’ form last week. I’m yet to hear if the powers-that-be are going to run with it but if it all goes through okay come September I’ll finish teaching for a year to pursue my dream of not teaching for a year.

What’s that Imaginary, Yet Extremely Concerned Reader Who Speaks for the Teaching Community? “The nation’s youth have only one hope and that hope is you”?

Well that’s very kind of you Imaginary, Yet Extremely Concerned Reader Who Speaks for the Teaching Community, but I think the youths will get along just fine in my absence. There’ll be tears of course, but I suspect once the mass demonstrations and candlelight vigils have died down it’ll be business as usual. And really, it is only for a year.

Form dictates that I should now document the myriad of reasons, the awful things I see in education that have driven me out, the pressures that have finally made me cave, the daily systematic injustices of a broken system that have led this once idealistic teacher to part from the profession he loves with every fibre of his being. Or, on the other hand, describe the fantastic things that I’ll be going on to, the game-changing projects I’ll be involved in and dynamic teams I’ll be part of. But to be fair, there’s only one reason for doing it:

Because I want to.

That’s it. I’m an adult. No guilty hand wringing from these quarters. No crusade to fight the perceived wrongs of the system (although there’s plenty that gets on my wick, but then there always has been) nothing has pushed me out and there’s no grand scheme. I’ve been teaching for 12 years and I want to give something else a go for a while and I’m lucky enough at this point to (maybe) have the opportunity. Because of my very select (read massively limited) skill set that something else will most probably involve teaching in some capacity (unless bar work has become incredibly well-paid in my absence). The back-room speakeasy world of supply looks quite likely. I’ve no problem with that as my brawling technique was getting a little sloppy anyhow. Childcare is a cert (which is probably what I’m most looking forward to, that and the amount of money we’ll be saving, which is SUPERMEGABUCKS!) and I’ll also be doing a few other bits and bobs, some of them hopefully linked to a forthcoming book (if the gods are kind and let me finish the damn thing). And if I’m honest it’s mostly the writing that has led me to make this decision.

You do something that you find enjoyable and fulfilling for a job and you think yourself very lucky, but then you find something else that you adore and it turns everything upside down. I felt like I was betraying teaching by sauntering off with this hot new thing for a bit of illicit typing whenever I could get the chance. That feeling was made even worse because I mostly write about teaching and will continue to write about teaching, purely because up until this point it’s just about all I know. So double guilt there. But after a bit of pondering what has become clear to me is that I can’t write as much as I want to and teach full-time without the quality of my work in one or the other suffering, and I’m damned if it’s going to be the teaching so this feels like a good compromise. And bugger going part-time – I’d just end up spending the days I’m not in planning for the days I am. Stuff that for a game of soldiers.

Does it make me any less of a dedicated, passionate practitioner that I might be packing it in for 12 months to follow another path for a while? In all honesty, yes – I think it does. If you really love something, you’ve got to be in it; you’ve got to be where the action is.  I don’t understand anyone that purports to feel passionate about teaching who doesn’t spend the the majority of their time at work in the classroom. I very much enjoy the job (even love it on occasion) but not enough to let the opportunity to step away from it and catch my breath for a bit slide and see if I can’t make my hobby into something resembling a second career. Hopefully, when I go back I’ll be suitably refreshed. I might even have had sufficient time to think on how to do things a little better (hard to believe I know, but there’s always a chance).

Anyway, in the meantime, if anyone wants to give me loads of money for not doing very much starting in September, let me know. I’ll be available for weddings, barmitzvahs and occasional burlesque.

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5 comments

  1. jillberry102

    I think it’s a great idea, Tom, and wish you well. It’s important to pace yourself – I am still enthusiastic about teaching, and about school leadership, but after 30 years I, too, needed to catch my breath and regroup a bit. I have no regrets about doing that.

    You’re a talented chap, and I’m sure you will make a success of whatever you decide to do.

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