I Quit My Job Today

I quit my teaching job today

Throughout my life I have done everything that I felt was expected of me. I worked hard in school, achieved good grades in my GCSE’s and A Levels, went to a respected music conservatoire and then was lucky enough to find myself in a full-time job as a Learning Mentor almost immediately after graduating. Within a year, I was offered an opportunity to train as a teacher, and I’ve worked as a qualified music teacher for nearly ten years. I’ve always played it safe, followed the expected path, and never taken any risks. I can say that I’m happy to an extent, but not as much as I know I could be.

At the beginning of 2015 I made one promise to myself: if things were going to change, it had to be now – I was going to take the risk.

For some, teaching is a vocation. It isn’t mine. I’m a good teacher. In fact, according to my last three years worth of lesson observations, I’m an outstanding teacher, but I never set out to join this profession – my personal circumstances and being in the right place at the right time meant that I fell into the role rather than actively working towards it as a career choice.

I’ve been lucky to spend the last three years in an outstanding academy, with an excellent and well-respected principal, a great management team and a lovely faculty. Over the course of my career, I’ve worked with thousands of teenagers, most of whom are wonderful and who I have always had excellent working relationships with, and I feel like I’ve done it all. I’ve attended every parents evening, open evening, celebration evening and awards evening and I’ve hosted or participated in hundreds of concerts. I’ve supervised the day trips, evening performances, week-long UK based residentials and visits to France and America. I’ve played the role of teacher, parent, therapist, doctor, personal banker and seamstress to my students. I’ve laughed with them, cried because of them and mourned the few that I’ve lost. I’ve returned home at the end of a day on a huge high after brilliant lessons, and had endless sleepless nights after bad ones. During times when heavy deadlines have been looming, insomnia and I have become good friends.

I’m a firm believer in the idea that total career satisfaction is unattainable for most; some days will be good, some days will be bad and others will make you question every career choice you have ever made whilst glugging on a bottle of wine and crying on the cat, but I’ve always presumed that as long as the good outweighs the bad then you’re generally doing the right thing.

The good has not outweighed the bad for a long time. Today, I took the risk.

Today, I quit the teaching profession…

Despite the amazing opportunities I have been offered from my headteacher and support I have received from some of my colleagues over the years, I genuinely can’t remember the last point where I had a consistently positive period of time in teaching. To put it quite simply, I can’t cope with the pressure, and it’s making me ill.

In an ideal world, a teacher’s role is to teach, to support and to guide their students. It is our job to offer advice, to ensure progress is made, to make learning interesting, to inspire and to listen to their needs.

Unfortunately, in the real world, I’ve found that many teachers work far harder than lots of their students. Modern day teaching, even for those that are employed in effective schools, is not about fostering and encouraging a love of learning and a passion for a subject, it is about getting students to pass an exam or a course using criteria that is set by an exam board whilst being bombarded by data and outcomes, none of which the students will be held accountable for if they fail. It has now become a teacher’s job to almost do the work for the lazier kids because they’re scared of how the results will look. The kids know this too – I was even once told ‘you’re not allowed to fail me‘ by a smug student when I informed him that his grades weren’t good enough – and one of my biggest worries for them in their future lives is that when they do fail for the first time, it will be at a much higher cost and there won’t be an adult to step in and make everything better. Our lessons and the ability to do our jobs effectively are decided based upon a twenty minute observation and the data that demonstrates our students progress, our wages now depend on it, and I have seen accomplished and respected members of staff reduced to tears at the mere mention of OFSTED.

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The pressure of the job has intensified every single year that I have been in the profession, and eventually it started to take a toll on my health. A year ago I was hospitalised with a severe kidney infection and a virus for nearly a week, followed by a further five weeks off in order to recover. This was caused because I ignored a urinary tract infection, mainly because of how busy I was. I can’t and don’t blame the school for this, but it is a common part of the job that members of staff within a school environment will work through illnesses because of the workload and worries about the detrimental impact that time off will have on their students.

My school and colleagues were very supportive and I returned in reasonable physical health, but that didn’t change the fact that the workload was there, and mentally I was sinking. I missed deadlines left and right. I had so much to remember that I forgot everything. However, what I found to be most frustrating were the pressures put on me with the older students and the achievement of their target grades, pressures that were not set by the school, but by government based targets. I started to feel constantly anxious and suffered from minor panic attacks, something that I had never experienced before. My mindset changed. I found it increasingly difficult to tolerate the laziness and apathy that some of my students demonstrated on a daily basis. I bent over backwards and exhausted myself hosting further coursework catch up sessions almost every night after school, repeatedly remarked coursework that was substandard due to the fact that some of my students didn’t bother to listen in the lessons and as it got closer to exams I became a verbal punching bag for stressed out teenagers. I rang parents, got other members of staff involved, praised, sanctioned and gave up a lot of my personal time to drag them (often kicking and screaming) to the finish line. Worse still, I started to take it personally and really dislike some of my students attitudes, particularly when they threw my hard work and support back in my face during their moments of stress. This is a common problem throughout the British education system, and is one of the biggest issues that all of my teacher friends have experienced in their careers. I remember that one friend in particular remarked that one of her most difficult classes was more focused on crowd control, not teaching.

At Christmas I realised that I simply couldn’t do it anymore. I had no idea what I was going to do instead, only that I knew that this was not how I wanted to spend the rest of my working life. Perhaps I am looking at life through rose-tinted spectacles, but I believe that happiness is more important than most things, and I was desperately unhappy. I was doing myself, and the students, a huge disservice.

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I discussed it with The Bloke. We’re not married, we don’t have children or a mortgage and my only financial responsibilities are for my half of the rent and bills, the cat’s medication and vet treatments and a small loan I took out a few years ago. We’re not rich, but I have enough in savings to cover everything for a few months. At the age of 33, if I was going to do anything, it was now, and while I could see that he was (and still is) nervous about it, he has been steadfast in his support. Having witnessed what I’ve been through in the last few years, he wants me to be happy, and I’m grateful.

I am going to work until the end of the academic year, which is July and then that’s it, giving me about six months to find another job. No more data analysis and unrealistic targets, no more reports, no more relying on the performance of demotivated teenagers to prove that I am good at my job. However, I’m going to miss the school, my wonderful colleagues and most of those fantastic cherubs that I have been privileged to work with over the years. Taking such a huge risk is terrifying, but not nearly as terrifying as the thought of having to do another year in a job that could potentially destroy me both physically and mentally. I need to be happy. I’m walking away from a secure ten year career with an excellent salary, a brilliant boss and a strong pension, without another job to go to yet…

… and I couldn’t be more excited!

What about you guys? Have you ever taken a huge risk?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog and don’t forget to check out my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks

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January Round Up: An Exciting Month for Suzie81 Speaks and Advertising Opportunities

imageJanuary is usually the most depressing month for me – after the excitement of my birthday, Christmas and New Year’s Eve I often find that the start of a new year leaves me feeling as dull and cold as the weather.

I decided to approach 2015 with a positive outlook and ¬†just one goal for the year: to take the risk. As Suzie81 Speaks does not have a theme or a niche, my posts have been eclectic and have reflected the thoughts and feelings I have experienced and the events happening at the time. I shared some blogging hints and tips for new bloggers, my ideas for beating the January blues, my thoughts on how to build self-esteem and confidence and highlighted a beautiful story that proved that there is still hope for humanity. I decided to have a bit of fun and shared stories of my dating disasters and experiences of working behind a bar. I also edited some of my photography – something that I haven’t done in a long time – and posted a beautiful poem written by Roger McGough. I have been amazed at the response that I have received to these and some of my earlier posts – my ‘Tale of a Sociopath’ post continues to be shared on StumbleUpon, two of my posts were featured on the Sits Girls ShareFest and Mumsnet Bloggers promoted my post on Fox News’s ridiculous report about the Muslim population of Birmingham as their ‘Blog of The Day.’

I also made a little promise to myself that I would develop the connections and friendships I have formed and give other members of the blogging the world an opportunity to promote themselves. I found that I had been falling behind with the comments that I received, and now instead of posting something on a particular day, I try and take the time to reply to every single one on the blog and all of the social media links that are connected with it. I have continued to host my weekly #SundayBlogShare on Twitter, which I started three months ago, and have been delighted that hundreds of people now participate every week, with over a thousand posts being shared. This week I am pleased to announce that I have a guest host for #SundayBlogShare – Gene’O from Sourcererblog (who was instrumental in the promotion of #SundayBlogShare in the early stages) has kindly agreed to look after you all this Sunday. (For those of you that are interested in participating, there will be a post later today with the information and rules).

While I made no resolutions, I decided to take Suzie81 Speaks to the next level and started advertising for sponsors. I had no expectations of the sort of response I would receive, if any at all, but within hours I was contacted by a number of bloggers. Consequently, over January I have featured both Jolene from Valley Girl Gone Country and Helena from Helena Turbridy and have been delighted by the feedback that I have received from them – both have seen a huge increase in their traffic… Even more amazing, February sponsorship is completely full and even spaces for some of March (and even a space in July) have been booked. Awesome.

Finally, to add the cherry on the proverbial cake, I was offered an really exciting opportunity the other day, which has cemented my decision to take the risk.

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My family, my friends and, of course, The Bloke has been absolutely wonderful throughout it all. As always, the blogging community has also been there every step of the way. I’ve been blessed to have received so much support from people that I consider to be friends and have been able to meet lots of new people who have taken the time to make me laugh, encourage me and have contributed to one of the best months I have had in a long time. Thank you.

Are You Interested in Being Featured on Suzie81 Speaks?

I have decided to expand this further and offer opportunities for sponsored one-off promotion for WordPress bloggers. Each Sunday, (when my own stats usually exceed over a thousand views during the day), as well as hosting #SundayBlogShare, I will feature a WordPress blog as the ‘Blog Of The Day.’ This will include a single post about the blog, a reblog of one of your posts and promotion through #SundayBlogShare. While I obviously can’t guarantee a huge increase in your traffic and/or following, I know that my sponsors have informed me that they have indeed seen quite a significant rise in their stats on days where I have promoted their posts.

For those of you who are interested in being my ‘Blog Of The Day,’ here are my details:

Cost: £9.00. This may seem like an odd number, but I have had to add on a little extra to cover the PayPal charges. (Please take into account that conversion rates may change in countries outside of the UK).

January Stats (at the time of posting): 17,265 views

Followers: 10,425 (6,126 on WordPress, 4,179 on Twitter and 120 on Tumblr). I also have 221 followers on my Facebook page. All are growing on a daily basis.

If you wish to be featured, please email me at suzie81blog@hotmail.co.uk

 

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog and you don’t forget to check out my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks

 

The Right Place At The Right Time

 

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I’ve been extremely lucky in that, throughout my life, people and opportunities have appeared at a time when I needed them most. Today was no exception.

I made a decision a while ago that I was going to take the risk, and it is my mantra and theme for 2015. The concept of risk to me is a rather alien one – I’ve always played it safe and followed the path that I believed to be expected of me rather than seeking out something that I actually wanted. As I look at my life, I am appreciative that I have a wonderful relationship, a supportive family and amazing friends and every evening I return home to be greeted by two little cats, a warm house and a cupboard of food. I’m lucky, and I would say that, in general, I’m happy.

However, as I age I become more conscious of the fact that life is short. With that in mind, I have decided to make an enormous change in my life and how I choose to live it, and I’m currently experiencing lots of feelings of elation and excitement, swiftly followed by anxiety, guilt and self-doubt. It has been an emotional roller coaster.

A random conversation with someone today has led to a huge development and opportunity that I hadn’t previously considered as I didn’t believe it was available to me. I found myself in the right place at the right time and talking to the right person – it has arrived at exactly the right time and has cemented that fact that what I am doing is the right thing.

The feelings of doubt still haven’t left and I’m not expecting them to for a while, but at least I know that I have the support of the ones I care the most about. I might fall flat on my face, but at least I can say that I tried.

After all, isn’t that what life is all about?

What about you guys? Has a chance conversation or meeting changed your direction in life?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog and don’t forget to check out my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks

 

Reflections On a Challenging Year

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After the presents have been opened, all the food has been consumed and the parties have ended, many of us go through the process of reflection on the year that has passed and set ourselves targets and challenges for the next.

I decided a year ago that 2014 was going to be my year. This was the time where, after experiencing a very difficult time in 2013, there was going to be changes. There was indeed change – I lost my little friend who had been my constant companion for thirteen years, I was hospitalised for nearly a week and had to take five weeks off work to recover (which put a strain on my relationships with some of my colleagues and has affected my health permanently), our charlatan landlady decided to sell the house we had only moved into six months previously, forcing us to take out a loan and find somewhere very quickly while I was still recovering from my illness, The Bloke lost someone dear to him for the third time in three years and had to take on the extra strain and pressure of supporting me while I regained my strength, and my workload tripled.

However, it hasn’t been all bad – I was able to establish a better relationship with family members, my sister got married to a lovely man, my other sister met the man who I think she is going to end up with, and throughout I have been supported by the best group of friends that anybody could hope for.

My New Years Resolutions have followed the same pattern for the last few years and the resulting list will give an idea of how successful I have been in achieving these goals over the last twelve months:

1. Lose weight and get healthy. As I write I am the heaviest I have ever been. Ever. Seriously, ever. Things now wobble that aren’t supposed to wobble and have never wobbled before. A taxi driver asked me a few months ago when my baby was due and then proceeded to give me diet tips when I informed him that I wasn’t pregnant. I can’t fit into my sweat pants. Beautiful dresses that I wore a year ago now don’t go past my hips… However, I do exercise more – I jog sporadically. And by sporadically, I mean that I have been for a total of seven jogging sessions in the last twelve months, totalling about 20 miles. That’s less than three miles a month.

2. Stop smoking. While I don’t smoke anywhere near what I used to, I have been known to enjoy a cigarette or ten when I’m drinking. Or stressed. Or celebrating. Or walking to the bus stop.

3. Take the time to send birthday cards to my friends in other cities. Number of cards sent via post in the last year? One. My friends mean a lot to me and the good intentions are always there, but the execution is decidedly poor.

4. Take more care in my appearance. The last time I got my hair cut? Eighteen months ago. I haven’t really bothered wearing make up since my birthday in November. I spend the majority of my personal time dressed in hooded sweaters and jeans, very much like the teenage boys that I teach.

5. Save money. My current savings account does indeed have money in there: 0.47p. Genuinely. After a years worth of work on a good salary I have successfully managed to save a whole 47p. That should pay for a chocolate bar… Just.

6. Be more organised. I don’t even want to think about the stacks of papers and files I need to sort through. Or the washing that needs to be done. Or the… let’s just say that I have collected a lot of stuff, and it’s everywhere.

2014 was not a year of living, it was simply an existence – getting by from day to day in the hope that things would soon improve. The real truth is that certain aspects of my life in 2014 were not how I imagined my life, and indeed, who I, should be, and at the age of 33 now is the time to stop pretending that a mere existence is acceptable.

For 2015, I have decided that I will get rid of all of my previous superficial goals and replace them with just a single one: I am going to take the risk.

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What about you guys? Have you any goals for 2015?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog and don’t forget to check out my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks