I didn’t sleep last night. This isn’t strange for me at the beginning of September, as I am sure is the case for many in the teaching education across the globe. Back to school nerves creep in (yes, they still happen at the age of 31!) and the sudden panic of whether or not you can remember how to converse with young people — let alone get through the day without a nap and a glass of Rioja — kicks in.
Yes I know the cynics amongst you will be thinking, “About bloody time you teachers got back to work and stopped getting paid tax payers money to swan around the globe.” But what is the value of summer holidays to those professionals who chose to spend their life educating our youngsters? What in fact is the value to the young people themselves, and indeed to the education sector?
Summer holidays are a time to rejuvenate, to rediscover and to refresh. That may involve spending six weeks backpacking around South America. Or it may involve spending six weeks catching up on sleep and on time with loved ones. But a rejuvenated teacher, who has had the chance to rediscover their passion for teaching and time to refresh their ideas and teaching methodology is only a positive thing for every aspect of education.
Now anyone who knows me whilst reading this blog will be wondering why I am talking about the benefits on teachers of a summer holiday. I have benefitted from everything a teacher should in the summer months — I have travelled, experienced, rested and caught up. But I have needed to do all of these things for a completely different reason this summer.
Because the strange thing about me not sleeping last night is the fact that I haven’t returned to school this September.
And it is the strangest feeling ever.
Waking up this morning and knowing that all my friends and colleagues from the past decade have got up, battled through morning meetings and started to try and put together lesson plans for the coming days, weeks and months has left me feeling strangely left out. But this is the decision I have made - and after six weeks of essentially kidding myself that I am on my usual summer break, today I have faced the reality of what I have done.
I have quit my job and I am now self-employed.
I have decided to try and start my own social enterprise with no funding or experience; I’m starting out with just an idea.
I have packed in the most secure and structured job in the world.
I’m not going to lie to you; I’m terrified. To go from a world so rigidly controlled by term dates and bells, a world when I can only wee and eat at certain times of the day, and a world where I am essentially ruled by other people’s actions, to an empty diary and a blank computer screen is surreal. But I know I am doing the right thing.
I have always liked to think of myself as an inspirational teacher (we all do - surely that’s why we do the job?) And bizarrely leaving the profession has helped me to inspire young people further.
When a young student with very little confidence wrote me a card on my last day telling me that she was proud of my decision and that I will continue to inspire her as a teacher long after I have left the classroom because I have inspired her to follow her dreams (because I am following mine), that’s when I knew.
That one card made everything okay. Because it is young people that I believe in, and it’s their opinion and their aspirations that matter to me. They are the things that should matter to all of us… without going all Whitney on you, I truly believe that ‘Children are the future.’ Without knowing, that student made me know that what I was doing was the right thing.
The current political climate does nothing to support and inspire them. Many aspects of the education system does little to nurture self-belief or resilience. They are constantly told that they need to fit into a certain mould, learn certain things, follow the path that society has deemed ‘the best’. Well I’m going to try and change that, in a way that unfortunately as a teacher I had started to find difficult to do.
So this blog will follow how I deal with ‘packing it in’. I have got so many ideas whirring around my head, and just how I am going to pack them all into a sellable package, I’m not yet sure. But I am determined to make it work.
So here’s to a new kind of September nerves; the nerves at the start of my next chapter as an ex teacher.