This post has been half written and forgotten about in my drafts for a while now, however a conversation with Dave at the weekend brought it to the fore front of my mind again and as today is #WorldTeachersDay it makes sense to publish it now!
I’m often asked if or when I will go back to full time teaching and my answer, more often than not, is that right now I can’t see why I would. Of course there’s the benefits of a regular guaranteed wage which I certainly don’t have at the moment (though I have been extremely lucky to have a couple of long term bookings over the last couple of years which have eased the pressure there) along with sick pay and a pension. But, right now I’m not sure that’s enough to tempt me back into a full time permanent teaching post.
For as long as I can remember I wanted to be a primary school teacher. There was nothing else. No other job appealed to me. In fact I would go so far as to say that I didn’t see teaching as my job, it was just what I am. I am a teacher. It was (and I guess still is) my vocation. Nobody goes into teaching for the money or the holidays (or at least if they do they don’t last very long). You have to teach because you love it.
The end of the Summer term marked 4yrs since I left my permanent, full time teaching post in Leeds. Four years. I can barely believe it. Although it was scary at the time, it was the best decision I ever made. I love teaching, I really do. But I don’t love what the profession has become. I don’t love what the government has done to our education system and to our children.
Last year was a tough school year in many ways, with the pressure on teaching staff and pupils more than ever before. As a supply teacher I often feel as though I’m viewing the pressures of teaching in the current climate through a bubble – they affect me, I feel the force of them yet I am protected.
Until recently I was teaching in the same school (solely) for around 18 months and in that time they were put into Special Measures by Ofsted. The following year saw them fight tooth and nail to get back from that judgement. Although I was only working two days a week, somehow every HMI inspection seemed to take place while I was at work. I saw the stress it caused and I did what I could to alleviate this, to help people out and of course do my very best just in case an inspector inadvertently came to observe me. But really the pressure wasn’t the same. I cared about the outcome for the school – for the staff and children I care about, but ultimately the result wouldn’t affect me.
Supply teaching allows me to distance myself from the stress of full time teaching. I get to do the bits of the job I enjoy – the actual teaching – and then go home. That’s not to say it’s a walk in the park, I find myself in more than my fair share of “tricky” classes and I earn my money, but it’s different. I know, if I need to, I can walk away.
Aside from the work / life balance which supply teaching offers, the most significant benefit as a parent of three young children is the flexibility. Supply teaching means that I could take half a day to go watch Ben’s ‘moving on’ assembly as he moved up to the juniors. It means I can choose which days to work, I can enjoy the school run and I can be there whenever my children need me too. I know how lucky I am. I never thought I would be able to drop my children off for their first day at school, to go to their class assemblies or to have much of a relationship with their class teachers. This isn’t something I’m going to give up in a hurry.
So for now, while my babies are just that, I will continue to supply teach. I will continue to choose a more flexible way of working. I’m not saying I won’t ever go back to full time teaching, I’m just saying not now.