Life after teaching – Day One

Photo by Jesse Echevarria on Unsplash
With the end of my teaching career only days behind me, I am already thinking, Crikey… What Next!

So, it’s not quite Day One and, to be honest, as I have been working towards this for quite some time, I am not sure when Day One actually is any more. Should it be when I decided to actually make the change, which was probably sometime way back in the depths of the first lockdown, right about the time when I was looking to sell the children into slavery. Or should it be when I handed in my notice at work, after having given 19 years, a few of them my best years, to the profession of teaching, which was far less dramatic and momentous than I thought it would be – there was no fanfare, no pomp or circumstance, no national day of mourning, no wailing in the streets, no cries for a statue or anything like that – which was a little diappointing to say the least! Or should it be when I actually left work, which, as it turned out, ended up being the end of term which we all crawled towards in the normal routine of teaching, on our hands and knees, short-tempered, weak willed, exhausted and desperate for the hope of salvation that six weeks away from the little buggers provides.

Needless to say – it doesn’t matter when Day One is – it just is, so we may as well start here.

Are you mad? Leaving teaching! Think of the pension… and those holidays!

How do I feel about leaving teaching? Well, to be honest, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. I don’t want to put any prospective teachers off here (Don’t do it) as it is a great profession which does offer so much (No, really, don’t do it). The time spent in the classroom with the students is both inspiring and bewildering, but great fun and endlessly fulfilling (Still, don’t do it). The student’s ideas are new, fresh, and creative, yet at the same time, at times, you do wonder about how they made it this far (See? Just don’t do it, really).

My problem is and was, and like I said I don’t want to put anyone off (Just don’t), that it is a career that takes. It takes your time, your energy, your creativity. And it takes these things to such an extent that you spend most of your time when you are away from teaching, which, let’s face it, is very little (Another reason – are you listening?), like a husk, a flaccid balloon, an empty jar of nutella, a tent with no poles and other such metaphors. (Read the room here – DON’T DO IT!!)

Yes, yes, the holidays are great. Don’t get me started on the ignorant masses who think teachers have it easy with 13 weeks, yes 13 weeks of holiday! Teaching’s so easy, they cry, they have such an easy life, they cry – I say – Go on then – you have a go! I know. It sounds great. 13 weeks sounds great. But the reality is that it takes a while in each of these life saving breaks that teachers lurch towards to pump the balloon back up, to refill the nutella jar. Half terms are pointless, like stopping at the services for just a wee and not a sitting down and a shot of caffeine or juice – you don’t feel as if you’ve actually stopped before throwing yourself back into the madness of Bank Holiday traffic. Christmas is manic because, for reasons other than teaching, you don’t actually stop. Easter is ok, especially if you aren’t religious as after decompressing for a week, you do get to spend some time being quasi-normal. The lawn may get mown, you might get time to fix that step or see….. other people – God Forbid. And the summer, even though it’s six weeks, is bookended by two initial weeks of lying down in a dark room, speaking in tongues and waiting for the sobbing to stop, and two weeks at the end thinking shit, shit, shit, shit, shit. Not again, no, no, no, no. Before launching yourself into another year of it.

So, no, I am not going to miss teaching – but I will miss the people.

The thing about teachers is that no matter how different they are – and they are – teaching attracts some serious oddballs (some of whom don’t actually seem to like young people!). No matter what their differences are, what connects them all is this desire to do something good. This could be the joys of Pythagoras (ranking only second behind Crop Rotation of the 14th Century as one of the most pointless niche things we get our students to learn) or the art of constructing prose. Either way, all teachers crave that buzz of excitement you get from those mini-epiphanies. Like junkies, teachers lurch from one lesson to the next, craving the next pedagogical fix. And by the end of term they don’t look too dissimilar either.

This desire, this motivation, this fix – whatever you call it, creates a unique bond between colleagues. I don’t want to compare it to the bond created between soldiers who have served together. We all know teaching is far more dangerous a profession! But there is a unique bond between teachers like no other, and it’s these crazy weirdos that I will miss the most. From the anally retentive Maths teachers, to the overly tactile Drama teachers – I will miss them all. They are fantastic, selfless people who carry on, despite the red tape and the corporatisation of the profession and, let’s face it – we’d be screwed without them.

So, what next?

Normally, I would give myself a couple of weeks to reinflate. But, to be honest, apart from missing my colleagues, for once I feel excited, exhilarated and energised to just get on with it. I am taking the underlying nerves and fear as good signs that, whatever happens, it is up to me – if I fail, on my head be it. The safety net of teaching and the salary has gone and I need to proverbially get out there and take down this buffalo on my own.

With that in mind I have taken some positive steps. My first postive step was to avoid thinking about anything and tidying the shed. Then I started on the attic. See how productive I am being? But apart from avoidance, I have also invested in a new laptop (I left the last one out in the rain – oops!) Quick review – it’s great – it turns on, the keys work and it has a nifty little number pad (Watch the techie work come flooding in now). One gripe is that some imbecile has put the power button right next to the delete button. So, at regular intervals, I get to marvel at how quick it is to boot up! It’s the ultimate delete button, I guess.

Another thing I have done, is to sign myself up for a copywriting course. There are so many out there at the moment and it’s hard to know which one to choose. I will let you know how it goes on the next post. I hope I don’t regret not investing in a pyramid scheme instead.

So, my aim is to try and get into copywriting so I can bring some money in to keep the kids in raisins and party rings. If all goes well, I am hoping that it will afford me more time to invest in the passion projects. I have a few scripts in various stages of development and I am hoping that reading teen fiction for the last 20 years so I can recommend books to the students will help me write my own teen fiction book.

Failing that, my plan is to bring Mills and Boon into the 21st Century.

Jeanette hitched up her leggings, expertly hooking a finger to extricate them from between her sweaty arse cheeks before turning back to her shopping. On autopilot, she wove her way absent-mindedly through the quiet morning traffic in the aisles of Lidl. Six pepperoni pizzas, fifteen tins of beans, 24 bags of crisps – is this what her life had become since Kyle had left? It had been 2 years, but not a day went by when the vision of him and Smelly Susan didn’t force its way into her thoughts. All she remembered seeing was the dirty soles of Susan’s feet sticking up into the air and Kyle’s sweaty back, his eagle tattoo glistening in the afternoon sunshine as he pumped away, while their kids played on the slip and slide just the other side of the shed. Bastard!

Just as she pushed the memory away, like an extra plate of ribs from the Chinese, she found herself in the middle of Lidl, with a trolley blocking her way. The owner had his back to her, and was rummaging through the asssortment of garden implements. Jeanette sighed. No response. She noticed that his snowbleached jeans hugged his toned butt and his vest, which he had obviously bought a size too small for the purpose of showing off his muscular arms, adorned with gothic sleeve tattoos, was working its magic on Jeanette. Her heart raced and she felt a flutter in her stomach which couldn’t have been the pulled pork sandwich she’d had earlier, even though it was a couple of days out of date.

She was about to tut, a move out of the way please tut when he turned around and looked straight at her. In his hands he was holding a resonably priced pair of garden loppers.

‘Sorry’, he said in his gutteral, manly voice that made him sound like an orc from Lord of the Rings. ‘Am I in your way?’

Jeannet blushed. She never blushed. Only when she drank too much Sambuco. ‘N..No’, she stammered like a giggly schoolgirl. ‘It’s ok.’ A silence arose between them. Jeanette couldn’t swallow, her mouth was dry, like, hangover dry. Before she could collect herself she found herself talking, while gazing into his steak brown eyes. ‘Those are lovely loppers. My neighbour Steve has some. He uses them on my hedge sometimes. Are they extendable?’

The mystery man looked at her, intensely, like he was studying a Wetherspoon’s menu, and replied, ‘No, they’re not. I don’t need them’, before winking at her, placing them in his trolley and pushing his way up the aisle.

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