Back in December last year, I wrote about my exit from teaching in an article known at TES towers, as the “educational death row” article. It went viral and chronicled some of the reasons for my decision to leave teaching.
I’m delighted to say, that after 6 months, I will be taking up the post of Head of History at a British International School in Spain in September. A dramatic step, but one I can’t wait to take. So, what has this journey from leaving teaching to going back into teaching, albeit in a completely different environment, been like? What have I learnt along the way?
Was it the right decision? Absolutely!
Since launching my online business in January, I have broadened my experience base much more than I thought would be possible. First off, I’ve learnt how to set up and run a business. The main aspect of the business was going to revolve around online tutoring for History students. This simply didn’t work. Sometimes, you have to admit defeat. I did the market research. I tested the market. But there just hasn’t been the demand for this since I launched. Nevertheless, new streams of income emerged. I have had the opportunity to develop resources for an exam board. I have developed my own resources, free and paid, and created a “TES shop”. Most notably, I have created several online courses for teachers and students, which have so far proven really popular. I’m expecting take up on them to grow in the coming year.
Its been really enjoyable creating the courses; writing scripts, recording video and audio, editing and producing. It has taken hours, but very much a labour of love. My latest course (just finished one hour before finishing this blog) is called "lesson planning; steps to success".
Its funny, because of the blog I mentioned earlier, I was given the chance to write a weekly column for TES over the last 6 months. I absolutely love writing so this was an incredible experience and its something I look forward to continuing to do from Spain. I think for aspiring writers, its easy to see a publication like the TES as distant, aloof and “out of reach”. However, my experience proves that anyone with something to say and a way to say it has a chance to reach a national and even global audience. I simply shared my blog with Jon Severs. Next thing I know, i’m working with the amazing Ed Dorrel, the Head of Content, and really feeling “part of the team” in a freelance capacity, so much so that I was invited to attend the TES awards in London, which was a real privilege. By writing so many articles, you win and you lose. That’s been an interesting lesson. With social media being what it is, I’ve had to take the rough with the smooth. As much as I’ve received praise from headteachers, union leaders and politicians, I’ve also received the opposite from people I don’t know and certainly don’t know me. It’s made me realise how much of a thick skin those at the sharp end of the blogosphere need to develop.
In June, I took advantage of term time holidays to launch into an impromptu 3 week break to California! I had an incredible time and met some amazing people, as I always do when i'm "on the road".
One of the biggest positives in this time has been to have the time to re-assess and re-evaluate professional and personal priorities. I’ve had more time to talk to friends, travel and read. It’s made me realise how wrapped up in my own educational rat race I’d become. That’s why I genuinely believe that one of the most significant things that the new education secretary Justine Greening needs to look at is introducing the option of the unpaid or bursary driven sabbatical. And not necessarily an education sabbatical where you have to produce one thing or another. Literally, a chance for a teacher to go. In fact, I sometimes wonder whether forcing teachers to take at least 6 months out after a period of years in the classroom might do everyone some good, not least the teacher themselves. So many need a rest and if you haven’t got a supportive headteacher, then you won’t get it without quitting or going part time. This is wrong.
Above all else, I do miss being in the classroom. I have done a couple of short term supply contracts at two great schools here in the North West. It reminded me of a few things; one – being a classroom teacher is one of the few things I’ve ever been really good at. Two – I was in danger of wasting my talent for teaching by staying out of teaching for too long. Three – you can’t replace the buzz that working with young people gives you. Yes; it can be high octane, high pace and high intensity. But it’s also endlessly exhilarating and infinitely rewarding. Now, supply was certainly not the latter, and that’s why I realised that if I wanted to get the most out of being a teacher, then a full time, permanent contract is the option I needed to look at.
Nicky Morgan and Nick Gibb have cast dark shadows over the education system here. They, and their predecessors at the DofE have sparked an exodus of the brightest and bravest to different climbs, and not because of the weather. Teachers are looking to get away from a culture that they know isn’t necessary; the one that breeds excessive accountability, virulent competitiveness and jobs becoming people’s lives. I know of five very good friends with tonnes of talent who have already taken the road less travelled and never looked back.
I’ve found an amazing school myself. Its only recently opened with 600 students currently on roll. Its got great facilities, a friendly and welcoming staff and a commitment to a holistic education. As Head of History, I will be able to develop the department “from the bottom up” and pursue a vision for its success built around students increasing love of all things History. I’ll also be able to carry on my other work, including the organisation and hosting of TMHistoryIcons next year back in the UK.
So, onwards and upwards and I look forward to posting another soon. Until then, back to whiteboards, desks, bells, assemblies and duties. Bring it on!