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Nomad-teaching and being cool with it

Nomad-Teaching and being cool with it

“Mr. Franz, I think careers are a 20th-century invention and I don't want one.” Says Christopher McCandless in 'Into The Wild'. This is before he sacks off “real life” and goes on a one-way trip to Alaska to live it out in the far reaches of the world. Love that movie.

He’s got a point about careers, things have changed, not least in the domain of teaching.

In 2021, in the US, the median tenure for workers aged 25 to 34 is 2.8 years. The median tenure for employees ages 55 to 64 is 9.9 years.

I haven’t got the stats to hand on what these figures would have been 50 years ago, but I would suggest they might be a lot longer.

My dad was in teaching for 40 years and his last school for 34 years (he even taught Kathryn Darwin!). I think I was influenced by that, especially in my late teens and early twenties.

Here is how my career has gone since 2007:

PGCE 2007-2008

Job 1 2008-2013

Job 2 2013-2015

Now it was at this point that I thought – why do I need to stay in this straight jacket that teaching has set down for me? That meant – stay in a school for 5-7 years, get promoted, move up the conventional ladder, be successful.

At some point in 2015, I realised that this wasn’t making me happy. I had a creativity inside of me that wasn’t being fulfilled by the high pressure, data driven environment that I was then a part of.

I quit, stone dead, half way through the school year, from my role as Head of History. I thought I was leaving teaching forever at the time. It was in the first half of 2016 I realised there was a whole world beyond that structured conventional route that I’d become committed to in part due to the peer pressure of the profession – what would people say? “Tom quit without a job to go to!?”, “Who will employ him again!?”, “Ah, I knew he couldn’t hack it” etc etc.

It was the last time I let the perceptions of others stop me from doing something (This was particularly important when I set up Edudate which received some early criticisms and ridicule before going onto be a big success).

In 2016, I went international, here is how it’s gone since:

Job 3 2016-2018

Job 4 Jan-August 2019

Job 5 October 2019-Jan 2020 (temp contract)

Job 6 Feb 2020-May 2020 (temp contract)

Job 7 November 2020- December 2021 (maternity contract)

Job 8 December 2021 - ? (temporary online teaching contract)

In between and during these contracts, I have been pursuing the stuff I’ve wanted to. I’ve worked very hard but I've worked very hard on my terms – online courses on Udemy, writing, Teachmeeticons, Edudate, Teachers Talk Radio and so on. I’ve been lucky that many others have wanted to join the various journeys and it’s been brilliant working with the various people I have since 2015.

“Teaching”, despite some resistance from those who want to maintain the pattern, is becoming a portfolio profession. It doesn’t have to be a straight jacket where people feel trapped by perception. Flexible working is becoming more popular and accepted – good.

In the past I’ve seen a few “popular” edi-tweeters saying things like “he/she is only a supply teacher”. What a terrible thing to say. We have to move beyond this rhetoric to free teachers. You, the teacher, are a valuable commodity, there aren’t enough of you to go around!

Nomadic teaching should be respected and accepted. Nomad teaching is career freedom.


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