Stefan


If I am starting this blog, it only seems right that I should go first.

Stefan, late 30s, is a former primary school based in Yorkshire. In 2014, he left full-time teaching and now is a university lecturer, a writer and independent consultant.

"I think back often to the day when I resigned from my teaching job at a primary school. There was no red mist, no tears, no door slam. Writing the letter, printing it and dropping it onto the Head’s desk happened somewhere between wiping the board clean at the end of the day and clearing away the table clutter. I had no job to go to, no plan of what would come next. As far as I was concerned, I was done with teaching forever. The end of term came and I felt no regret or worry. Just relief.

"That was six years ago. I still work in education. I write, teach creative writing in primary schools, and lecture at universities. On the outside it might look impressive or like an upward trajectory, but all this has happened under the shadow of leaving my job. I’d later try and present it as some kind of promotion that had led me away from the classroom, or a principled revelation that had made me want to fight the system and follow my passion for writing. There’s certainly some truth in that, but it’s not the whole story.

"The truth is, towards the end of my time as a teacher, I had this creeping sense of dread. I know a lot of teachers say they dread the idea of going to work in the morning, but this was becoming more than that. I was beginning to feel under impossible pressure: the pace, the scrutiny, the feeling of competitiveness, teaching children with really complex needs and being expected to just cope with it. Speaking up at the time seems like an easy thing to do and I have been asked, you know, why didn’t you just say something? I think it’s hard to do that because it is like admitting you don’t have things under control.  I was becoming really tired, and anxious. I have always been quiet, but by the end of my time as a teacher, even speaking in the staffroom was becoming difficult. I was like: they think I am a failure, I am letting the children down, I am not teaching right.

"One of the biggest worries I had was the feeling I didn’t have time to do anything I wanted. I just couldn’t seem to find the chance to relax with the class, to take things slowly, to focus on the children’s needs and interests and to grow as a person. I felt that the only way I could keep a handle on the anxiety was to put on a performance. Looking relaxed, trying to be tough but all the time thinking I was a failure. It’s ridiculous to think of now, but this black cloud has been there ever since.

"This year I finished a Masters degree and, initially, I was going to write something about best practice in creative writing but the more I read about teacher professionalism, and the more I reflected properly on everything I was feeling at that time, I started to feel more convinced that there is something wrong in our education system. Accountability is the enemy of trust and, without trust, how can you ever feel confident? Looking back on it, I can now see the sort of person I would have to become in order to survive in that system – I can see the things I would have had to compromise – and that made me realise I’d made the right decision. And yes, the cloud is still there but it’s lifting, especially when I see I’m not the only person underneath it."

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