Annie, 60, is a former primary school teacher and deputy head from north west England. She is now a part-time university tutor. After a successful early career in a primary school, she took a career break to have her daughter. When she returned to the classroom around 10 years ago, she had a very different experience of being a teacher.

"Have you heard the analogy of the flea? You have some fleas in a little jar and the fleas will ping up and down and they'll jump out. Now if you put a lid on the jar or a piece of cardboard on the top, the fleas will carry on jumping but they'll hit the lid and fall down. And as soon as you take the lid off again, they'll jump out.

“But, you know, if you keep the lid on long enough, the fleas learn to stop jumping higher than the lid so even when you remove it, they won't jump out. They have forgotten it is possible to jump out of the jar. And, what’s really scary, is that the offspring of these fleas learn to never jump higher than where the lid would have been.

“I remember being told this by a young teacher I met on a leadership course. When I heard this I thought, you know, that's exactly how I feel working at my school. You're not asked for your opinion. If you give it, you're told to shut up. You know? I stuck it out for seven years but it was making me ill. I felt I did well - I worked hard to try and prove what I thought was right and I always got really good results and glowing reports. But because I was new, an outsider, not part of their management team - it was like talking to a brick wall. It was very hierarchical - very frustrating, especially when you can see they are trying to implement things that we'd tried at my last school and realised they didn't work.

"It made me think back to the start of my career. In my first year of teaching the national curriculum was just being introduced and there was a lot of reluctance from older staff to change and a lot of them were pushed out. When you're younger you feel you can see why they are being pushed out, but it hurts when you find that it is happening to you.

"So, I'm done with teaching now. I don't want to come across as too negative. I had a career that I really enjoyed. It's paid a lot of bills, given me a lot of skills but it was time to let it go. After my bad experience with that school, I did another year and a bit somewhere else and I really enjoyed that. I was glad to not end my career on a bad note. I was glad I could leave from a school that valued me and wanted me to be there.”


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