I’ll put my hands up and admit that I am struggling; the moment I realised that the struggle was greater than the reward was the moment I decided to act upon making some changes. It’s taboo to admit that you are struggling to cope with your job; that you can’t handle it; it is often seen as a form of weakness.
I can’t do it. I can’t work in an environment where the goalposts are constantly changing, the atmosphere is chaotic and the resources can’t accommodate your planning. I hated school when I was there, it was a real struggle for me. When I look back it was a negative experience that I scraped through. Following the pre-written trajectory of a middle class life I enrolled begrudgingly to sixth form, although I wanted to be a carpenter. One teacher, Marc Randall, had more influence on me than anyone else in my education. After a year of skipping school and failing spectacularly, he let me onto his BTEC course. He provided me with an experience that was hugely positive, he challenged me, respected me, levelled with me.
Signing up to be a teacher I knew it would be difficult. I knew there would be challenges and lots of hard work. I’m not work shy; I accepted that and hoped that the nature of the job and the subject matter I was working with would make the work worthwhile. I hoped I could be a Marc Randall. Three years later I see myself being that asshole high school history teacher that emotionally beat me to a pulp, I see in me my PE teacher who had me pegged as a skateboarder not a footballer since day one and treated me with the same disrespect and prejudice as his golden boys on the team did. I can’t inspire kids, I don’t have time.
Progression, success and ambition are all too often tied to financial status. The car we drive, the watch we wear, the house we live in, the school our kids go to
It seems like there are two breeds of humans; teachers and everyone else. I struggle with the everyday tasks of being a teacher. I know what I need to do and say, but faced with a class of thirty kids and all the other tasks that the other teachers writing about quitting have documented, I struggle to do it all.
It seems like that pre-written trajectory I mentioned at some point means that we should be looking for career progression, sideways or upwards every three years someone told me. For a while I thought there was something wrong with me for not wanting to ‘progress’. Then I started to re-evaluate our perception of progression. Progression is moving towards a goal; moving towards something higher or further.
The moment I realised that my ambitions for progression laid outside of teaching was liberating. Progression, success and ambition are all too often tied to financial status. The car we drive, the watch we wear, the house we live in, the school our kids go to. To me these are the anchors that stop progression. The monthly car payments, the crippling mortgage, the image to uphold, all require us to have an upward ‘progression’ of finances. Rarely do people’s lives get cheaper. When we talk of social mobility, we automatically think of moving upwards. We talk of ‘glass ceilings’ but never ‘glass floors’.
With the fear of sounding like a hypocrite who is biting the hand that feeds, neither Sally or I have ever claimed benefits, we have worked hard, we have put the time and hours in, got our heads down and learned new skills, enrolled on courses, seen things through. We had a little inheritance, which has put us into a situation that we know we are incredibly lucky to be in. We have, however, made a few important choices that have helped us to maintain that position. We chose not to have the £21,000 wedding (the national average in 2014); instead opting for an intimate weekend with just our parents, totalling less than £300. We are careful with money, we have never taken out a credit card, a car or finance, a bank loan or any other form of advanced finance, if we can’t afford it, we don’t have it. Although we did buy a flat.
We evaluated the unavoidable monthly rental payments, assessed our finances and went for it. We bought a little slice of Tynemouth, the place we found and moved to largely by chance and fell in love with instantly. I’m not scared to grow old if it is in a place like this.