Leaving School

Me in my shabby classroom with my Year 11 class.

Me in my shabby classroom with my Year 11 class.

Writing this isn’t just about giving people an insight into the experience of leaving a job like this, it’s an apology to the students I left behind.

I was never under the illusion that I was going to be a teacher forever or that it was my ‘true vocation’, whatever that means. In truth, I only did the job because an old fella I was in a play with told me it would be a good idea. He was wrong. People asked me if I’d misjudged what the job was like but that wasn’t it. I’d misjudged my ability to handle it. My dad predicted that it would be all the bureaucracy, politics and bullshit that would do my head in and he was dead right. It was a huge barrage of the above the finally pushed me into handing in my notice.

I lied to the students for weeks. I lied mostly to my Year 10 class who repeatedly asked me if I would be teaching them next year. Although it made me hate myself a bit, I kept telling them that I would be. It felt absolutely awful to say that when I knew it wasn’t true but there was nothing for it. The other teachers all told me that I’d find it very difficult to get them to do any work if they knew I was leaving. Lying to them was bad enough but letting them miss out on things they needed to do was unbearable.

Towards the end of the school year, I became increasingly intolerant of the bad behaviour but too tired and dispirited to handle it properly. It got worse and worse. In the end, I was so angry and frustrated with them, particularly the Year 9s, that I couldn’t wait to leave. It wasn’t really their fault though. Kids are kids. I just never had the right temperament to be a teacher.

My last day was hot and heavy even when I arrived at 7.30am. Two lessons was all I had that day: Year 8 and Year 7, both reasonably well behaved classes. As soon as I arrived in the office where the English and Media teachers sit, I made my cup of jasmine tea as usual and checked to see if I had any interesting emails. Not that the emails were ever interesting. The excited atmosphere I’d expected was completely missing. Everyone was too shattered to be enthusiastic. Even the people who were leaving were more relieved than exhilarated at the prospect. Most surprising of all was the way that even the kids seemed subdued. Of course they were pleased that it was the end of term and happy to play games but they lacked the exuberance of previous years.

As I gave away the last of my sweets and said goodbye to the final class I’d ever teach, I felt a strange mix of emotions. The big emotional moment had been the previous day when I’d said goodbye to my Year 10 class but even then I hadn’t felt as sad as I had when I said goodbye to my Shoreham Academy fiction writing class. Maybe it was because I’d become so jaded and wearied by it all at this point. I waved at the Year 7 kids as they filed out of the classroom for the last time and thought that it was a shame that I wouldn’t see them again. That made me think of all the kids I was going to miss, even the really badly behaved ones. Hearing the other teachers, back in the office, talk about what they were preparing for next year washed away that feeling of regret with another massive wave of relief. The thought of going through the whole process again the next year was totally unthinkable.

Getting into the car, I felt a powerful sense of unreality and anticlimax. I expected to be so happy but I just felt a bit empty. It still feels odd to not be going back but it also feels so good not to have to worry about it.

The kids took selfies on my phone!

The kids took selfies on my phone!

2 thoughts on “Leaving School

  1. I am with you on all that you have written. I felt empty and my insides had been ripped out by all the bureaucracy and infighting. The relief was paramount.

  2. It’s such a shame that bureaucracy and politics have become such a big part of the job. The best teachers I had were ones who did it as a second career, but they were also the most likely to leave when the job became more about hierarchical BS than teaching, because life’s too short! And who knows, maybe in the future an opportunity to take an adult education class in a more relaxed environment will come along. It’s something I’d like to get into myself one day, but probably not in a school environment.

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