Why I Left Teaching

An anonymous entry in the March 2013 Blogsync

I still remember my very first day as a teacher, sitting there on a sunny September morning bouncing in excited anticipation for my very first INSET day. I remember vividly looking around the room at twenty or so not-quite-so-excited-as-me teachers, wondering why and knowing that that would never be me.

And it isn’t.

I am still so full of passion for teaching and learning, making myself a better teacher and trying to do the best for the kids in my classes. I am still constantly on the look out for great ideas to magpie, reading teaching books, always looking for ways to improve. That’s why I struggled with my decision. Having to walk away from something you love is hard. Really hard.

The problem is the whole regime. The constant threat of Ofsted, the moving of the boundaries and the constant weighing of pigs (I’m sure if you’re a teacher you’ve heard the phrase) and how this is translated in schools.

I spent my first few years doing pretty well. I improved with each successive observation until I was consistently good, sometimes with outstanding features and once achieving that elusive ‘outstanding’. And then I moved schools.

Actually, for the first couple of years I carried on doing well, getting good gradings and taking on more responsibility. And then things started to go wrong. I had a difficult class who didn’t get on with each other at all and I didn’t know how to get them to like each other. However, instead of the head providing support, my requests for help and guidance got ignored as I was told I was ‘experienced’. I struggled and my observations slipped. Still no support was forthcoming so I decided to leave, my confidence heavily shaken.

I was lucky, or so I thought, that I managed to get another job. I wanted to keep my head down and get on with being the best I could be for the children I was teaching. And for a while things seemed to be going well. Unfortunately I then managed to get struck down with every illness under the sun and ended up having to be signed off. This was not taken sympathetically by the Head and I was told that I was not performing to my best ability (I’m not sure anyone would be with what I had, I was very lucky not to end up in hospital) but this was enough to knock my confidence just that bit more.

I made sure I worked even harder, all evening and most of the weekend, to try and improve. But then the comments started coming thick and fast – data not good enough, lessons not good enough, marking not good enough, planning not good enough – basically anything that could get picked to pieces was. I ended up in pieces. I was spending two to three hours planning and resourcing a 1 hour lesson, burning myself into the ground, still to be told it wasn’t good enough but never given any specific guidance on how to improve.

I had to have more observations. Two or three a week. Something I struggle with already so by now I was at breaking point although I tried not to let it show. My Head did not seem to understand that constant observation without positive, specific feedback was not going to help and I was threatened with formal capability if I didn’t stop getting ‘Requires Improvement’. The thing was, the more I was observed the more I panicked and couldn’t  do my best as nerves got the better of me. I just wanted to cry constantly. And my union couldn’t do a bloody thing.

And so I ended up handing in my notice and being signed off with severe anxiety which was causing several panic attacks a day. I don’t think I’ll ever teach again while the system is as stifling and constraining as it is currently and there’s no real way for teachers to challenge the behaviour of a headteacher. Both headteachers were  readily willing to use the threat of  Ofsted and accountability as a whip to beat their teachers with yet both were unable to show me how to do it themselves when challenged – one wouldn’t and one couldn’t.

I keep wondering if its me, but I know deep down it’s not. I was a good teacher in my first school, I’ve just had my confidence shattered. And I was not the first or only one in either of these schools that was treated this way; I watched both these heads go through other staff members before me one by one, trying to break them and forcing them out.

For me the pressure and lack of trust has become too much. I miss teaching like crazy but I’ve lost too much of myself and my relationships in the process and I now need to put myself first before I lose anything else.

[Published on behalf of a blogsync contributor who prefers to remain anonymous]
  1. This is just awful, and a sign of so much that is wrong with education.

    The very fact that EVERYTHING came down to graded observations is a terrible indictment of the system in which you operated – ‘tick the boxes, jump the hoops, or get out’.

    If you do ever decide to come back to teaching I hope you find a school that supports and trusts you, but you are right to put yourself first.

  2. I suspect your words represent a great many good teachers these days. I have had experiences similar to this and took early retirement to escape the constant belittling and, yes, downright bullying. So sad that great teachers are being treated so.

  3. “For me the pressure and lack of trust has become too much. I miss teaching like crazy but I’ve lost too much of myself and my relationships in the process and I now need to put myself first before I lose anything else.” A place all too many will find familiar. Good luck with all the brilliant things you will go on to do.

  4. Such a tragedy, and unfortunately not the first such story I’ve heard. For senior leaders such as myself this blog is a critical reminder about the devastating consequences of imposing challenge without providing support. I hope you can find your way back to the classroom in a school where the culture and ethos is different – because they are out there!

  5. Sounds like my first school; too many people full of their own importance but never teach a real class of kids anymore and don’t know what a good lesson looks like. I too hope you find your way back, I left and supplied until I found a school that built my confidence and supported me as a human first, professional second, as we all are. Good luck.

  6. bethkemp

    Dreadful story; all the more so because it sounds familiar and not at all far fetched. I hope too that you can find a more supportive and worthwhile situation, or another way to get what teaching once gave you.

  7. Telisha

    I agree with some of the previous post here and so sorry to hear about your story. This kind of stuff is probably happening everywhere in every school system. I believe there is too much politics in schools and therefore restricting the teachers the freedom to teach causing the good teachers to leave. Do you still miss teaching? If you do, have you tried tutoring or want to tutor? You can check my link http://www.wyzant.com/Tutors/TutoringbyTelisha.

  8. theresa

    Thank you for your post!! I, too am ready to leave teaching. It’s not the students and families I work with as much as the administration. I wish you all the best.

0 Pings & Trackbacks

Leave a Reply


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: