I must have rehearsed and planned this post 1000 times but, now I’m sat here in front of the computer, I don’t quite know where to start.
On July 24th 2018, I will be leaving teaching after 17 years. I am not the first to leave before retirement and I won’t be the last. I have read posts from teachers leaving the profession before. These feature reality checks for those who truly do not understand what it is like to be a teacher and the constant pressure we are placed under. Such posts always draw divisive comments between sympathisers and those who stick to the tired script of ‘You leave at 3:30’ and ‘I wouldn’t be whinging if I had 13 weeks holiday’. With people of this opinion, I have a feeling that if they were to walk a day in our shoes that they would fall over at the first step. Whilst these posts are truly necessary and reflect the thoughts and feelings of many teachers (myself included), when I decided to leave teaching I felt that I really wanted to try a different approach.
The best way that I feel I can sum it up is by saying that I’m leaving teaching so I can teach.
I still absolutely adore teaching; my love of learning and working with children remains as high as it was when I first stepped into the classroom. Every day is indeed different, thrilling, challenging, exciting and fun. And, although I find it difficult to blow my own trumpet, I was actually pretty good at it. Sometimes I was ‘outstanding’. But then again, sometimes I was ‘inadequate’. Ofsted once said that one of my lessons was ‘inspirational’ whilst another in the very same inspection was ‘requiring improvement’. And it has taken me a long while to realise that I’m actually happy with that. Learning is about making mistakes. So when lessons don’t go well, I reflect, learn and improve. If we aren’t taking risks as teachers then what, in turn, are we teaching our children? Playing it safe might tick the boxes but imagine the opportunities you’ve missed.
For all the personal reasons I have for leaving teaching, ultimately it has been the focus on data and the stifling of creativity which has lead me to leaving. As I said before, I know that I am a good teacher but, if data is to be believed, I have been a failure every year of my career. Not all children have reached expected progress in each subject and I’ve sat through performance management meetings trying to justify the seas of red. I am not saying there does not need to be a form of accountability but the children, and I for that matter, are more than data. Throughout my career and with the endlessly-shifting goalposts, I have tried to keep the ethos that children, all children, are capable of great things if they follow their passions and talents. Of course all children need to know how to read, write and to calculate to a certain level of competency but what about their ability to throw, paint and compose? These children we teach will be our new mathematicians, writers and scientists but they will also be our designers, artists, historians, musicians, producers, athletes, poets, animators and photographers.
I will be leaving teaching to focus on writing and illustration. And I’m terrified. I’m leaving a stable, employed job to work in the wild and scary world of freelance. I’m very prepared for the comments that art is not a real job and it is one of my aims to prove to children that it can be done. Whilst there seems to be such a focus on the ‘important’ subjects it is very easy to forget that every subject is ‘important’ to someone. It has been very nice to discover that my poetry is being well-received and, as an illustrator, I’ve been working on some wonderful projects with some wonderful clients.
Here are a couple of examples, please check my portfolio for more:
Alongside that, I still want to go into as many schools as possible and work with children on these passions of my own, to try and inspire and engage a new set of learners. I want to teach. I want to share my love of words with children. Education reforms have stripped writing to a set of objectives which can be highlighted but removed the joy of writing and engaging the reader. There is a real focus on reading for pleasure but why not writing for pleasure too? I can see that there are many incredible schools out there filled with enthusiastic and inspiring teachers and leaders who share my ethos and I want to be part of them. I’m delighted that I am already booked in to visit some schools in the new school year and I can’t wait.
So as a final goodbye to teaching I decided to hire an advertising space on a phone box on Exeter High Street (I’d wanted a billboard but it was too expensive). This is the illustration I have created:
If you agree with the idea behind the illustration then please share away, I want it to reach as many children as possible. If you would like an A4 version of the poster to use then you get one here. If you happen to be on Exeter High Street and outside Burtons, you can see the illustration in full. If you are and have time for a selfie, I would love to see it. You can tweet me your pic on twitter using @hugsfromdad. Tell me why you are not data, why your children are not data and I can share it.
I now move on to a new chapter and, though terrified, I’m so excited. I’m ready to see what’s out there. I will walk out of school with the Year 6 children on the last day of term and, like them, I will be sad to say goodbye but ready for the next step. As a poem I have written agrees, adventure now awaits.
If you are interested in working with me in any way then you can do so in the following ways:
For school visits, I am working with the good folk at Authors Abroad.
For illustrations, get in touch with my agents, Advocate Art:
If you are a publisher interested in hearing more about my stories or if you just want to send me a message then email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you and love learning; the world’s an incredible place