How I left my job and changed career

DollyParton-9to5

A year ago today, I resigned from my ten-year teaching career. I remember it well, mainly because it was the day of Trump’s inauguration and I’d had no sleep the night before. I’d been planning on resigning later in the term (Benn and I had talked about me resigning the year before and agreed that the best time would be when D started school- no more nursery fees), but for some reason I found myself pouring out my thoughts to my line manager, who was amazingly supportive. I wrote my letter there and then, although I decided I would stay til the end of the year: this would give me time to sort myself out, but also I wanted to see my students through the year.

I then began to plan. I saved as much money (read: not much) as I could every month and joined agencies specialising in helping parents find work (spoiler: they were crap.) I spoke to people who could help me- one friend gave me really good advice about CVs. I researched, planned and saved. I’m not ashamed to admit that I was pretty terrified- I was leaving a job I’d done since I was 23, with relatively good money for the days I was in work (but not those I was working outside of school hours) and school holidays guaranteed. I had never looked for a job as a parent. Hell, I hadn’t seriously looked for a new job in eight years.

The time went REALLY fast. I took the summer off and started looking for work the week after D started school. I wrote a skills-based CV, which showed what I could do (and is easier to adapt for the skills required by each job description.) I also narrowed down the sort of places I wanted to work- charities, public sector- and signed up for job alerts. I scoured job boards for the NHS, the council, universities and the civil service. I applied for three jobs and was offered interviews for them all (I accepted the second job and got excellent feedback from the first. I didn’t attend the third interview.) I bought a basic black dress in the summer sales, which I wore with a plain cardigan (I felt like a younger Miss Marple, tbh), but it looked smart and presentable.

I was lucky in that I got a temp job for a few weeks, which brought in a bit of money, but I budgeted HARD. I cut all non-essential costs and used the library. During times when I wasn’t working, I kept myself busy: looking after the sheep, learning French, going to a free weekly knitting group.

I started my job in the public sector in December and it’s very different. I’m also working five days a week until the end of next month, which has brought a temporary boost in money but headaches with childcare. I’ll be a lot less well-off once I go down to three days, but better in terms of health. I sleep better, I’m happier and Benn and D have noticed a huge difference.

I have had to deal with an odd side-effect though: losing a sense of identity that was tied up with my job. It’s liberating and less scary now, but it’s definitely taken a while.

For anyone looking to change lanes, I will tell you it’s potentially hard- I was lucky that Benn was happy to pick up the slack, even if it means a change in lifestyle for us for a while- but the rewards can be utterly worth it.

I’m leaving teaching

In just over two weeks, I will be stepping away from a career that has come to define my life- ten years, my identity, hours and hours of work just… gone.

tenor

There are lots of reasons why, some much bigger than me and others that are more personal. You’ll know of the biggies: the workload (and a curriculum that I feel is deeply, deeply flawed and unfair), the pay and pension issues, the funding issues that mean we can’t do everything we need to do in order to make sure that those in our care are happy and healthy individuals who can think independently and creatively in a world that is becoming ever more challenging. Teaching has changed so, so much in the ten years that I’ve been doing it that I honestly can’t understand why people still want to train- and that those who have trained in the last couple of years seem to be told that it’s normal to be overworked, underpaid and to strive for constantly outstanding lessons, otherwise you’re a crap teacher. (I promise you, that last one cannot be done all the time if you want to have anything that resembles a work/life balance.)

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“A work/life balance, you say?”

On a personal level, I’m tired of the commute. I’m lucky enough to get a lift, so I’m not at the mercy of the railways, but it’s still exhausting. I’m tired of having to work when I get home; it’s not cool to be sat on the sofa when your 4 year old gets home and his face drops because you’re marking again and probably will be when he goes to bed. I’m often exhausted (and/or working) on the two days I week I have at home with him. Teaching is a job that never stops. For example, today I’m finding it very hard to not check my email. We are always contactable in a way that I never experienced early in my career. I have to mentally shut myself off from this if I am to get any work/life balance, otherwise I could drive myself mad- and I have done. I am pretty sure that most of the anxiety attacks I have experienced in the last few years have been as a direct result of work. I’m a good, conscientious worker; I hate letting down my colleagues and, most importantly, my students. I also want to be around to take D to school- leaving at 6.50am everyday isn’t the best thing for this.

So I’m going. I resigned in January (on the day of Trump’s inauguration, as it happens.) I’d had a tearful discussion with one of my bosses about it, (although I’d decided the previous May with Benn, in a Pizza Express on our anniversary, as he had picked up that I wasn’t happy and hadn’t been for a while. He asked me what I needed and said that he would support it.) I knew that I needed at least a break, if not something more permanent, otherwise I would be at risk of becoming one of those horrid, bitter and jaded teachers we all remember having. I genuinely adore most of my students and I didn’t want to inflict that on them. I mean, I’m a tired teacher, but I’m not a horrible one. I also knew that moving to a different school wasn’t an option. I just need to be out of a classroom.

Five months have flown by and I have no plans. This is a deliberate choice, for now. I wanted to keep giving my focus to the kids in my classes without worrying about other stuff. I also have the holidays to sort out my CV and interview skills (teaching interviews are unlike any others I have ever had. My last non-teaching interview was in 2005.) I also need some time to unwind and sort my head out; my identity has been so intertwined with my job that it’s going to take some time to sort myself out. I have been asked if I want to do supply/private tuition, to which my initial reaction is:

tumblr_ml2rlfaQC71s5ipdco1_400.gif At least for now. I need to focus on my own kid and getting him settled in school. Also, I really need a break on correcting people’s spelling. Never say never and all that, and I will miss my students, but for now I’m quite happy to leave teaching to other people.

People find it really hard when I tell them I have no plans. I mean, I’m not going to live off Benn (I managed to save a bit- so if you’ve invited me out recently and I’ve said I’m skint, you now know why…), but I am going to take some time to find something new. I have no idea what, yet, but I’m sure something will come up. And yes, I won’t have the holidays, but I will have my evenings and weekends back- 90% of parents cope with holidays, I’m sure we will too. It also means that if Benn’s office does finally get its long threatened move to Croydon, I’ll be around for D. We’ll just be reversing our roles a bit and I’m OK with that. I probably won’t have the same sort of wage, either, but you cut your coat according to your cloth and I’ve coped before- I’ll cope again. Right now, I’m looking forward to reading, writing, listening to music, all without a deadline.

But if you do see any jobs in Brighton, give me a shout, yeah?

It’s happening again…

It looks like my book buying ban is becoming an annual thing- I have accumulated so many books that I need to take a step back and actually read what I have!

Image: Musee D'Orsay

Image: Musee D’Orsay

The rules:

  • The ban begins on August 1st and will last until December 25th.
  • I can accept books as gifts and for review.
  • I should take all other books out of the library or borrow from friends.
  • I’m allowed to swap books with friends.
  • I can buy books for D- from charity shops- whenever I fancy/have money.
  • I can buy books for other people as gifts.

Last year, I did really well- I only broke when I saw Morrissey’s autobiography for less than the price of a magazine. As much as I desperately I want the new Sarah Waters book, I’ll have to go on a massive reservation list at the library.

Fancy joining in? Sign up below and we can encourage each other- it’ll be a looooooooong few months…

What I’ve learnt from my book buying ban

Image: Musee D’Orsay

Back in July, I decided to put myself on a book buying ban. Originally, it was going to just be until November 1st, but then I got cocky and extended it to Christmas Day. I broke only once- to buy this (which was cheaper than a copy of Marie Claire):

1385497_10151678726832267_669650736_nThere have been many times in the last few months where I’ve desperately wanted to buy a book, but refrained. I’ve also probably not made a massive dent in my ‘to be read’ pile- but I have made SOME progress.

So what have I learnt?

  1. Book buying is almost a habit with me; I buy books when I’m sad, when I’m bored, when I’m celebrating. It’s just a reflex.
  2. Moving is a good thing, because then I will be able to house more books.
  3. I prefer novels in eBook format and non-fiction in paperback (I like seeing pictures properly).
  4. I am lucky enough to live in a city with a REALLY good library service. I’ve read many books that I probably wouldn’t have bought.
  5. Maybe I should go on a book buying ban for a couple of months every year. Like a book detox, if you will.
  6. I have a serious weakness for craft books. A SERIOUS weakness. Magazines don’t really replace those for me.
  7. I’m utterly bored of most magazines.
  8. I’ve read more fiction in the last few months than I have in the last couple of years.

Now, local bookselling establishments, I will be spending ALL MY MONEY in your shops as of December 26th. Brace yourselves!

 

In ten years’ time…

A couple of weeks ago, I published a post looking at how my life had changed since a certain photo was taken.

So, let’s take stock of where I am now. This is me (in a not brilliant selfie- I put it in black and white to make it more presentable!):

meblackandwhite

Where am I, at this point in time?

Well:

-I am 29 (six months until I’m 30- strangely not bothered by this.)

– I have a husband and a son who is about to turn one. We also have a maniacal cat.

– I have a good job, although I am cutting my hours in order to spend more time with my family.

– We rent a little house that I love, but that is too small for three humans and aforementioned maniacal cat to co-exist in long-term.

-I live in a city that I love, but that can be a bit overwhelming at times.

-I am usually very tired.

Where would I like to be in ten years’ time?

-I will be nearly 40 and D will be nearly ten.. eek! So, alive, with most of my teeth left would be a good start! (Now I have a half decent dentist, this is a distinct possibility.)

-I would, of course, like the family situation to be the same! Maybe the cat will have calmed down.

-I’d like us to own our own house somewhere quiet. (I keep suggesting Greendale, but Benn’s having none of it. Spoilsport.) As long as I have decent internet access/postal service, I’m good to go.

-I’d like to be my own boss, either through owning a small business or by freelancing as a writer, the latter being more likely, if I’m honest. I also wouldn’t grumble about being a best-selling author. I can dream!

-I’d like to have been on at least one holiday that involves a plane journey!

I don’t think that this is wishing my life away, but is a list of fairly achievable goals. I have a friend who firmly believes the universe provides when you need it. Not sure I’d go that far, but I do think that I can work towards all of these over the next decade. I’m not wishing to be a millionaire with a menagerie of… llamas or something.

I’m going to try going down the route of positive thinking. Just got to get my confidence in gear now!

From spendthrift to… actual thrift.

From next month, I am going to be significantly poorer than I am now. This is not necessarily a bad thing because it means we’re finally moving! Hurrah! Into an actual house that I like, that doesn’t have steps leading up to the front door, or an infestation of woodlice and that has charming Victorian fireplaces and an extra room for Fidget. However, extra rooms mean extra money and I’m going to have to economise. Sigh.

This probably won’t be so bad once the baby arrives and I completely forget what it’s like to wash my hair, let alone put on a full face of makeup/choose a co-ordinated outfit/finish reading a complete book, but I think putting the groundwork in now is a good thing. So, I’ve been taking a leaf from A Thrifty Mrs and looking for cheaper alternatives to things… Here are my plans:

Makeup

I’ve already been extolling the virtues of budget eyeshadow and I’ve been looking at cheaper alternatives for most of my makeup- I’ll be posting a full write-up of thrifty makeup in the future, but I am making a start (although I’m still not sure if you’ll be able to wrench my MAC foundation from my cold, dead hands just yet… the jury’s still out on this one.)

I’m going to have a really good clean out of my makeup bag and throw out any old, past-it stuff and focus on using things I already have, instead of impulsively buying more. For example, I have a brilliant blusher compact that I got from Boots at Christmas; there’s still loads left and I have no need to buy any more! I may stock up on a few bits now, but will make sure that they’re not opened until they need to be (thus extending the shelf-life of the products- they go off as soon as you open them!) Then, I will only buy things on a need-to-replace basis. In theory. Hopefully this will lead to a reduction in impulsive-lipstick-buying, if nothing else.

Skincare

My main skin staple, cold cream, is dirt cheap, so I’ll stick with that- although I have loads of acqueous cream that I think is pretty much the same (and doubles up as both a good eczema cream AND nappy rash cream. Hurrah!), so I will try and use this as a cleanser and see how I get on. As for moisturisers and so on, I’m a big Body Shop fan- but I will be investigating similar products in Superdrug that are half the price.

Clothes

I already buy most of my clothes from eBay, but I will also have a look in charity shops (I often don’t have the patience to root around in the racks of clothes…) I have bought some excellent quality baby clothes from really good second-hand shops and I think car boot sales may also be in my future. I’m not going to go as far as saying I’ll learn to sew because a) I’ve tried before and b) I’ll be too knackered.

Books

I love books. To the point that one time, the bookcase collapsed while the cat was sitting on it. I am a hoarder of books and this must cease. I now will aim to:

  • Read all the books I have already
  • Use the library more
  • Check out free Kindle books- particularly classics
  • Try not to buy so many secondhand books

Crafting

Those who know me know that I’m an obsessive knitter. I am trying not to buy any new yarn, as I have well over 50 skeins of the stuff (maybe more- I haven’t counted, so it’s an estimate!) that needs to be used. I am also planning on making small presents in the next few weeks to stockpile as Christmas gifts, as with a young baby I am NOT going to be in the mood for shopping/making. So I am hunting around for craft bargains while I have the money and making stuff while I have the energy. Yes, I am aware it’s July.

This is going to be a hard challenge. But I think I may be up to it. Feel free to add any suggestions/comments/ideas- I’m going to need all the help I can get!

 

Spring Goals

I figured, as it’s nearly the end of February and we’re predicted a really warm end of the week, I thought I would look ahead and set myself some goals for the next few months; the period between now and June is busy at work and I need to make sure that I’m not just doing work stuff. So, with that in mind, I’m going to set some goals for the time period until June 1st.

1) Read more fiction- and enjoy it! I’ve written about this and I’m determined to continue with it. I’m slowly getting to grips with the problems I’ve had. Maybe I read a few rum books, but it’s getting better. I am currently loving Evelyn Waugh’s ‘Vile Bodies’, so I will read more of his books in the coming weeks.

2) Be positive- it’s really easy for me to get bogged down in my job, so I’m going to try and take everything as it comes. This target also means I need to not allow stress to envelope me. Which leads me to…

3) Get into exercising- I started both jive and yoga this weekend and I really want them to become things I really, really enjoy, even when the novelty has worn off. I’ve started to read up on the history of both and this is really helping me get my head around what I’m doing.

4) Do more writing- and be brave about it! I need to make sure that I start work on the ‘novel’ and maybe put myself forward for writing competitions, solicit some work (perhaps) and really get going with the work. Writing is the thing I love doing more than anything. I should do more of what I enjoy.

5) Knit some yoga socks!

6) Make something with my sewing machine.

7) Buy some utterly brilliant shoes that I will actually wear.

I think that’s a pretty comprehensive and achievable list… Do you have any goals for spring?

Jiving with a bit of yoga thrown in for good measure

So, I’ve done two new fitness related ‘things’ this weekend. This is remarkable for two reasons:

1) When it comes to any exercise other than walking anywhere, I am essentially lazy.

2) Despite outward appearances, I am generally quite shy and lacking in enough confidence to try new things, especially if they involve sweating in a room full of strangers.

Last night, I had my first jive lesson…

Fortunately, I wasn’t thrown into the air! But I did have a cracking time- so much so that when I woke up this morning, it became apparent that I had strained my vocal chords a bit through laughing so much. This was down to the fact that my friend, Suzi, had also signed up independently of me and needed a partner for the evening. Cue lots of very graceless twirls and me poking my tongue out as I tried to master the (fairly simple) footwork. As Suzi was the lead, she may have been referred to as ‘Dear Leader’ and ‘Kim’ ocassionally…

The weird part was when we had to swap partners and I had to get used to the movements of two strangers- I never realised how different we each are physically when dancing, even when dancing essentially the same moves. Anyway, so next week we’ll be learning a bit of an extra twirl and making the leads do a bit more work for a change! What’s really great is that we’re learning to dance with the ‘proper’ music, which made me just want to don a circle skirt, some cat-eye glasses and some seriously red lippy!

The age range was really quite varied, although there was a major shortage of males in the group, so who knows who my partner will be next week. Hopefully I won’t stick my tongue out so much/trip over my feet. At all. And maybe if I get really good, I could buy some of these beauties:

I’ve been keeping up with my yoga this week, when my cold hasn’t made me feel like doing nothing except eating soup, but I decided that I needed an actual teacher to teach me, instead of a DVD. With this in mind, I took myself off to a beginner’s yoga class, which turned out to be a marvellous idea.

I found the lesson calming and really easy to follow, despite being right at the back of the room. The class numbers were also pretty small, meaning that the teacher could help and advise. I’ve been at yoga classes before where the teacher has basically ignored students or been quite brusque, but this was lovely. The routine was more a series of poses being held, with focus on the breath, rather than trying to do a bunch of moving poses, which was great- and I managed to keep my downward dog in position without mentally effing and blinding, so there are improvements ahoy! (The one weird part was when, during the relaxation down time at the end, we could hear the Hare Krishnas in the street, which was lovely and odd all rolled into one…) I did feel totally chilled out at the end of the lesson, to the point where I got the bus home instead of walking; I didn’t trust myself not to get run over!

All in all, not a bad couple of classes for an exercisephobe. I’m already looking forward to next week.

Hmm, yoga.

Today, I did some yoga. It’s not the first time I’ve done yoga; when I first moved to Brighton I did a bit of yoga at the Buddhist Centre, but I was a bit intimidated by some of the women there who seemed to see it as a competition. I was stiff and very unfit, the last thing I needed was some woman throwing me filthy looks when I was struggling. There was also the time I tried very hard not to giggle after said woman accidentally ‘let herself go’. It’s not good for karma or meditation.  I’m just not very good at exercising in classes- I prefer to work at home, with a DVD in front of me. That way, if I mess up, I’m the only person who’s seen me fall over.

I am struggling hard at the moment with winter blues (as much as I love winter, I find it often leads to me becoming depressed, something which needs to be dealt with, if I’m able to) and I am trying hard to look after myself through physical and mental means. I’m often less successful than I would like to be, but I’m doing my best to counteract this. One way is through the jive lessons I mentioned a few weeks ago, which start next week- hooray! The other is that I’m having a go at the aforementioned yoga.

I’m literally starting from the beginning with ‘Basic Yoga For Dummies’, which is a bit annoying as a DVD, but shows the basic positions so that even someone like me can get them quite easily. I’ve already set myself a goal of improving my Downward Dog. I did, however, find it was pretty difficult to be centred on my Tree position when a small black and white cat is demanding food and nudging me…

The after effects, if achy, are actually quite remarkable. I feel relaxed and chilled out. I have no doubt that I will actually sleep well tonight for the first time in ages. I’m hoping that I can keep up with this, but I have no idea whether I will ever bolster the courage to go to a class! I’m now probably going to obsessively search the internet for reviews of other yoga dvds to add to the one I have.

Unless I get bored pretty quickly. Which could happen.