At some point last school year – I can’t pinpoint it exactly – I decided that I had to make a change to my working life as it was not sustainable as it was. It had been a tough year for a lot of reasons, not all of them to do with my job. Once I had made up my mind, I knew I wanted to give a decent amount of notice to my school and once the word got around, the same question was put to me over and over: ‘What next?’
Right up until the last day of term (and then beyond), I didn’t have an answer to that question. I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue to teach, mainly because I just couldn’t see how one could do a good job and maintain a reasonable work/life balance. But if not teaching, then what? It felt galling to be contemplating yet another career overhaul, not least because of the sacrifices made by me AND my family so that I could teach in the first place.
During the summer break, everything was business as usual. I couldn’t miss my job because no-one was teaching. I had an exciting summer holiday to plan and execute. I had fun summer activities to do with the kids. I was able to be a full-time mum without feeling guilty. But then September came and being out of work through choice suddenly felt selfish, indulgent, foolish. And I also felt unemployable. It’s true that I barely scratched the surface of the job market with my applications but I was at a loss as to what to even search for. It all seemed like such a waste. I had this huge amount of knowledge about my subject and even with all my feelings about my practice, I realised how much I knew about being a teacher too. It was the teaching jobs I searched for first and it was the teaching post adverts that interested me the most.
In the end, I managed to land a maternity cover post at the perfect school just a few minutes walk away with a colleague which is also a neighbour meaning I already know someone on staff. It is part-time although it is twice as many days as I was doing; this terrifies me but also encourages me a little as I feel it might help diminish the in-betweenness I felt in my last job. I was not really a proper member of staff and I was not a proper stay-at-home mum.
My first day is on Monday and I have the usual Looming First Day Jitters (to put it mildly). It is disquieting to start a new job – Rich reminded me today that this is true for EVERYONE. It is daunting to have to learn all the new ways, the new names, the new customs and practices. What I am focusing on right now, though, is how serendipitous is all feels to have found this position as I did and how this could be the answer to my question, ‘What next?’. And if teaching isn’t the answer, then I have a few more months to get my novel finished so that I can fall back on the lucrative and stress-free career of being a writer!