How (maybe not why) I quit my job as a school teacher (2008).
I am 20. As a matter of fact, now that I’ve started writing this post with this three-word biographical note I see it was crucial to all that followed. Let’s see how the story unfolds with this new light of truth hanging over me.
So I’m 20, I’m in my fourth year of studies to become a teacher of English, and we’re mercilessly thrown into the chaos of comprehensive schools, in groups of 6 naive and trembling girls, to give lessons to classes we’re attached to for the whole of September. No wonder that I get the class (6th grade) with the worst reputation in that school. Plus it’s one of those rare situations when the class is not divided into smaller subgroups, as it usually is the case in Russian school system (a language teacher would normally get a group of 13 kids max). So I get to teach 19 frightening not-really-kids-anymore. I look too teenage-like to be confidently standing in front of the 19 pairs of eyes sizing me up contemptuously. I don’t know what happened and how it all turned out like it did, but I had such a great great time teaching these eyes. I honestly did. I remember though disastrous lessons that we co-taught with 2 other girls, who I thought appeared more serious and knowing than me at that time (until I saw with my own eyes that appearances made no difference). Well it really is hard to explain for me now why I felt such drive. I think it was about this challenge that I had to deal with during my very first teaching experience.
To cut it short, unlike 80% of my university mates I am suddenly very keen on the idea of actually teaching English. So keen that within a month I find myself a job. It is a small private school (around 50 kids altogether) in my neighborhood. There’s no interview as such. I’ve got good references from some *influential* parents, I’m “sweet”, young and full of energy. I’m in.
Story (started in the final paragraph of the pre-story).
For the rest of that school year (November to May) I study full time at university and teach 12 hours a week at school. By the end of the year I still love everything very much. I’m involved, interested and take weird pleasure in cutting out things and making flash cards. Kids are great, parents are sometimes a nuisance but mostly nice, and the Director of Studies is a very adequate helpful woman. In fact, if she hadn’t left that year, my life might have gone some other way.
Next year, final year of my university studies, we are all required to be teaching at schools, attending classes and writing our theses. Obviously, employment is not a problem for me and I start teaching 18 hours per week. Our school goes through some questionable merging process (for prolonging their license or something) and we end up losing half the staff, the DOS and the bigger part of pupils . New teachers are fine and friendly, new pupils from that other school are smart and energetic, new DOS is the start of the end for me.
I can see it now that we had a false start to our relationship from the very first meeting. When I was informed that from now on I was to use a certain textbook (which is written for schools specializing in English) and that decision is non-negotiable, I suddenly felt bold and experienced enough to air my protest. Indeed, it was a very outdated textbook plus the one that didn’t meet the needs of our learners and expectations of their parents (well I thought so at least). When at a big parent meeting, where all staff and all parents were present, I announced my “professional” (aged 21, mind you) view on the matter of materials, the majority of parents supported me and agreed to go for change. That meant my choice of coursebooks for each class. Sounds soooo unreal to me now. I must have said something very convincing. Anyway, my colleague and I took all pains to organize the transition, worked out the syllabi for our classes with the help of our university methodology teacher I believe (and hope). We ordered and carried books for all kids to school by ourselves. Parents seemed happy, kids loved the colourful pages in their new books. The DOS woman had no choice. It was some kind of a very small but locally significant revolution to me then. I’m now sincerely amazed at how I could pull it off. But the revolution led to the fact that my colleague (also my university groupmate) and I started getting all kinds of ill treatment from “the bosses”. I might have been too emotional in my reactions then. My colleague gave up and sheepishly quit without an official notice or a note to me in April, leaving me to be the only English teacher in that whole school. Those were fun times. Kind of.
Well in that year I had a nervous breakdown, several ambulance calls and countless tears shed as I stepped out of the school yard.
In October 2008, after working as a school teacher for 2 years, I quit.
Reasons I could now think of, very subjective and prejudiced, possibly not well arguemented and too childish.
– emotionally fragile for the intense battle I found myself to be fighting (attitudes; humiliation of my feeble persona; being pushed about)
– couldn’t stand the hypocrisy
– outrageous, frustrating, disarmingly open dishonesty regarding certain financial issues which I couldn’t then stand up to and oppose as was too naive and soft
– living in a neguices routine (writing useless lesson plans, pretending to teach with a textbook we weren’t using)
– depressing and depressive atmosphere and air about the place
– health issues (this is funny, every time I need change but am scared of making it, my body generously provides me with a chance))
– losing hold of English
There was this one absolutely lovely teacher. She was as intelligent, well-mannered, thoughtful, kind-hearted, likeable and charming as I can possibly imagine a school teacher to be. If I had been smarter and more thoughtful myself I wouldn’t have lost touch with that wonderful lady. Anyway, she would never give me any topdown, I’ve been a teacher for 20 years kind of advice (some problem with punctuating it right here, my apologies). Instead, she would carefully hint at what challenges those kids presented, how special they were, how I could try to help them learn at their own pace. I could always sit in her class and never felt any slightest pressure when she was there in the back of the class during my lesson. On the contrary, I’d feel at ease.
During one of our conversations (which I now realize were not too many and definitely not processed deeply enough by me) she said this: “If you teach in a school for three years and don’t leave, you stay for years.” I believe she did mention the word bog then. She was mostly wishing me well. She said she used to write poetry and prose. She always comforted me when parents, DOS or other teachers made me lose the very shaky emotional balance that I had back in the day. When a couple of years after quitting I had a dream about me visiting the school again, she was the only light in the nightmarish scene.
I believe I would like to see her now, to say a more articulate thank you or something.
This post is facts from a part of my life that certainly had an enormous influence on me and helped to make me the teacher I currently happen to be.
I hold no grudge to anybody in that story, about anything in that story. There is no reason why I should, as every turn, every reaction that followed was mine, caused by my lack of control.
I still remember almost all kids. They were fantastic. They did cause me tears and suffering at times, but also made me smile and laugh and be proud of them. I know for sure that if I now went in those classrooms, we’d have very different lessons which I’d enjoy more, in which I’d teach them better. Well, there’s the right time for everything. But I am not going to be back to school again.
It just started feeling rotten for me. I mean the system. The authority I was supposed to respect provided no opportunity for me to do so. I started feeling small in all senses.
That’s the story of me as a quitter. I don’t feel bad about it at all now. I got the experience and learnt a lot about myself.
Thank you for judging or not judging me in your comments below, if you care to leave some)) I kindly welcome you to do that, no matter what it is you want to say.