Teaching: a break-up letter



Dear Teaching,

We’ve been together such a long time; I hardly know where I end and you begin.

My body beats to the rhythm of terms and bells – the long, cold slog to the end of the winter and the inevitable Christmas cold, the summer term that should be easier, but somehow never is, with its sweaty classrooms and echoes of frantic scribblings in in stifling gyms and halls – they are deep in my bones.

I have written a thousand dates on black boards and white boards and Smart boards. I have made resources on projector acetates and PowerPoint presentations and on YouTube videos. The first children that I taught are on the cusp of their thirties and may have children of their own.

I have grown up, fallen in love, got married, borne children, become who I am. All with you there, by my side. I hardly know who to be without you.

Lately, there have been some very rocky years. The old cliché might be to say that it is me, not you. The truth is, it’s both of us. We’ve grown apart, become different people. You have an ideal of me in your mind that is impossible to live up to. I no longer have the time or will to try.

I thought that if we saw less of each other, it would help. And it has, a little. But during the time we are apart, in every perfect moment with tiny hands and feet, in every joyful call for mummy – I am held hostage by you.

 photo Fotor_146134282793783_zpsmfxmgis7.jpg

I’m still in love. The musty smells of books and paper, the bright young faces, the camaraderie of the staff room and warm tea on frost-bitten mornings. I depend on you for my sense of worth and so I have clung on far past the point when this was mutually beneficial– not in bravery or selflessness – but out of fear. Even when I know that staying is wrong, even when I know it hurts those I love the most, and you, I have not been able to let go.

Until now.

There is much I will regret. I wish we were parting on better terms. I wish I weren’t leaving students I admire and care for – half way through a gruelling and rigorous new GCSE. I wish I didn’t feel like this is a failure.

But there is also an overwhelming sense of relief; I don’t have to pretend any more. I don’t have to choose. Is there someone else?

Yes. My quality of life. My children.

I know I am lucky. You have given me so much. I wish I could be better for you – I always danced along a precipice –at my best, my highest point, there was constantly that sheer drop, centimetres away. My stomach always lurched at the threat of the fall. I could live with that, before. I could live with that constant sense that my mind was full to the brim. I could live with the work, the pressure, the marking. And now I can’t.

Because my mind is filled with cries in the night, and grazes to kiss, and curls to brush, and lunches to make, and adventures to have, and autism to face, and little hands seeking mine in the darkness.

And I cannot, will not, let those things spill out when my mind is overflowing, when I stumble at that precipice. There are some lines that cannot be crossed. Some sacrifices that should not be made.

I will support my son for every second of every appointment, every therapy that he needs – and I will not feel one jot of guilt for being there with him, nowehere else. I will hold my daughter all day when she is poorly, stroke her hair, and I will not think for one second of a pile of books that I should be marking. I will not miss out on more than two and a half hours of my children’s laughs, sighs and cuddles, every day, while I queue on a dreary motorway.

But I will miss you. I will miss being a teacher. I will miss belonging to the club and wearing my thirteen years like a badge of honour. I will miss my pupils.

But that is not enough.

Maybe one day, it might work again. I hope it might. Until then, take care – fight against those who want to change you for the worse, those who would seek to divide you from the joy you should inspire. If I can return one day, I want to greet you like an old friend, not an unwelcome necessity. I hope you can understand.

All my love,

Soon-no-longer-to-be Someone’s Teacher.

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  1. 1
    Nicki Perrins

    This is so well written, I feel very much the same way it’s comforting to know that I’m not alone. I work in Early Years and for the past 12 years that’s all I’ve known. I want to ensure that my eldest daughter settles into school in Sept and that I can get her to appointments, I may return when both children are at school, but for now I’m mummy 🙂 x

  2. 3

    This is such a sad letter, but it seems that this is definitely the right thing for you! I wish you all the best, I’mI’ll be following your journey the blog world takes you on 🙂 xxx

  3. 5

    wow, big news! the best decision for you. well done and don’t look back. life is far too short to spend it being miserable.

    enjoy your notice and the last few weeks with your students. it must be such a relief x

  4. 11

    I found myself nodding my head and a lump in my throat reading this. I’m not a parent yet but I can only imagine how much harder this profession must be with children. I’ve worked with you and feel exactly the same love hate relationship with job as you do. I have wondered, too, about leaving teaching and can only admire and respect your honesty and bravery. The students will miss you but your children need you more. All the best x

  5. 13

    This genuinely brought me to tears. What a beautifully heartfelt letter!
    I’m glad you’re feeling relief at the decision and don’t doubt you will find fulfillment in your time with your children.
    (Incidentally, please note correct KS1 use of exclamation mark above – my son has been teaching me 😉

  6. 15
    Jaylan - Diapers at Dawn

    Such a lovely and emotional letter and 13 years of teaching wow! It sounds like this is something that’s right for you and I guess no matter whenever you decide to leave there will always be that quilt, but you have to do what’s right for you and your family. Good luck with your new adventure x #KCACOLS

  7. 17

    This made me feel really emotional! I’ve only been a teacher 3 years and I’ve taken a whole year off to look after my baby and I and questioning whether to go back. You have taken the leap, but I just do not feel ready to give it all up yet! I was explaining to someone the other day that I actually miss greeting children in the morning and wishing them a ‘good morning, how was your weekend?’ and people look at me like I am nuts! I liked the overly cheery girls responses and the grumpy sulking grunts from the boys!
    One day I will be where you at at im sure! Good for you! You have done your bit and I’m sure if you choose to there will be new generation waiting should you want to teach again!

    • 18
      Someone's Mum

      Thank you for commenting. It is a very hard juggling act when you have children. There are those who can do it – but it’s too much for me. Good luck. x

  8. 19
    Nicky Kentisbeer

    I feel for you. A very poignant letter but of course you have totally done the right thing. Well done for taking the step and enjoy the precious time with your children. As previous comments have said, you have so much to give in the future – should you wish to. Good luck #KCACOLS

  9. 21
    Kate stevens

    Even without the added complication of autism, to want to spend more time with your children is not something to be ashamed of. Not something to be looked down on. To be a parent is the most important ‘job’ we will ever do. To guide, protect, love and teach our children is an honour and a joy.

  10. 23
    Louise Pink Pear Bear

    Wow this is a powerful post. I’m sorry that you are having to make such a difficult choice and I think it’s a real shame that because of the pressures heaped on to you these days, you and many others like you are having to leave for the sake of their families. Soon there will be no-one left! I hope one day we will have a shift back to the days when teaching was more about imparting knowledge then pushing children through exams. Thanks for linking up, and good luck in your new full time job! 🙂 #bigpinklink

    • 24
      Someone's Mum

      Thank you. I think I will have to do some kind of work as we can’t afford for me not to. Hopefully some blogging things might take off! Thanks for having me ☺

  11. 25
    Laura: Adventures with J

    I left teaching in December and I still feel the relief of making that difficult decision every day. I had sadly come to dread the occupation rather than embracing the joy that it can bring and it was really having a negative impact on me. I do miss the aspect of supporting and encouraging children and celebrating their successes but I get to do this with my own child now and that is even more special to me. I have decided that I still need to have something and so have chosen a self-employed career option that has many similarities and skills, but without returning to the stresses and hours that wore me down. I wish you all the best and hope that you enjoy your time away whether it be for a short break or longer term.

  12. 31

    Oh I am so sorry to read that you are now leaving teaching too. However, as a fellow former teacher and parent I understand the agonising and the guilt you will have felt at making that decision. I was very sad to leave teaching behind but I don’t regret it as I am now there for my children. Like you I hope to return to teaching one day but for now I want to focus on my children. The pressures on teachers today is crazy and until they recognise this they will continue to lose amazing teachers like yourself.

    This is such a powerful and heartbreaking read that I hope you will send it to all the newspapers!

    • 32
      Someone's Mum

      Thanks so much for commenting and your kind words. It was a hard decision. I don’t know about newspapers but it is Mumsnet Blog of the Day! ☺

  13. 34

    Well done on your decision. I know how tough it is to leave teaching, and I did it before children. I miss the daily contact with the children, the buzz and flow of the day. I do not miss the long hours, the pressure of paperwork deadlines nor writing reports. It was a more bitter end for me but I still understand the pull you feel. Enjoy your next chapter, and your time with your family.

  14. 38
    Jennifer page

    I am currently on maternity leave from my teaching job and I have no idea how I am going to juggle being a mum and a teacher but as the bread winner of the family I have no choice. I just hope my guilt doesn’t overwhelm me.

    • 39
      Someone's Mum

      There are people who do it and manage so don’t let my story fill you with dread. I have no support network and a very long commute and those are big factors too. Good luck. x

  15. 40
    Selina Culleton

    I really enjoyed this. It struck a cord with me as it’s something I did after having children. I never looked back after leaving the classroom!

  16. 42

    Oh my goodness. You are so much braver than I. I’m still in teaching after 25 years and perhaps if I’d loved my job less then I wouldn’t be divorced and without children. All the very best in your new venture. They are lucky, lucky children.

    • 43
      Someone's Mum

      Thanks for commenting and your kind words. It’s a tough decision for anyone to face and there is much reward and satisfaction in dedicating yourself to teaching.

  17. 44
    Davina Taylor

    This is wonderful. I don’t think any of the most important decisions in life are easy, but no matter what else you feel at this moment, at least you can feel secure in the knowledge that you are doing the right thing for YOU. #KCACOLS

  18. 46

    I don’t respond to these sorts of things, but with your letter, I felt I had no choice. I am in tears feeling every little thing that you talk about. It is the most amazing vocation in the world, but it very quickly becomes your life long husband, partner, lover….abuser. The strength it takes to walk away is phenomenal. I only wish I had the strength…😪

    • 47
      Someone's Mum

      Thanks so much for commenting. It has taken 3 years and many occasions when it nearly happened… It has got to the point where I *know* it is the right thing to do.

  19. 48
    Nigel Lofthouse

    What a very thought provoking post. I have a son who is just starting out as a teacher and I wonder if the males have the same feelings as you. We all need to find time for our family life but pressures of work not only just in teaching are making us and our kids miss precious time together. Good luck and wishes

    • 49
      Someone's Mum

      I think males can feel this way too. A lot depends on personal circumstances and support. I have no family, a long commute and a little boy just diagnosed with autism. These things pushed me too far. Thanks so much for your kind words.

  20. 52

    Wow! I could have written this.
    I am, well was a teacher for twelve years in total… I had to stop for my own sanity and for the sake of my family.

    I too am supporting my little man who is also on the spectrum (aged 6) and I too have a little lady (aged 2.5 going on 16) who also needs my attention.

    I just couldn’t do it anymore 🙁

  21. 54
    The Very Busy Mummy

    I don’t think people realise how tough teaching is, especially in the current climate. I have always felt that teaching is a vocation but at the moment it feels as though it’s being run like a business. The people at the top are forgetting that we are dealing with children not robots.
    I think you’re really brave in your decision. I’m being made redundant from my teaching post this summer. I’m hoping to find a new post, but if I don’t I’m not sure if I’ll be disappointed!

  22. 56

    You are making the right decision.Teaching sadly has become a profession that is all absorbing and draining does not fit in with any kind of normal life, let alone life with children who need your love and attention.
    I did go back to work 6 months after each of my children as we lived in London and could not afford our house without two salaries and I kept on working until I could take no more, just one and a half years from retirement. After a term of relief and improved mental health, I missed it and I went back to the same school to work as a supply teacher. I now have all the pleasure of teaching and little of the grief of meetings, assessments and planning etc etc that grind you down-I do have to mark in 3 colours but I can cope with that.
    Sometime in the future when you have done an excellent job as a mum you may go back to the job that you clearly love. For now though you are in the right place and if I had my chance again I would try to do the same. I still remember my daughter saying ‘Can you meet me from school like a real Mummy’.
    I was lucky; until they were 11 they were at the school where I taught so I didn’t miss important school moments but I missed a lot of important other moments which you won’t. So no regrets. Enjoy every minute. It goes so fast!

  23. 60

    Your letter rings so many bells with me. I now work part time as a Primary school teacher and would never return to full time unless it was unavoidable. The “guilt” element is so true, I felt guilty if I didn’t get all my planning and marking done at the weekend and guilty if I didn’t spend time with my family. I had to choose between being the best teacher I could be or the best Mum I could be. I chose the latter and have absolutely no regrets.

  24. 62

    Beautifully written. Out of five women I qualified with 22 years ago I am the only one still hanging on in there and it is by my finger nails. I too have to balance the demands of life with a child with ASD and the scales are so often not in his favour. It is soul destroying.

    Do you mind if I share with a friend who has just handed in her notice? I think it would help her to come to terms with her decision (in fact, I thought it might actually have been her writing this blog until you mentioned your son – that’s the only difference between you).

  25. 64

    This is such a moving piece and beautifully written. I can empathise with you as I embarked upon a similar journey two years ago. There is such emotion in this letter, You won’t regret it for a second x

  26. 66
    Single Mum Speaks

    This is so beautifully written and sums up how a lot of teachers feel I think. I’m still holding on at the moment, but the profession has lost another talented teacher. Their loss is your children’s gain.

    • 67
      Someone's Mum

      I hope I can return one day. I do admit that it is partly teaching but lots to do with my personality and situation too. Thanks so much for your kind words and for commenting.

  27. 68

    I’ve often wondered how teachers cope when they have children. People think it’s a great job for a working mum because of the holidays/hours when that’s actually what makes it not so great! But now my youngest son (nearly 20) is thinking of going into teaching after his degree (he’d prefer sixth form age students) and I don’t know what to advise. All teachers I meet or read about just want to leave. Can it really be a good job for him out will he just end up as fed up as everyone else?

  28. 74
    tracey bowden

    This is so beautifully written, I can’t even imagine how hard this decision was for you to make. I wish you all the best for the future and looking forward to reading more from you.
    Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next Sunday

  29. 76

    Wow great post, very touching at times. I’m sorry to see you’ve fallen out of love with your profession but hope you find something that makes you happy. All the best for the future xx #bigpinklinm

  30. 78
    Regina L. L. Wells

    Wow. I have never heard the perspective of a teacher leaving the profession before. This is powerful, sad, and hopeful all at the same time. I am wishing you the best with your children, who deserve you so…and I am wishing you the best if you ever decide to return to teaching. You have made an admirable and honest choice. Too many stay stuck in a tug of war that they cannot win out of fear, necessity, and a host of other reasons. Kudos to you for being able to analyze the situation and make the best choice for you and your family. #bigpinklink

  31. 80
    The Pramshed

    This is heartbreaking to read Danielle, that decision must have been so hard for you to make. I can see how hard it must be to manage a full time teaching job and look after 2 children. I hope that the weight on your shoulders has lifted, and you can now enjoy lots of lovely family time. Claire x

    • 81
      Someone's Mum

      I’m not even full-time! Still can’t cope 😑 There’s just too much pressure and too much marking. As a secondary English teacher I easily make up the hours off just in marking. Thanks so much for commenting. It was a tough one but really the only one to make for me right now. Thanks for commenting

  32. 84

    What an emotional piece! I made that decision last year that my child and family were more important than the job, although I didn’t have as much love for mine as you clearly do for yours. #kcacols

  33. 86
    Jane Taylor

    Beautifully written. I’m so glad #KCACOLS brought me here today. I have a similar story, 22 years of pharmacy, and my story is so similar…I left last December and now I’m returning to family and creativity and writing.

    I remember some very wise person saying, ‘No one will ever have an epitaph that reads ‘I wish I had worked more.’

    If you are able, choose love, choose life, choose family.

    I wish you all the best. #KCACOLS

  34. 89
    Siena Says

    Fabulous post and I totally get where you are coming from (I used to work in teacher training as opposed to being a teacher myself and my husband currently works in education).
    For what it’s worth, I think you’ve made the right decision!

    When the time is right, I’m sure you will find your way back to teaching again. It might be in a completely different capacity. Whatever happens, family is everything x


  35. 90
    absolutely prabulous

    You are just an incredible writer. This has emotion and heartbreak pouring out of every word. I am so sorry you’ve been left with no choice but to leave the profession you loved. But it seems like you’ve written this from a position of peace so to speak. #bigpinklink

    • 91
      Someone's Mum

      Thanks so much for such a lovely comment! Means quite a bit from a MADs and BiBs nominated writer! I have made peace, I think. Now I just need to find a way to pay the mortgage! 😉 Thanks so much.

  36. 93

    I love this post hun! I really hope you are happy with your decision but I really do think it will be best for you and your gorgeous family. Good luck with the new world of SAHM. Thank you for linking up to #spectrumsunday I hope you join me again this week xx

    • 94
      Someone's Mum

      Thank you – though I can’t afford to be a SAHM 🙁 Will need to do supply teaching and maybe tutoring, and even child-minding to survive. Will be linking on Monday 🙂

  37. 95

    A well-written piece – I’m sure you will perhaps do a little supply, some tutoring and perhaps retrain as an educational psychologist or coach/counsellor. Good luck on your journey! I worked as a link worker in high school in London for a decade and I’ve seen so many teachers – including those in senior positions – on the edge of not coping. Many described a gut-wrenching feeling as they came in to school on a Monday morning. Up late marking and in early to prepare. The boundary stretch and the changing expectations make conditions ripe for burnout. I think there is great wisdom in your decision! Health and happiness come first.

  38. 97
    Kristine @MumRevised

    What a beautiful love letter to your family and your extended student family. The school community is losing a star obviously. But, there isn’t a better reason to say so long for now. Loved it.
    We are on #BlogStars together this month from Prabs.

  39. 98
    the frenchie mummy

    You are not giving up. It’s just a break. And the profession is becoming more and more demanding. It’s just ridiculous…When I left for my year off, I was so relieved to go. I am sure my situation is far from being as difficult as yours, but I am not looking forward to going back to school, even if I love teaching and the kids. I understand what you describe here. Good luck on your new journey! I am sure you will be fantastic!

  40. 102
    Bek Dillydrops

    This is such a familiar story and you have written this so well. I have known too many teachers break under the pressure of the job. It is very demanding. I used to teach whole classes then took time out for maternity leave. After that, I seriously considered never teaching again but luckily found a job teaching smaller groups/individuals. It suits me much better. There is always something that turns up to suit your needs at the time. I think you are doing the right thing for you and your family. You should never feel guilty for spending time with your own children. I hope you thoroughly enjoy every moment of your time away from teaching and that you are able to go back into it one day, if you decide that is the best thing for you.

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