I am not a teacher

Me, Biggest and Littlest on a day out at Croome. I am not a teacher

Last night, I slept soundly.

I was not up late into the night, marking essays, setting three different types of targets. I did not toss and turn, fretting about the parent I should have phoned, the spreadsheets I should have filled in. I had no meetings to go over, no deadlines coming up. There are no new specifications to memorise. The latest initiatives are not my concern. My sleep was deep, dreamless, undisturbed. I did not wake in the small hours, anxious about my value-added slipping, agonising over the angry child that I should have handled differently, sick with doubt and the weight of my accountability. There is no Ofsted looming, making the mood murky, tense – like life is on hold until it is over.

I am not a teacher.

Last week, my daughter had a fever.

When she woke in the night, soaked and trembling, my first thought was not the dread of missing Year 11. That she must go to nursery regardless did not cross my mind. My stomach did not tie in knots at the thought of leaving her. A voice on the phone did not say I could not miss school again, that I would ‘have to find alternative childcare’, if nursery would not take her. I did not sob, prising her arms from around my neck, as I said goodbye.

We stayed home, on the sofa, in our pyjamas. I stroked her hair, brought her juice. She napped on me, pale and peaceful, until she felt better. And though I was sad to see her pain, anxious to make sure she was comforted, I was content, knowing that I was being her mother.

I am not a teacher.

This morning, I took my son to nursery – just like another morning, three years ago. On that day, my lessons had been covered so that I could take him. I would only make it on time if everything went smoothly. Agitated, distracted, I was thinking of the supply teacher I should be relieving, the exam class I had next – not the road. I could not explain to my head of department that I had let them down again.

I clipped the curb, upturned the car. As branches smashed the window, we were showered with glass, jagged shards missing his face by inches. Kind strangers pulled him from the wreckage, grazed and bruised, screaming, while I waited for the Fire Service to get me out, my arms aching to hold him. There can be no atonement for those events, no relief from that guilt. But I will not make the same mistake again.

I am not a teacher.

The beauty of words, the secrets of their magic – they are kept in my heart, not shared in a classroom. The gratitude in a parent’s eyes when their child achieves beyond their hopes – I no longer know that privilege or have that responsibility.

This Christmas Eve, I was surrounded by piles of wrapping paper, not piles of exercise books. The anxiety that marred every birthday, every trip, every special moment – it has melted away. Those burdens were a straight-jacket, a ceaseless pressure, all over my skin. I did not know what life could be without that tightness, that sick sensation, deep in my gut. Only their absence has made me see clearly.

The jacket has been shrugged off, the pressure, lifted. Life can still be hard. But the texture of my days has changed, the fabric of reality is brighter, less subdued. I feel… lighter.

I am a friend. I am a wife. I am a mother.

I am not a teacher.


This post is the third in a series. To read more about my decision to give up teaching, you may wish to read:

Teaching: a family unfriendly profession 


Teaching: a break-up letter


I am not a teacher - Pinterest


Linked for #postsfromtheheart with A Mummy Times Two

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39 thoughts on “I am not a teacher

  1. I now have such a different experience with child number 2 than I did with my first, I worked full time when number 1 was 9 months old and I know exactly that feeling of when she was ill, when I was staying up till 12am to complete lesson plans.
    With child number 2 I left at the start of the summer hols when I was 3 months pregnant and I haven’t worked since (apart from a few hours per week of music sessions,) the difference is incredible, that Ofsted ‘looming’ feeling I’ve never felt anything so bad as this.
    I only do 2 music sessions per week and plan and evaluate these and volunteer at my daughter’s Pre School on the committee but the very mention of Ofsted sends me into instant stress even though I’m not a paid member of staff!
    I have never known anything other than education so when I found blogging it was like a life line and I reignited my passion for writing 🙂 im not even sure if I will return to early years due to the back problems I’ve had since I had a spinal with my 2nd child.
    Thanks for sharing 🙂

    1. Ive only just found these and believe I was meant to. I know in my gut that it no longer feels right for me anymore. I want to work but don’t want the hours of work you need to do once your kids are in bed.. I decide not to do it and get the rest I need (my two year old still wakes ) I feel bad as I know I’m not being the teacher I should be.
      I work part time but still have three gcse groups and find myself struggling to be present as much as I’d like die to the job. Not sure what other work I could do though

      Thanks for your posts

  2. I really really empathise with this post. My daughter was much older (teens) before teaching drove me to stress that ended up in my very early retirement. And just as you said, I had no idea just how bad it all was until it stopped. I had no idea that my physical symptoms were all stress-related. I still, occasionally, have nightmares. Because of the stress the doctor wouldn’t sign me off for full time teaching, so the LEA took me back part time as supply. I got all the things that attracted me to teaching in the first place – the interactions with students of various ages, and with intelligent colleagues, and the feeling of contributing to education, along with the chance to develop interesting lessons – and of course the pay. But gone were the days of staff meetings, reports, responsibility for ordering materials and equipment, any long-term interaction with parents, or exams. I had no need to be involved with anyone’s Ofsted or similar problems. My life was my own again. Somehow or other, we ought to consider the sheer unfriendliness of teaching to people with families or even with lives to lead.

  3. I am so glad that I am not alone. Teaching is great and very rewarding at times. However, it also has those demands you ignore your own family. And that is the biggest contradiction I know.

  4. I believe that teaching is the most important profession. I think it’s criminal that teachers are not given better pay and more support. It’s cliché but our children really are our future and teachers help our children become their best. It’s unfortunate that a teacher as obviously caring and dedicated as you weren’t given support. I really enjoy your posts and I’m very glad you’re able to still teach all of us who read while staying home with your little loves.

  5. Powerful words and so well written. As I was reading it, Facebook posts that friends who are teachers have written in the past, kept on popping up in my head, one to back up nearly every point you made.
    It’s so sad that it has come to this. I always wanted to be a teacher but by the time I was ready to train, I already knew about the ‘other side of the job’ would undoubtedly sap any passion I had.
    I’m so glad for you and your family that you came out of that crash relatively unscathed and that you came out of teaching to be the mother you want to be.
    My friend is a supply teacher and loves it. She has been offered permenant positions as she’s so good at what she does but she wouldn’t accept due to all the reasons you state.

  6. Having also left teaching, I can relate to so many of these feelings and I don’t think you appreciate the sheer weight on your shoulders until you aren’t doing that job anymore….but there is one thing someone said to me, a retired teacher, and it has stuck with me and made it all slot easier. Just because you aren’t currently working in a school as a Teacher does not mean you are not a Teacher. You will always be a Teacher. The difference you made to the lives of the children you taught it the past will mean that you are still a Teacher – those lessons will continue to make a difference forever. A payslip does not make a Teacher. You do. Don’t ever rob yourself of that description xx

    1. That’s such a lovely way to think of it! Currently on maternity leave from teaching and really reluctant to go back to it. It’s been such a relief not having that permanent feeling of judgement and improvement.

  7. Thank you so much for this heart felt post. It has given me the drive to revise my goals for the future to support my family of a similar age. I’d never recommend teaching these days, it’s a truly vulgar beast to wrestle with, particularly with a conscience.

    1. Oh my goodness. I presume you have never taught, aren’t married to a teacher and don’t know any. I can see that to a layman it is impossible to understand but teachers are streaming out of the job, good honest, intelligent, caring people are running. Surely that must make you think.

    2. Try giving it a go. YOUR attempts will be pathetic. Only pass comments when you are in a position to do so. Pure ignorance.

  8. This post reminds me of how grateful I am to have been able to spend so much time with my children; I certainly never take that for granted. Sorry to hear about your crash but so easily done with the weight of many other responsibilities on your mind. Relieved you have found happiness in your decision x

  9. I left full time teaching to do supply in September 2015 and it was the best decision I made, especially as I had fallen pregnant by the end of the month. I can’t imagine teaching full time and caring properly for my daughter. I’m looking to return to work now but no more than 1.5 days per week. I don’t care what anyone says, the holidays do not make up for the workload, the stress and the pressure. In fact, I spent most of my holidays working. I’m in no hurry to return to that!

  10. As a long suffering teacher of English for 20 years, I completely understand where you are coming from. I take solace in reading blogs like yours but what fascinates me most of all is that teachers are leaving in their droves yet no one offers advice on how to get out. Where do they all go? My partner earns less than I do and aged 44, how do I retrain whilst trying to pay my mortgage?! My degree is out of date and even if I knew what else to train for I couldn’t afford it without working full time. Don’t want to come across as a defeatist- just genuinely interested to know how people do it x

    1. I make a small amount blogging and freelance writing. A quarter or less than what I earned teaching but without travel costs and nursery fees we are pretty much in a similar situation – with a bit of belt-tightening too. I felt that way too until I fell into writing by accident really, through the success of this blog. I hope you find a way to make it work and make you happy. x

    2. Stories like this are what worry me about becoming a teacher! I’m glad you’ve found your happy, just a shame it meant leaving a job that should be amazing.

      I am applying to do a PGCE, though I plan to only work part time and tutor the rest. I need some ‘regular work’ in order to get a mortgage etc. I refuse to be put off a profession that I know I will enjoy, purely because of the working conditions imposed by the government. Hopefully I can find the right balance to earn money and be happy.


      Have you looked at tutoring? It’s not just teachers feeling the strain, more and more students are looking for tutors to give them the extra bit of support that teachers don’t have time (not their fault!) to give. You could start tutoring a few hours a week now, then once you are established either go part-time or leave work. Tutoring at £20+ an hour, with marking during the summer quiet period, can generate decent income.

      You get to do all the amazing things, inspiring students, helping them learn and succeed, without Ofsted or copious planning and marking.

      Hope you find happiness soon.

  11. Oh just wonderful. Although I wasn’t a teacher, this could have been my life after giving my career up in London when my children were 10,8 and 6 – the sheer relief of all the stress just wiped away that I could just be their mummy – wonderful post and I really really feel this! #postsfromtheheart

  12. It’s no longer about teaching. It’s about filling in forms to prove you filled in all the forms, and training your little robots to pass tests perfectly. My kids love school, they love reading and science. They get good marks and skip in every morning, but their school, in a lower income area, is deemed ‘failing ‘. It isn’t failing, it’s done tremendously, and all the staff should be credited for that.
    Humanity left the world, it really did.
    I’m glad you got out of education, so did I. I only hope there are some good people left.

    1. I totally agree about robots and form filling. I’m sat here with tears running down my cheeks after a meeting with Occupational Health requested by my school due to my long term absence with anxiety.
      After 21 years of teaching, and loving it for the vast majority of the time, I had a breakdown primarily caused by bullying by a senior teacher. I hit rock bottom, contemplating driving my car head in into a lorry. That scared me that I could even think like that!! I had always been a chilled, laid back person. The member of staff that other people came to with their problems, everyone’s work mum. I have 3 kids, the youngest in Year 5. I have seen fashions in teaching go full circle and just got on with it. But these last 2 years have shocked me to my core. The pressures on teachers in terms of paperwork and marking have sky-rocketed and are completely unsustainable with family life.
      My breakdown has ultimately saved me. I am a better mum, a better wife, a better daughter and a better friend. I have worked hard to make myself better. Now I’m being forced back into the same job with the same bully because I ticked too many good responses in a five minute questionnaire!!!
      The system protects the bully.

  13. I get this. Oh yes, I really do. It wasn’t until I started maternity leave that I realised just how much of my life had been taken up with the anxiety of teaching – with not being able to do enough. It’s a big part of the reason I’ve given up my dream job, the one I’d always wanted. I will miss my childre, my classroom – so much. But I won’t miss the worry. I’m going back for two half days to cover others, I hope that in that way I’ll find a balance. Sending love from another mummy who has chosen to. E a mummy. Thank you for linking this post up to #PostsFromTheHeart

  14. What a wonderful and raw post. So true that giving up working can be a difficult decision, but the most important one. Proud of you mamma!


  15. Oh Danielle this made me feel so sad the thought of you having to leave your child when they are poorly. I can’t believe that you would be told you had to make alternative arrangements and you can’t be the one to look after her. I am so pleased that you’ve been able to make that step away from teaching and this time you could be the mum you were born to be x #postsfromtheheart

  16. Danielle, I don’t know if I’ve actually ever told you, but I actually love your writing. This post did not disappoint as usual. I’m glad you’re not a teacher anymore too it sounds horrendous! My husband’s cousin recently left teaching and she has similar personal experiences of having to leave her kids when they were ill, being late to pick them up from nursery as she was held back in a staff meeting and all sorts. It’s heart breaking. #Postsfromtheheart

  17. I love this, for so many reasons. You are such an amazing mother, as I’m sure that you was a teacher, and doing what is right for your family is the most selfless thing you can ever be. #postsfromtheheart

  18. This sounds all too familiar. It must be a thing with vocational jobs. I’m a midwife and the family unfriendliness of the job forced me to take a career break. I miss the work but I certainly don’t miss the stress that went with juggling a family and pleasing managers! Its such a shame that caring professions like ours are so uncaring to the very people providing the service. Forcing good people to give up on their career.

  19. This is a beautiful post. I’m so glad you able to finally do what worked best for you. I’m not a teacher however, I used to work in a training department in my previous employment and I felt (although not exactly the same of course) the pressure and demands were just as high with very little thought for what I was giving up to train the future of the company. I too am glad I gave it up. #postsfromtheheart

  20. This post really resonated with me. I am currently a secondary school teacher and think about quitting every week. I have lost the love for it since having my son, I’m only really doing it as I have to financially (even though the pay doesn’t reflect the hours in any way, shape or form). Your post has definitely given me food for thought and the motivation that change can happen.

  21. Yes. And it isn’t a crime to decide to stop. After 12 years I did the same. My present life is more precarious but I am not. Saying no is a powerful tool.

  22. I am a children’s social worker. I see so many parallels with the pressures in teaching. Ofsted, constant audits, new government accreditation schemes that suggest that we aren’t already doing a good enough job, the long hours into late in the evenings, the lack of time with your own kids. The pressure of letting families down, the abuse and the pay that does not reflect the hard work and stress. I think of leaving daily.

  23. It’s so sad that this resonates with so many teachers/mums (including myself). Lovely post, brought me to tears reminding me of all the times when I’m playing with my children but my mind is on work.

  24. I just resigned from teaching in May. I miss seeing kids read, write, and talk about the two. I love being at home with my son and teaching him things that I wouldn’t be able to if I was still in the classroom. Thank you for your story it was such an encouragement. I weeped reading it, but it helped me realize why the decision was so difficult.

  25. This post resonated with me on many levels. I’ve been teaching for 11 years. In that time I’ve had 3 children and my eldest has inattentive ADHD. I’ve been working part time since my now 2 year-old was born, but the pay cut still makes it hard to juggle day care costs. I now blog and I’ve mentored many teachers over the years, 3 of whom I told to get out of the profession and they’re happier for it. I plan to cut more hours next fall, then finally cut the cord in may 2019. So many people don’t understand that caring is what kills you in our profession. I also see how the public school system has led my eldest to despise school-yet he loves learning because he was repeatedly told he was lazy. It took 4 years to get a special education plan for him. I know homeschool may be on the horizon and I want to be free to make my own children the best they can be. I’m so glad you got your life back. With the little I know about special needs parenting from my son, you really are an angel. Thank you for this post.

  26. Thank you so much for this post. I discovered your blog this very morning whilst googling “is teaching a family friendly career”. Because I am struggling at the moment, with only 1 toddler, I thought I was doing something wrong. But no, it is not just me! What you wrote, it resonates so much. I work in the independent sector and my life is not even that stressful compared to that of a state school colleague. And I work part time too! However, all these day to day circumstances you describe, I feel them so keenly that I have decided to quit teaching at the end of the academic year.

    I am now going to read the other readers’ testimonies. I feel understood, and can finally pinpoint why I never felt teaching was the pinacle family-friendly to start with.

    Thank you so much for that post.

    PS: the car accident resonates with me too. I’m far too distracted whilst driving, usually worried because I’m running late (I have a very long commute). I hope you feel better xx

  27. I’m currently having a break after 4 years and it ferls great.
    Not sure if I will go back. My sanity and my son are more important right now.

  28. Thank you. I am at the end with teaching. Parents who believe you should be at their beck and call 24/7, governors who demand more and more, government which spend its time berating teachers. I love my job but not enough to put up with that.

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