Last term I resigned so that I can work full-time on my new business, It’s Sew Simple from September 2017. You would think that answers my question and there is no need to continue, but there is much more to why I want to leave teaching, so allow me to explain.
I have been teaching for 16 years; part time for the last 2 years. I teach design and technology which involves teaching food, electronics, textiles, art and resistant materials. I specialise in art and textiles, teaching this to GCSE and A level students. I am currently working with year 7 in food technology, year 10 textiles and year 12 in art and design textiles. My timetable is smaller, as now all the examination classes have had their public exams and have left the school.
This week I have had a lovely week, I have taught year 7 students how to make bread rolls, they learnt to measure ingredients and how to knead the dough. I’ve marked all of my year 10 mock exam papers – in what little spare time I have at school, and have provided feedback to them. I’ve also worked with year 12 art textiles students on their essays, entered data and answered several emails and planned for future lessons.
I enjoy and love where I work. The school is well managed, staff and students are lovely. I work in a great department with excellent resources. I worked as a head of department for 8 years at the school and loved the responsibility. I’ve always loved my subject that is where my heart lies, but school leadership has also taught me so many different skills.
So, why am I leaving teaching and an ‘Outstanding’ school? It “is not the school” the reason that keeps repeating itself in my mind. It is “time”, time to manage my working hours, allowing me to be flexible. To enable me to have time to do different things; making different clothes, learning new textiles and sewing techniques, teaching adults and children, developing my photography, being creative, researching and most importantly, supporting my family.
I am now on countdown.
I have just 12 days left in school. Research shows that 1 in 10 teachers are leaving education after 1 year in the classroom. The reasons? Workload, low wages, poor student behaviour, poor management and the main explanation, long working hours. I can honestly say that for the first 13 years of my career, I worked 12 hours a day, every single day, and I would take work home in the evenings, at weekends and the school holidays.
When I had my son, I had to learn to be more time efficient: saying that, he still attended a nursery from 730am-6pm, 5 days a week. Teaching can dominate your life and also your personal time. This becomes more challenging when you start a family. My husband being a deputy head teacher also pays a contributing factor. Two careers in one household can be very challenging when managing childcare, your own health and wellbeing are impacted. After 4 years of trying to manage a job and being a good parent, I made the decision to go part time. I felt this was the right decision for everyone. My son was exhausted from long days at nursery and was often ill. I wanted to support my husband through promotion and his commitments, but I also needed to do something different after 14 years in the classroom. Something for me to have in order to address a better work life balance. I also moved to part-time to allow me to have time to reflect on my future and decide on what I wanted to do next, hence, It’s Sew Simple was born.
When I first went part-time, I expected it to be so much easier when in fact, I soon discovered it was working full-time but condensed into 3 days. I have to teach more hours, I have less time to plan and mark, I still have the responsibility of exam classes and have to meet the same deadlines as everyone else. There is little flexibility for professional development. I had attended a training day that was relevant to me for the first time in 8 years – after asking to attend that very course for 3 or 4 years prior to me attending. It took that long for it to be approved. All other school-led INSET was irrelevant to my professional expertise and subject needs.
Often, one of my days off every week I spent recovering from my hectic week at work. However, I loved how it allowed me to work for and with different people. My first opportunity came when I exhibited at the Handmade Fair. I spent my days off making products to sell at the fair. I started to see that the fabrics and clothes I made had a style, being simple, include lots of pattern and colour, and people really liked what I was making and my clothes were snapped up!
I then got an opportunity to teach at the Knitting and Stitching show. Wendy Gardener who manages all the sewing workshops – she is such an inspiration woman in the textiles industry – passed my name on to the Women’s Institute and the Country Living Fair. I taught a range of sewing workshops at both events. From these new experiences, I quickly learnt what I wanted my new life and business to become, and of course at the same time using certain skills, I could take them back to the classroom.
Initially I thought I would make and sell clothes, but no, I now realise that wanted to teach, but teach adults and children outside of the confinements of school. I love teaching and I love my subject. Outside of education, there are many people teaching sewing who are not trained teachers. This is what I think makes me a little different and what people highlight when they attend my workshops. Schools can be like a treadmill, repeating a timetabled life on a daily, a weekly and annual pattern. One exam class leaves, another starts. One project finishes and another begins. Another piece of work to mark, another spreadsheet or report to complete. There is rarely a project to close off.
I recognise that I may sound negative about work, but from writing this blog, the answer is much clearer to me. I am leaving education because it is time for change and I want my choices to be for me and my family. I have no job to go to. I have a business in the making, it feels great and it’s a risk worth pursuing for a better lifestyle.
This week, my 2 days off will be spent making a product toile, altering the paper pattern before sending this off to a pattern-cutter to grade. Then, this can be printed in time for a future workshop: ‘making a bag’ and adding the details and pictures to my website (www.itssewsimple.co.uk) shop page with dates.
I also look forward to picking my son up from school without having to rush out of school and feeling guilty for doing so. Taking him to his swimming lessons, cooking evening meals and pruning the garden. I am going to do what I love and make it happen. I want a life-work balance, and not the other way around.