At some point in our lives, most of us are likely to have observed that asking kids of a certain age what they want to be or do when they grow up has little value aside from being adorable—especially when their answers include things like growing up to be a cat.

It occurred to me a year or two into teaching that a follow-up question ought to be asked: what else do you want to do? When I applied to university and as I went through my teacher training, it had never occurred to me that I would want to do anything other than teach. It wasn’t until it simply wasn’t an option to do much else owing to lack of time and energy that I realised how many other things I want to do.

I left teaching in July of last year.

While I was certain it was the right thing for me to do, handing in my letter of resignation was difficult. I wasn’t 100% committed to leaving, and I don’t think I would have been had I deliberated any longer. Nonetheless, I was certain that I needed to try something else, whether to reaffirm my desire to teach or to find that it isn’t what I will dedicate myself to wholly.

 being in the classroom gave me greater insight into myself than I ever could have imagined. if I had the choice, I wouldn’t take it back for anything.

Since my first year of teaching, I was always vaguely aware that I wasn’t afforded the time to do a lot of the things that make me happy and help me stay healthy. I accepted this by telling myself that after a few years, it would get better; I would become more efficient in my planning and better at time management. To some extent, this was true. Simultaneously, however, I took on increasingly more responsibilities at work, which ensured that no level of efficiency could temper my poor work life balance.

This was, of course, my own choice. Realising this, I developed the sneaking suspicion that no matter what I do, I will want to do it to the best of my ability and to develop myself professionally. Unfortunately, teaching – for me – didn’t provide time within working hours to do these things. So I arrived to work every day an hour and fifteen minutes early, and I regularly stayed two and half sometimes three hours past the last lesson of the day. For three out of my four years teaching, I also worked most evenings and through most of Sunday afternoon.

None of this is unusual. It is not a unique story. Some people, however, are better equipped than I was to handle these demands. Indeed, they were not for me.

I struggled with the feeling that nothing I did could ever be enough. I couldn’t provide students with enough feedback, I couldn’t plan well enough, I couldn’t teach my students enough of what the curriculum said they needed to know. I finished most days in the evenings with the feeling that I could have done better or that I could have done more.

My relationships suffered. I didn’t have the energy to spend time with friends at the weekend. Where previously I had communicated with my parents more regularly via Skype and e-mail, I slacked off severely. I could tell from my interactions with family and my significant other that I wasn’t myself.

All of this having been said, being in the classroom gave me greater insight into myself than I ever could have imagined. It pushed my limits, helping me learn what I was capable of. And if I had the choice, I wouldn’t take it back for anything.

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