This is the eighth part of my Reflection Series for 2017 – a self-reflection of my teaching this year.
What has caused you the most stress this year?
This past year was one of many changes for me, both personally and professionally. In amongst it all, I believe there were two different parts that caused me the most stress. The first was deciding whether to stay at the private school I worked in for term 1, and the second was trying to secure maternity leave pay from my public school.
Should I stay or should I go?
At the end of last year, my public school couldn’t give me any word on whether or not my contract would be renewed, so I kept my eye on the job market. I found an ad for a job at a private school I’d heard great things about, and figured I’d give it a go. Long story short, I got the job and made the jump!
I wrote a number of posts during my time there:
- Getting To Know My Students
- The Key Thing Students Want From Their Teachers (one of my most-read posts to date!)
- Private vs Public Chaos Time
- Stop and Be Silly
- Sometimes The Teacher Just Needs To Stop Talking
- Planning Can’t Wait
- Why Are We Letting Ourselves Drown?
- Not Being Able To Say Goodbye Sucks
Looking at those titles in order, you can sort of see my slide into unhappiness with my work. My time at the school was one of much learning though – about teaching and also about myself as a teacher and as a wife.
With regard to teaching, because the students were much better behaved than I was used to, I was able to try out so many different ways to present the content. I had fantastic colleagues who actually shared their resources, and had many conversations about what everyone was doing so we could swap ideas. I build on my professional knowledge so much, and discovered more pedagogical approaches that I liked (or sometimes didn’t).
With regard to being a wife, I realised I wasn’t prepared to commit as much time, effort, and involvement as the school required (even if the pay was higher, the students generally easier to deal with, and the school culture truly one of respect for teachers and interest in learning). I was spending more time at school than perhaps even during my time in England, and spending even more time outside of that working at home. While that alone shouldn’t have been an issue, it meant less time than I was used to away from school, which generally made me grumpy.
In the end I realised I had to make a decision – either stay or go. To stay meant I would fully commit myself to this new lifestyle, this new school, and all that came with it. It meant pushing aside feelings of being overwhelmed compared to my previous school, and throwing myself completely into the new one (I believe I was still hanging on to the old school in my heart). To go would mean to go back to job-searching, and doing something I don’t like doing – giving up. After many discussions with my husband, he convinced me that I wasn’t giving up, I was protecting my mental health and therefore our relationship.
So after much soul searching and quite a few tears, I made the decision to leave.
I contacted my old school, and was pleased to hear they had a position for me. I then had the difficult task of talking with the principal of the private school and explaining why I was walking away from the fantastic opportunity they had given me. She tried her hardest to get me to stay, and I shed a few more tears.
In the end, I know I made the right decision for me. Perhaps down the line I might like to return to that school, if a door is open for me. I know what to expect now, and feel like a second time round would be less of a culture shock and easier to transition.
But for now, I am happy where I am.
Well, this was a whole different kettle of fish.
Again, I outlined my experiences in this article – Maternity Leave with Ed QLD, so I won’t rehash what is said there. Please head over and have a read if you haven’t already.
It really was one of the most stressful things to be dealing with, in part because it dragged on so damn long and seemed like my school just didn’t want to deal with it.
I am happy I kept fighting though, because the day it was all sorted it felt like the weight of the world had been lifted from my shoulders. I can now spend proper time with my baby once he’s born, and not stress about our financial situation. That kind of stress would push me back into the workforce before I am ready, and that can only have a negative impact on us as a family and on me personally.
If you are facing similar issues with your own school, keep up the fight and don’t back down. Learn what your rights are, call as many different departments as you need to, and definitely speak with your union if you are part of one. It’s not worth going through the stress I went through if you can get it sorted quicker by applying more pressure. Don’t worry about being labelled a trouble maker – you need to do right by you and your family, and that comes leagues ahead of keeping quite for the sake of ‘not making a fuss’ with your employer.
What has caused you the most stress this past year? Is it something you can change for the year to come?