What made me change?
Like a number of teaching staff I found that, even after 20 years I still loved teaching my job, yet year on year the pressure to complete paperwork, tick boxes and pacify an out of touch senior leadership team was increasing. Teaching my subject in the allocated hour became almost impossible, after all the constant put your lanyard on, go and get another one, put our phone away, have we talked about British values yet, is there maths in the lesson, have I stopped anyone swearing or offending anyone else in the class, am I correcting spellings to include elements of English, has everyone answered a question, I could teach.
It was exhausting, I cared about my students. I cared that they were struggling, not just academically, but also emotionally. But I didn’t have time to speak to them on a personal level during the streamlined ‘tutorial’ that was on offer. Instead I was setting targets and writing meaningless comments whilst all the time there was a barrier going up from the student. Not because they didn’t like me, but because I didn’t have the time to listen to them. I didn’t have the time to let them vent off about what was bothering them, even though I could see there was a change in some students.
Inevitably, the flood gates would open, a student breaks down because they are overwhelmed with their emotions. You get the Monday morning phone call from the parent telling you their child won’t be in as they have overdosed. Student arrive with the bandage on their wrist, you know they have started self-harming, but when will I get the chance to talk to them to confirm it so I can refer them?
Heart-breaking as it is I found I was less and less satisfied doing my job, back when we had time to spend with our students I could identify issues and offer help. Now, you are expected to cram too much in to the day but the same outcome is expected. It is just impossible to be effective now. I would go home every evening and vent off to my husband, he would constantly tell me to change career. But it’s hard to break away when you care.
Someone needs to do something about it!
For a number of years I would sit with colleagues in the staffroom talking about the increase in the number of students with emotional issues, yet at the same, time year on year the time we could spend with students was being reduced. We would often say that something needs to be done, before we hit crisis point where we won’t be able to cope with the number of youngsters with anxiety. But here we are……
There is a need for the senior management team to get back in the classroom and see the reality of the impact of the system, on both staff and students, it’s not until you are faced with it day to day do you actually know quite how serious the problem is. Looking in from a distance is not the same as being in the firing line. The same goes for the Government too, yes they have recognised a need for early intervention, but just how many of them have actually set foot in a classroom?
If I can’t make change working with children and young people, I will work for them to make change.
As much as I loved working with young people and educating them, being ineffective in an education setting is actually a contradictory notion. An opportunity to work on an app project was presented to me that I thought it was a good idea but needed to see the concept as I had some reservations about it. All I knew was teaching.
The app, The Worrinots made its way home. When I looked at it I thought it was a good idea, could see the positive benefits for children, schools and even parents.
Working in education was becoming increasingly volatile; redundancy from what I thought was a settled position, couldn’t settle in another college, then went to another, I lasted eight months.
I thought long and hard about it, knowing this could be my opportunity to leave the teaching profession but still able to make a positive impact on children’s lives was looking attractive to me, so I decided to take the leap of faith.
Where am I now?
A year and a half after leaving my teaching career I have campaigned to the Government, central and locally, been invited to a meeting at Holyrood, presented my product to audiences as large as 800, successfully published blogs and won the UK App Awards 2017 for the category of Children’s & Education App of the Year. I have had the pleasure of consulting with some of the leading clinical psychologists and met numerous interesting people along the way.
All this has come through my journey of promoting the business and learning how not to be a teacher. Yes there are pressures, but they are different, now my pressures are meaningful and far from the pointless pressures in education. There are highs and lows, but not the constant lows and staff counting down to holidays. I am now working with a motivated team that enjoy coming to work and I set my own challenges.
Was the move successful?
Yes of course it was in terms of recognition and winning App of the Year at the UK App awards 2017 but, we still have a long way to go until we have captured a global market to help young children. Both in terms of home use of the app and in the school environment.
What have I learned?
In business I can be effective in making decisions and change, but here I am recognised for it.
I don’t have to teach to educate children.