If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that I have been part-time since my 3rd year of teaching and experimented with a number of different teaching fractions since then. This year my fraction is 60%, which works out to 3 days per week. It was a bit of an adjustment initially, both professionally and financially, but so far it’s the best fraction I’ve tried. I am still in the classroom enough to feel like I am making a difference, at work enough to stay connected to my colleagues, and earning enough to get by. However, I have plenty of that crucial rest time that I need and this year I’ve been able to make some health changes that I really don’t think I could have made had I been working more. I have enough time to do most of the things that help me feel well and that’s what matters most to me.
What you probably don’t know (unless you know me IRL) is that I am taking leave without pay next year from my teaching job. Depending on how things pan out, I may or may not be back. Since being diagnosed with thyroid cancer when I was 23 following years of ill-health during my university years, I’ve had to face the possibility that teaching in our current education system might not be my long-term career. I hinted at this in a blog post last year, when I finally drew a line in the sand that I would never go back to full-time teaching because of the toll it takes on me. I’m proud of myself for doing that, for examining my WHY (to be well!) and prioritising that over external demands and the lure of more financially lucrative offers.
However, the last 18 months has seen me seriously question whether teaching at any fraction in our current system is good for me at all. Even at 60%, I have to work extremely hard to keep myself well enough to survive, let alone thrive, and I don’t have any dependents or many other demands on my time. This is not an accident mind you, it has been a conscious choice. But looking ahead, eventually I’d like to start a family and I know that then there will be many, many other demands on my time. But before I even go down that path, I have to make sure I’m well enough. And next year I turn 30, so that seems like a good time to lay the foundation for the next decade of my life.
So the biggest WHY for me for next year is about prioritising my health and happiness in the extreme. I am so grateful that I have the opportunity with a permanent government job to take leave without pay. I am so looking forward to incorporating even more wellbeing practices into my life, reducing my stress, spending more time with my husband and just seeing what life and my health is like when I’m not bound by school deadlines. In my experience so far, my health improves dramatically over school holidays periods where I can rest and look after myself properly, so I predict a similar result.
Of course, it won’t be a holiday (although we are planning an overseas trip in the middle). I will be doing some supply teaching to help make ends meet and to stay connected with schools. And I will also be exploring my other big passion and something that has been getting me up extra early in the morning to study or write (like today!) for a couple of years now.
Preventing teacher burnout and supporting teachers and schools in prioritising wellbeing is my second biggest WHY for taking a break from my teaching career next year. I am going to expand my wellbeing coaching practice and hopefully do some consulting with schools. I also have at least one book desperate to be brought into the world, and some ideas for other ways I can support teachers.
Making a difference and contributing positively to future generations was my biggest WHY when I was at university studying teaching, and it’s not left me as I’ve embarked on my teaching career. If anything, my understanding of just how important good education is has only made that WHY bigger. There is a sense of loss involved with making this change because a part of me feels like I’m leaving that WHY behind. But I know that I’m not doing that. Hopefully, I will be able to make an even bigger impact by helping other teachers be their best selves at school and at home, and the ripple of that will be incredible.
It’s the start of a big journey for me and I’ll keep you posted along the way!
P.S. “This blog post is in response to Natalie’s 10 Day Freedom Plan Blog Challenge Day 2