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Career changing - a different perspective

Lindsay Fitzpatrick looks back on the changes between the world of teaching and the "real world".

Probationer teacher

"This is so much more enjoyable than being at work." This was the thought that crossed my mind, as I approached period five on Friday, and it kind of took me by surprise.

Two and a bit months into my new career, a little shell-shocked and short of sleep, I realised that for the first time in my life I was spending my days and earning a living doing something that just didn't feel like work.

That's not to say that I don't work “ I am without doubt working harder than I have ever done in my life ".

I mean Work with a capital W, that place you have to go to, Monday to Friday, to shuffle paper or answer the phone or complete any other number of (often dismal) tasks.

The place where the hands on the clock creep round so slowly and five o'clock always seems like a lifetime away.

A second chance

I think career changers come to teaching with a very different perspective from other probationers.

We may have spent years in jobs which are dull or unfulfilling or without meaning.

We may have achieved a considerable amount but were still left feeling that there was "more" we could do or that something important was missing; knowing, or at least suspecting that we were spending far too great a part of our lives doing something which just wasn't important to us.

As a result, I think we feel fortunate to have been given another chance, to have found a career which is interesting and challenging and fun. For all of the bad press that young people may receive, they are all of the above and more.

I am sometimes taken aback by this hugely significant and privileged role that we are allowed to take.

Every second counts

For me, teaching is a career where every second counts, every moment is filled with something new or different.

Sometimes it's something difficult, but no two days or hours or minutes are ever the same. I still watch the clock, but the hands are moving so fast now I can barely keep up.

The rewards are many and sometimes come in surprising shapes:

  • the quiet child at the back who I thought wasn't interested, who one day puts her hand up and asks about Lady Macbeth's motivation
  • the awkward child, slow to cooperate and disliked by his peers who asks to borrow a poetry book to read at home
  • the help and encouragement which are happily given by colleagues who are as pushed for time as I am

Pros and cons

Don't get me wrong. It's not always a ball. It is a never ending demand on my time, energy and creativity (and occasionally my humour).

There have been stressful moments. I remember feeling tearful and exhausted at 1am, with another pile of un-marked books, guilty at forgetting my own child's assembly or PE kit.

Then there was the windy afternoon in class when all 30 teenagers in my charge seemed about to take flight, rather than settle down calmly to think and learn. My mission (seemingly impossible) to calm and unwind and inspire, even when it was the detail of sentence structure or close reading.

After many years in the rat-race, and two or three forays into different careers, I have finally found my vocation. It may be a cliche, but I feel very enthused and valued and as though finally I'm contributing in the right way, and it beats watching the clock creeping slowly round to five...