I felt guilty at first when I began to look at jobs in the independent sector. I always told myself and others that I wanted to make a difference and that’s why I went into teaching. The state sector, and particularly challenging schools, seemed the best place to be able to make that difference.
I’m sure I did too – my results were usually better than expected and I always got cards from students at Christmas and the end of the year thanking me for helping them to enjoy or understand maths. But the constant battle with school systems was getting me down. I began to feel that there must be a way to still make this difference that I was obsessed with, but without the stress that I was under.
Now don’t get me wrong – stress is healthy to an extent. I know that, and I work best under pressure. But within reason. The constant behavioural issues I had to face took my focus away from actually teaching. Each year I would set myself targets to try new behavioural strategies to attempt to engage the disengaged, and the development of teaching strategies such as questioning, assessment for learning and use of mathematical vocabulary would fall by the wayside.
I’ve been working in an independent school for just three weeks now. I love it. It’s reignited my passion for teaching. I can really work on deepening my students’ understanding of maths without disruption every couple of minutes. I’ve already been able to develop my questioning skills – I don’t have to waste brain power trying to prevent a behavioural issue from escalating constantly, I can just teach.
Don’t get me wrong, they’re not angels; they’re still children after all. But they understand why they’re in school and they are keen to better themselves. And that all important difference that I’m after? I’ve seen that eureka-moment in students many times already. Test scores are already showing progress. It’s a different kind of difference, but it’s still there.
I’m not sure if I’ll stay in the independent sector for the rest of my career, but for now, I’m overjoyed with my decision. It’s allowed me to focus on areas of teaching I’ve wanted to focus on for a while and, for the first time in several years, I’m not stressed. I actually look forward to going to work again!