Not everyone leaving teaching is cartwheeling out of the job

And so it ends.

I’d planned on leaving teaching in a cowboy outfit; riding a horse that I was – one day – going to blag off Summer’s Mum. I’d trot through a guard-of-honour; I’d high-five the kids; tip my hat to their families; and wink at the staff-members who grew to become my second family. I’d ride from my second home – off into the sunset. A fairytale ending worthy of a fairytale career in a fairytale job. But fairytales aren’t real.

I was flying. Inspired by YouTubers, teacher-bloggers and FaceBookers such as Anson Primary, Mark Warner of Teaching Ideas, Emily Liscom and Lee Parkinson; I’d discovered a different path. We’d launched a school YouTube channel; my videos were being shared and watched by thousands. I was delivering training across the city; fully-grown adults were actually talking about me in the same way that my pupils were. I’d set up a (this!) website; my own Facebook page; I’d designed Spelling Apps; and all the time I was a Dad and husband above anything else. I’d nailed the knack of matching outstanding teaching and learning with an even more outstanding home life – the Holy Grail of a work:life balance. But then Caroline’s cancer came back.

We’d had a beautiful daughter – our second child – just two weeks prior to receiving the news. ‘This one’s mine!’ Caz would joke, after missing out on much of our son’s early upbringing while undergoing chemotherapy and surgery. Our first cancer diagnosis came three days after the birth  of our first child. Back then I’d been forced to swap laptops for lullabies; glue-sticks for Gripe Water (other Colic remedies are available) but all the time we were buoyed by hope. Maybe fairytales were real. And for five glorious years, they were. Long enough to be given the backing of our consultant to try for a second child; long enough to – almost – believe in happily ever after.

We lost our beautiful wife and Mummy towards the end of the Summer of 2016. The timings are blurry; and we always knew that any recurrence would bring with it a terminal diagnosis. I don’t know when I walked out of my classroom for the final time – I literally cannot remember. I vaguely recall crying. A parent got in touch to thank me for inspiring so many kids; for being in her children’s lives; adding that now was the time to protect my own. This made me smile. Fast forward to now. We had a memorable – and obviously very painful – twelve months leading to Caz’s passing. We made so many wonderful memories; we even launched our very own spelling Apps – inspired by family walks around our village. We set up our own cancer-support charity – Caroline’s Gift – and put plans in place for me to step away from teaching to raise the kids. I guess we were blessed on many levels. Many others don’t have the means to make such plans; or have the gift of knowing. But what about my classroom-kids; their families and the community that makes being a teacher so bloody awesome. As if – regardless of where we were at as a family – I could just walk away. I owed them at least an explanation as to why I wasn’t coming back.

So I sent two letters. And I’m sharing them along with with my story today. Not for ‘Likes and Shares'; not as a form of therapy; not even as a tribute to an inspirational woman. To be perfectly honest with you, I don’t have a bloody clue why I’m writing this at all. I’m officially an ex-teacher so it’ll no doubt cost me my place in the many teaching Facebook groups that I’ve enjoyed and learnt so much from. But I’ve a few Facebook followers – and about three regular blog-readers – who at least deserve to know what the crack is. The one thing I always stood up for in school was integrity; not to compromise who you are; your teaching philosophies or beliefs; not for anyone or anything – especially inspectors. I taught my kids to be true to themselves; to be honest; and I encouraged them to wear their hearts on their sleeves. I should at least practise what I preached.

I hope – by sharing the letters – people get to see the love and affection we teachers have for the children in our care; the passion for the age-old cliche of making a difference. Teaching does get easier; you can reduce your workload and you will find those glue-stick lids. Who – or what – is responsible for so many teachers jumping-ship, we’ll never really nail-down. But I hope I’ve done a tiny bit to help dilute the current negativity I see around the teaching profession. Not everyone leaving teaching is cartwheeling out of the job.

And a word on social media. Since I set up online, I’ve loved every second of my cyber-teaching journey. Through it, I’ve met so many brilliant people; made good friends and magpied so many incredible ideas. I’ve felt part of a much wider teaching family – a global teaching family. So please cut the crap of driving fear into new teachers about their roles and responsibilities online – they’re teachers not bloody MI5/FBI agents. Common sense is the only message they need to hear. I’ll massively miss the social-media teaching club. It – along with the love and support of my wife, who I miss so desperately – gave me a bounce that only members of it will understand. Maybe – in between school-runs, nappy/diaper changes and baby-groups – I can take what I’ve used and created online and use it to steer us in a different direction. But it will no longer be as a school teacher – just a Dad.

Matt Butcher teacher, dad and blogger (teachtothehilt.com) writes an emotional account of his difficult decision to leave teaching. This blog was first published on teachtothehilt.com and has been republished with the kind permission of the author. 

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