I entered teaching 24/25 years ago for all the usual cliché reasons I guess. I adored my subject, I couldn’t wait to inspire kids to love my subject as much as I did, I wanted to help kids who needed it, I had bags of energy and sack-loads of ideas to impart.
I had a successful career for the first 18 years. Always up for trying new ideas and watching them magically come to life. My colleagues regularly called me a genius for my successes with kids where others couldn’t see a way forward. I was respected (and envied) and often seen as “the one to beat” in various ways. I was admired for my calmness under pressure and my organisational skills were often commented upon favourably.
That all changed when the Deputy of the school I was in was promoted to head, 2 years before I left. His attitude towards me changed. Where he had previously praised, he criticised; where he had publicly admired my good practice he now chose to humiliate; where he had been in awe of my achieving the seemingly impossible, he regularly, coldly, insisted I just wasn’t good enough. I became terrified of logging into my email account just in case there was yet another spiteful message from him. I used to have to take several deep breaths before logging in, and would read his emails with my eyes half closed, and with my hand to my face looking at the screen from between my fingers. I couldn’t take any more after 2 years of this treatment. Distressingly, many colleagues who had previously respected and admired my work chose to believe his new rhetoric. Unsupported, embarrassed, deeply ashamed, and with no visible allies remaining, I knew I had to leave the school I’d loved. Looking back I realise this was his objective upon becoming head. I guess I just didn’t fit into his vision for the school. If I stayed I’d have had a nervous breakdown.
So… I made the craziest, most out-of-character decision I’d ever made in my life. I left! I left with no idea of what I wanted to do next! No plans, no job to go to. Nothing. But I felt excited, liberated… and utterly terrified! But it was all good. I knew I wanted a fresh, new challenge, not to try another school.
Initially, I signed up with 3 agencies and did 6 months of supply teaching. During this stint I mulled over all career change options available. I considered everything and anything. In the end I decided to take the plunge and buy into a franchise business. So now, I work for myself (home office set-up, completely flexible hours), whilst having the advice and protection of an established company. I have great new franchise colleagues across the UK, a franchise director who regularly tells me how much she respects my business practice, views and work ethic, and I am now coming close to exceeding my full time UPS3 teaching income but on part-time hours (24 hours per week on average). My family and I get a LOT of fabulous perks off the back of the business – giving us opportunities to do things we’d never have would have dreamed of otherwise.
Buying into a franchise business opens up many many possibilities. You can purchase some businesses for a few hundred pounds and upwards. Many of the franchises offer training to new franchisees as part of the purchase price. There’s all kinds of franchise businesses available to buy into such as:
– baby-toddler art, music, signing, exercise classes
– coffee shop management
– pet care
– car valeting
– cleaning company management
– adult art/photography classes
… to name just a few.
Personally, I bought a publishing/editing franchise and I absolutely love it. It was a huge punt to go for it using my, and my husband’s precious hard earned savings. Thankfully it is paying off very well. It was hard going for the first few months. We had to watch every penny we spent. We streamlined our outgoings severely. Second-hand uniforms for the kids, buying cheapo-brand groceries, and not spending on anything that wasn’t totally essential. It certainly sharpened the focus somewhat! However, what our ‘risk’ has bought us is me at home more, able to look after our kids’ needs more closely, I’m there to do the school run every day, I can pop in to speak to the class teacher of there is a problem, nipping things in the bud, I’m there for school assemblies, concerts, sports days, etc, and I have more time to help with their school projects, homework. Plus, more time to just be a family – and enjoy seeing them grow up.
I’d say to anyone else looking for a way out of teaching to ask an absolute shed-load of questions to anyone vaguely relevant to their new chosen path and do loads of reading/homework. Also, you need to be realistic with the fact that the journey may not be an easy one, with sacrifices to make in the short-term. It’s fairly unusual for anyone to jump from one professional job straight into another without at least a short term pay-cut. You need to decide if you feel you’re getting enough out of teaching to carry on with it because jumping out of the profession will not be easy and will have some scary moments.
At the time, what I went through at school seemed like the end of the world. I realise now that that headteacher gave me the license to pursue and achieve what I never thought was possible.