An odd title? Maybe, but stay with me. I left teaching a few months ago and I’m still head over heels in love with the profession.
Teaching isn’t just a job; recently a wise and experienced business coach and I were having a discussion and he said, ‘teaching is a calling’. It really made me think and re-evaluate my position, business and career choices. The past few years have seen a rise in articles, press releases and YouTube videos (I like how we move with the times) on the topic of teacher wellbeing or rather, the lack of it. Budget cuts, workload, stress and happiness levels have disillusioned, saddened and in several cases driven people out of the profession. However, the latter should not be a reason to leave the profession, it should provide the motivation to fix it.
As Head of English and Associate Senior Leader, I dealt with a high level of stress. Responsibility for one of the major subjects on the curriculum, recruitment and retention targets, you name it – I thrived and suffered all at the same time. I had two choices: sink and cry, or swim and rise above it. I did the latter and it has led to the position I am in today: Founder and Director of Zen Revision and Zen Work Hub – companies with a mission to support student and professional wellbeing in schools and the workplace.
How did I get here?
This time last year I was working ridiculous hours and drowning under the demands of my students and department. But I had one saviour: the gym. The gym was my go-to, stress reliever, a community of people who taught me to value my wellbeing and health. My hobby turned into a passion and I qualified as a personal trainer. My interests grew and in my spare time I researched workplace wellbeing. I started fitness classes for staff and worked with a couple of colleagues to launch a workplace wellbeing programme at my school. I’ve always loved networking so at weekends I would meet up with fellow health and wellness professionals, attend events, remain active on social media – all of which were making me a better teacher and professional. I’ve always maintained positive relationships with my colleagues and students (in fact, I still support the workplace wellbeing programme and hope to continue working with the school in different capacities!), but this change made my relationships even better. It renewed my purpose and led to greater job satisfaction. Why? Because instead of withdrawing, complaining and drowning, I looked for solutions, innovation and conversations!
I’m here to give you some sense of clarity and reassure you that if you choose to leave, there are other successful paths for you to pursue but equally, I’m writing to ensure your decision is fully informed and reasoned as opposed to driven by passionate disillusionment:
- Think about your lifestyle: teaching equates to long hours, working at weekends and sleepless nights. News flash: so does starting a business, except there is little job security, no set holidays and no set routine. Take some time and write down the pros and cons for leaving the profession; keep these as factual as possible and only let your emotions in on a few reasons – our emotions are continuously changing, therefore reflect in an observational manner (try practicing mindfulness or meditation in the days or weeks leading up to making this list, it helps keep those emotions at bay!).
- Think about your purpose and goals: Where do you see yourself in 3-5 years? What is your identity? what drives you? Is career progression a motivating force? Is there an element of the job you wish to pursue further, but in a different setting? Do your best to answer these questions with and without teaching in mind. However, if those goals and purpose are ignited and driven by a passion for the profession, that’s a good thing! It could mean you’re not ready to leave yet, equally it could mean pursuing your purpose within the profession, to keep you motivated to succeed and be happy.
- Speak up! Schools are filled with wonderful people and empathy should be a founding block of workplace values. Disillusionment, boredom and the desire to do something new can be tested by developing workplace relationships. In fact, a recent article in Forbes magazine highlights that up to 72% of employees who have a friend at work experience greater job satisfaction. People keep people happy, motivated and driven – so talk to one another. Arrange coffee mornings, off load and discuss your answers to points one and two with fellow teachers!
You may be thinking, ‘if she loved it so much, why did she leave?’ Purpose. I want to support and help professionals and students feel well in what they do, find a semblance of balance and improve personal and professional systems and processes to appreciate life as we know it! Thus, I haven’t just ‘left’, I aim to ‘fix’ and perhaps one day, return. Whatever you do, don’t run away from what genuinely is a wonderful profession, leave with a clear goal and aim in mind.
Zahara was a teacher, senior leader and is now founder of Zen Revision and Zen Work Hub; she is also a qualified personal trainer. Her companies aim to support the wellbeing and work-life balance of students and professionals in the public and private sectors. She delivers workshops in schools and private organisations to employees and students by incorporating her skills as a wellbeing and education consultant with her passion for health and fitness to improve wellbeing, productivity and happiness for individuals.