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Why I Quit Teaching, And Why I’m Coming Back

Laura Malanaphy escaped the grind of teaching to live it up in the glamorous world of consultancy – but it turns out that she left her heart in the classroom

  • Why I Quit Teaching, And Why I’m Coming Back

“The training will be in London initially, followed by two weeks in Chicago. All flights and hotels will be paid for and our previous trainees have said the cheapest way to get around downtown Chicago is in a limo, so do bear that in mind. The hours are 9-5 and working from home is a regular possibility,” said HR at the consultancy firm I had bagged myself a place at.

I listened in awe – could this be any more different from my 12+ hour days as a teacher in one of the most deprived areas of London? It didn’t sound like a job I’d got; it sounded like a holiday.

After finishing university, I headed straight into Teach First training. I loved every minute of it and, thanks to an incredible mentor at the school, thrived in my first two years of teaching.

My partner and I decided to move to London, where most of our friends were already living, and I secured a position at a National Teaching School (NTS).

Whilst it was tough adjusting to the demands of one-form entry and (what felt like) constant visits from teachers across the country, it wasn’t only this that led me to apply for a consulting grad scheme.

It was also the constant bragging of those aforementioned friends, who seemed to work from home in their pyjamas all day and go out to free drink receptions in the evening, followed by stays in glamorous hotels across the globe.

A change of pace

Why was I slogging 60+ hours a week at the chalkface when friends were off partying in Wednesdays because going in hungover to an office was socially acceptable? So, when I was offered a position at a consultancy firm, I jumped at the chance of living it up my 20s, and said yes.

However, 12 months down the line I found myself formatting yet another PowerPoint at our client site in Birmingham. I was producing training guides for a new IT system and had started to feel like my life was a box ticking exercise.

Would it really matter if my training guide wasn’t perfectly aligned to the centre? Was anyone going to look at this after I’d trained them all face to face? Was I making any impact at all?

The glamour of travelling for work had worn off and I’d started trying to avoid those free drinks. I hadn’t felt passionate about the work I was doing from the start and I recognised that making a difference was a key motivator for me.

I decided to move to an educational charity in East London as a project manager.

Surely that would be the ideal compromise; both corporate facing and teaching from primary to A level? And, for a while, it was. But looking back, I think I was just putting off the inevitable. 

Heading back

I will be going back into teaching in September. The grass is not greener on the other side, even though it appears to be on the surface.

Being in the classroom and having that direct impact on young people’s lives is 100% where I want to be. I know my work life balance will suffer, but I’ve learned some important lessons:

  1. Work should be something that you’re passionate about. No amount of first class train travel or champagne receptions will change the day to day of your job.
  2. Children are the most wonderful creatures on this earth. Their inquisitive nature is infectious and time passes so quickly with them. You’re never looking at the clock, willing it to go faster – in teaching it’s the opposite, and I’ll never moan about that again!
  3. I’m older and wiser: saying no to arbitrary paperwork is fine. My main priority will be teaching and learning with a splash of data and that’s ok. I won’t be a yes man.
  4. I never want to format a PPT again in my life. Let all the slides be wonky – life is too short!

Laura Malanaphy will take up a position at a National Teaching School in Streatham this September.

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