Yep you read correctly, I quit teaching. So you may be wondering why I quit teaching, well there were a number of reasons and it goes a bit like this…
My first teaching job was way up in the top end of Western Australia, in a little ole town called Port Hedland. That’s about 1650km north of Perth (the capital city in Western Australia). I’ve written quite a bit about my first year in my series Tales From A First Year Teacher, so if you’re thinking about teaching in a regional location definitely check that out.
Now my first year of teaching was no easy feat….I had a number of things that didn’t go to plan (the plan in my head that is) as well as an administration that wasn’t overly supportive. If you want to see how I handled that then read this.
But anyway I digress…..I actually did really well at University. I was the dux of the year and won the Miles Medal Award for Excellence in Education. The official description of this is: “This is an annual award offered to the Department of Education’s pre-service graduate considered to have achieved the highest excellence in overall academic performance during the course.” Sounds pretty good right? But other than attending an award ceremony it didn’t really mean anything.
So you can imagine my surprise when part way through second term I received a letter from the Education Department congratulating me on my outstanding university performance. Essentially the letter offered each of the university’s top prize-winners a permanent on probation position which would lead to being fully permanent at the end of one year. Now this was quite a big deal in Western Australia as it could be difficult to become a permanent teacher.
The formal offer had a couple of conditions with one being that my appointment at the current school I was at would continue the following year. Now even though I had my problems at this school I really did want to continue to teach there the next year. I had made some fantastic teaching friends and I felt that another year in the same school would really help consolidate what I had already learnt.
So I happily signed the letter and sent it back.
The rest of the year continued and I didn’t really give it much thought. During the final term my Principal signed me off as being competent so I gained permanent teacher status. All the other teachers started to receive their letters of employment for the following year with some teachers staying and some being transferred. I didn’t even really think about this too much as I knew I would be staying at the same school.
Well, that’s what I thought anyway. But I received a letter telling me that for the following year I was being moved to one of the other schools in the town. Now hang on a minute, that’s not right. So I rang the contact person in my original letter to query how this could be. The response was: “the second point is a typing error as we cannot commit to more than a one year appointment.” What the….
Well I was pretty devastated and wondered how they could just say in an official letter of employment that a whole dot point was an error.
This then lead to a whole series of events unfolding that made the end of that year and the start of the following year hell for me. My Principal followed up on my behalf querying the letter and was told the same thing, “typing error”. So I decided to pursue this further, as I didn’t think that this was fair. I knew that our school still had temporary unfilled positions for the following year and I was willing to go into one of those positions.
I contacted my union, and they agreed to assist me with pursing this further. No matter what we did though the Department wasn’t going to change their decision. With the Union’s assistance we got lawyers involved and still it made no difference. I thought maybe I should just give up…
The end of the year came around and this was still not resolved. So I had to change schools and start teaching at the new school the following year. I was pretty upset that a first year teacher could be treated like this….it really made me consider if it was worth working for the public education system.
As my lawyers didn’t get anywhere with the department, they suggested that we go to the next step and go to the industrial relations commission to have the matter resolved. I really thought that I should just give up as I was at the new school and didn’t really think that I would be able to win now. But, the lawyers said I had a good chance so agreed to continue with the matter.
Then my poor hubby lost his job at one of the mines there. He had been looking for other work, but was actually offered a new job in Karratha (about 250km south of Hedland). So we made the decision that we would move. Obviously it was too far to commute for my job, so I told my new Principal that at the end of the first term I would need to leave.
I remember that night I received a phone call from my Principal. He relayed that the Education Department said that they would allow me to transfer to Karratha and retain my permanency as long as I dropped my case against them. Well, to say the least…I was pretty pissed off! It so felt like blackmail.
But after speaking to my lawyers I decided that there was no point pursuing the matter as the outcome I wanted was to be reinstated at my original school. This was now no longer possible as I was moving towns.
In a way I was pretty glad it happened, it felt like a huge relief leaving the town at the end of the term and starting a fresh in a new town.
I didn’t get a transfer to a new school, because I asked to be transferred unattached. I thought I needed to have a bit of a break and thought that I could do relief teaching for Term 2 and then try and get something for the second half of the year.
But, it didn’t really go like that. That’s when I fell into a really bad depression. I was just so physically and emotionally exhausted once we got settled in Karratha that most days I couldn’t even get out of bed in the morning. Some days were better than others, but generally I just stayed around the house and wasn’t really motivated to want to do anything.
I continued on and off like this for Term 2 and Term 3. I did manage to go to all the schools and put my name down for relief teaching, but I didn’t really do that much teaching. I couldn’t stand the thought of heading back into the classroom.
My husband got pretty worried about me and really encouraged me to phone the Department to put my name down to full time teach in the last term of the year. I’m glad I listened to him. I managed to pick up a music specialist role full time for the final term. It was fantastic and it really got me back into the swing of teaching.
So I didn’t quit teaching yet, but stick with me we’re nearly there.
We ended up staying in Karratha for 4 years and I had various teaching roles at most of the schools within Karratha. My hubby and I decided that it was time to head back to Perth. We wanted to start a family and I wanted the support of my family to help.
So again I put in my request to be transferred to Perth. After teaching in the country for 5 years I thought it would be easy to gain a transfer. But, nope I didn’t get a transfer. They said there were no positions available. So I had to ask for a compassionate transfer based on the fact that my hubby was being moved with his job. More rigmarole to go through.
In the mean time I had also been doing some work with one of the University’s in Karratha. They also offered me a full time position with them in Perth. Well, I thought this was a great opportunity. At the same time the Department managed to find a 1 year temporary teaching position for me, pretty close to my house.
I decided that the University job was too good to be missed, so I asked the Department for 1 year of unpaid leave to pursue the University job. As the University job was only for a year, I could go back to the classroom when this finished.
Well again that didn’t work because the Department refused my request for unpaid leave. They said they weren’t approving any unpaid leave for that year…..
So I made the decision then and there and with no hesitation to quit. I thought that I had had nothing but trouble with the Department and I had finally had enough. It actually felt pretty good. I only had a 1 year contract at the University but I wasn’t worried. I was sure that this was the start of a new chapter in my working life.
And you know what….it was. I stayed with the University while I had my little girl and I’m still there now part time. But what I came to realise with being completely away from primary school teaching, is how much I miss it. And that’s one of the reasons why I started this little ole blog. I love connecting with teachers again and from all over the world. It has totally inspired me to want to be working with kids again.
But I have learned that I am not suited to work for the Education Department. So currently I’m training to be a Learning Specialist. This will involve me working with individual students and small groups. I really want to help those students that have been let down by the system, and I think this is the best way to do that. My specialised training is in understanding learning disorders and applying the appropriate intervention strategies. I have my first workshop this week.
This is the beginning of a new journey and I am super excited….