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….
Graphic Credits: My Cute Graphics, Whimsy Primsy & Little Red’s School House.
Wow. What a story. Unfortunately, what you went through happens way too often. I have come very close to quitting the profession too many times. I have come to my breaking point (or what I thought was my breaking point) often. Blogging and creating resources for other teachers has kept me going because, like you, I really enjoy connecting with other teachers. Just when I think that I’ve had enough and that things aren’t going to improve, I read an inspiring story and am pulled right back in. Good luck with your new journey! I’m sure it’s going to be an amazing one! 🙂
Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment. And yes I do agree with you that unfortunately these types of stories are way too common. I’m so glad that you haven’t quit teaching and have stuck at it. I totally agree with you when you say blogging and creating resources has kept you going….that is so true with me too. I have met such inspirational, amazing and dedicated teachers from all over the world. I feel very lucky to have connected with such wonderful teachers.
Thanks for your well wishes.
Hi Mel, big congratulations for the new directions, would love to hear more about it!
Thanks for the congrats…..mmmm there’s quite a bit to catch up on to get you up to speed with all the ins and outs of it 😉 Maybe we need a skype session?
Love to have a catch via skype, if you see me online give me a call.
Mel, wow, what a story. It was very interesting to read about your educational journey. I was amazed at the experiences that you have been through. I bet you are so much stronger and wiser for it now. I am happy that I know more about you and what you now have to offer. I believe that things happen for a reason and it sounds like you have found a happy path. Thanks so much for sharing this story, it must of been difficult.
Yes it was difficult to share, but I’ve been holding on to this baggage about it for a long time, so it was really quite therapeutic. I feel really good about the new direction and am so pleased to have met such wonderful and passionate educators (such as yourself) within Australia and from all over the world. Thanks for your support!
Hi!! I’ve seen you around the tpt forums and FB, so thought I would leave you a comment. I enjoyed your latest post and hearing about your experience. I currently work as a learning specialist (from teaching 2nd grade and special education) so I would be more than happy to speak to you about the job if you ever wanted to reach out! 🙂
The Wise Owl Teacher
Thanks so much for stopping by and connecting! It’s great to meet another person that has experience as a learning specialist. Thanks for the offer to speak to me more about the job. I think I’ll definitely take you up on that….
Your story sounds remarkably similar to mine. I am in the US and starting my third year of teaching in August. I received similar awards in college then was unable to find a job my first year old, and then the job I finally got was a first year from hell (including the lawyers and blackmail!) Last year was better but I worry that if it happened again, I would quit because of the emotional turmoil it put me through. I love teaching and children, but the political issues are hell.
Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment. I’m sorry to hear that you have also experienced something similar. This is a sure fire way to lose fantastic teachers if this is how we’re going to treat them in their first year. I’m glad your last year was better and I hope that the political issues fade away so you can focus on what you’re supposed to…..the art of teaching!
All the best
What an incredibly shocking story. I’m sorry that your teaching journey began like that, but I’m glad you’ve found your place in education.
Thanks for swinging by my blog :-D. I know, it is quite a shocking story and definitely not the way a graduate teacher should be introduced to teaching. But you said it perfectly…I think I have now found my place in education…
Hi. I am so sorry to hear about your trials and tribulations, but am truly shocked that twice in the article above there are apostrophes for plural words! I was hoping to assume it was a typing/copy error, but since it was twice, I fear it may have been your own mistake. Oh dear oh dear… and you a top student? (“mine’s” instead of ‘mines’ and “University’s” instead of ‘Universities’). Poor.
What a story Melinda! You have shown through the story that you should never give up. And why there should probably be less administrative involvement in education
I know…..I just read it again and am still quite astounded that a new teacher can be treated that way. But, I’m so happy with what I’m doing now 🙂
What an interesting and challenging storing, Very touching and motivating all.
I wish you will actualize your dream goals.
Love to continue with your site.
Such a story of Education Department “not caring’ and not being professional. All too familiar for too many people. I left a state department many decades ago, did a few other jobs along the way, and never went back to them except for some CRT work when kids were young and when we had financial and health issues. I teach part-time in the Catholic system and I have managed to enjoy it more because of greater freedom in some ways and less bureaucracy: the Principal employs her staff.
I wish you all the best with the blog and finding a rewarding and enjoyable occupation.
A familiar story! What quals did you do to become a learning specialist?