This is a post reflecting my journey as a Teacher. It is part of The Departure Chronicles. The first post is here.
I joined MOE in 2003, stayed in NIE (aka Teachers’College) for 2 years, and was posted to my first school in 2005. I joined my second (and current) school in 2012.
Time really flew when I looked back. All of a sudden, it has been 13 years.
My 3 attempts to quit
In 2008, after 3 years of service in school, my teaching bond ended. I wanted to leave service at that time as I had a bitchy boss* that I couldn’t work with. But it was the start of the GFC and the economy was bad. I had too little money and too little guts. In a bid to escape, I applied to study my Master degree overseas in Perth, Australia. This was my 1st attempt.
*There is always a silver lining in every crappy situation. In hindsight, I pursued FI as I was seeking a solution to the shit I was in. In a twisted way, I can stop work now because she made me dislike working under her so much.
My 2nd attempt was in 2011. I worked 2 full years after coming back from Perth. The same nasty boss was killing my spirit for teaching. It was so bad that I typed out my resignation letter and showed it to a colleague. But due to the Euro crisis, the market was lousy and I was down too much. Desperate, I decided to change my working environment by posting out to somewhere, anywhere. I failed at the Open Posting^ and applied for the Closed Posting^. I was transferred to my current school.
^Open Posting: you can choose the place you want. You apply and see if they want you as well. Closed Posting: you throw yourself into the unknown and get posted to where there are vacancies*
The new school was disappointing at first. Many colleagues were semi-motivated (2 of them quit 6 months later) and the system was “do as you please”. The game changer was when my current boss was posted in. He wanted to make things better for the students. We worked well together and tried changing the department for the better.
The opportunity for sabbatical leave came up and I decided to take a year off to try early retirement. So I left in 2013. I traveled, sold my car, cut down on expenses, simplified my life and focused on being happy. At the end of the one year, I was seriously considering quitting work to live life on my own terms. But I still had love for teaching and felt an urge to return to contribute. I returned to school in mid 2014. This was my 3rd try at leaving.
2 years later, on 5th August 2016, I finally tendered my resignation formally. A thousand miles away, the Rio Olympics begins on the same day. For me, it was the start of a new chapter of my life.
So why quit now? I am not rich, the economy is lousy, and I don’t have a job waiting.
I wrote an earlier post of the straws on my back. It writes of why I am looking for change.
Even now, when things are cast in stone, I still have lingering doubts. Some friends are also questioning my sanity. See some of their comments:
“You resign for these? Brave. Especially in this climate.”
“No need to work?”
“What happened?? Why resign now!!!”
I always have a restless spirit. I can’t be chained to anything for too long. I dislike following instructions cos of seniority, or doing things the same way cos it was the old way. I like order, but I prefer to bend the rules when I can.
I looked at my boss who is always trying hard for the department. He is discouraged but I hope he will never give up. He is a wonderful fellow, but I know I don’t want his job, or the job of his boss. If I can’t be inspired, how do I grow as a person? How can I convince myself to stay and do meaningful work for the rest of my life?
My mum passed away in her 50s, my dad in his 70s. Taking the average of their lifespans, I probably have a good 20-30 years to go. I want to live, not merely exist, so I need to find work that makes me excited every day. I may not have a lot of money, but I have even less time.
I now have the freedom to do whatever I want. It makes me excited but also apprehensive. I am seldom religious but recently, I find myself praying more often for courage, conviction and faith.
The path less traveled
I have worked at 3 full time jobs in my life. This is likely the last one that I will work for money.
In my mind, I see a crossroad. If I continue down the current way, the road is clear with few obstacles. I can even see the end, for there are many who had walked down the same road and I know their stories. But not many are smiling at the end. It is like what you see every morning on the train and buses. People’s faces are long, as they force themselves to go to work for money.
The other path is sheltered with trees and shrubs. The way is not so visible and seems mysterious. Yet it looks inviting. There is a sense of anticipation in the air. I can hear animal sounds in the distance and the rays of sunlight shine through the foliage. I can even see in the distance, curious eyes looking at me. The way looks exciting and adventurous, but there is no clear path. I will need to tread carefully for it is unfamiliar. This is the path less traveled. This is the new journey I have now chosen to walk.
At MOE, there are many good teachers still passionate at their craft. But there are also many who are there cos they can’t be anywhere else and get similar pay. Some of them become resentful, uncooperative and develop attitude issues. They avoid duties, do the minimum and just live for the salaries and holidays.
I do feel pity for these teachers, for being alive yet not truly living. Being around them drains me and I avoid that. Unfortunately, the students have no choice of their teachers. I feel sad for the students when they get such unmotivated teachers who are lousy role models for them.
I want to be surrounded by positive and happy people who are passionate and purposeful about what they do. Now I am not. So there must be change. Only when I am brave enough to change, can I achieve what I am dreaming of.
So now I am leaving on 5th August, the same day the Rio Olympics starts. I am always teaching my students to live the Olympian values: Excellence, Friendship, Respect. I only hope I have taught them well enough, so that in later years when I meet them again, they will recognize that I am still, their teacher.
(A day of being your teacher, always will be like your father)