In June 2011 I sat my last A Level exam. As soon as it finished I rushed out to catch the Loop Bus to the other side of town, where I would be having my first ever full time job interview. I was one who left college and avoided university, partly because I couldn’t settle on where I wanted to move to and I didn’t feel like I had enough time to prepare financially. My boyfriend and I had been together for two years already and he had a last minute change to his future plans which looking back now, clearly impacted mine. I’m glad they did.
I always knew I wanted to work in a school and with other people telling me I was good with children and teaching would be a good career for me to get into I didn’t think twice about it. All of a sudden it was what I felt passionate about and really could see myself doing. So I went to this job interview for the role as a Teaching Assistant. The interview went extremely well, I had no fears of what would happen in the Headteacher’s room, I just went with the flow and spoke with passion and honesty. I think I giggled after every answer I gave too, and I had that dry mouth syndrome you get when you talk to much and are nervous to say the right things.
Later that evening I got the dreaded phone call and it came with the best news ever. I still remember the conversation and the shakes of excitement and how the adrenaline just rushed through my heart. They said they were really impressed by my application and interview and wanted me to become a part of their school. Result! I was over the moon and couldn’t wait to let everyone know. My first interview for a full time job and I got it!
So over the year I worked in the Early Years Foundation Stage classrooms (Reception) and familiarised myself with a wonderful team of staff and 60 sweet little children. I loved everyday of it and there was never a morning I woke up and dreaded work. I felt so pleased and grateful to be so young and have a job I loved when some of my friends were struggling with what to do post-college. I also had a lot more money in my bank account. I usually did since I worked quite a lot since the summer I left school, but this was a big chunk of money and a consistent amount so I splashed out on a new (secondhand) car as you do, along with clothes and lots of takeaways.
It was around four months into my time at the school that I realised I had settled in very quickly and was receiving positive feedback about my performance. I had a few added responsibilities which I embraced and I felt like I had been at the school forever. I think it helped that I was working in the first form classrooms so I was growing into the school with the children. This all made me consider training to become a teacher. The teachers I worked with were talented and it showed that they loved their jobs and were making such a positive difference to the children in the classrooms – and obviously the staff around them too! So the hunt for university courses began. I spoke to friends, family and colleagues and my boyfriend trying to find advice on what to do and where to go. In the end I quit my ideal job and settled to move away to Oxford Brookes University.
I loved living away from home and met lots of lovely people. I loved being independent and Oxford is such a beautiful city in which I felt really at home. My campus was up a hill not too far away from the city center, but it felt like I lived in the middle of the countryside. My halls were brand new and en-suite so I had no trouble settling in and making myself a new temporary home. I enjoyed the modules I was studying and put a lot of effort into my work – I even became a group rep. Then my first placement arrived in a school about half an hours drive away. I had the responsibility of driving a partner too, and I didn’t know the roads at all. My first motorway drive was when I moved up to Oxford and I done it alone, before that I had just pottered around my home town in my little Ford KA (my bubble). So before I had even arrived at school I felt a bit of pressure. I loved being in the classroom (Year 2) and it was something new for me as my experience had always been in the Early Years. I taught a phonics lesson with my partner and was observed with OFSTED which was scary but manageable. My placement was just one day a week for five weeks, and I struggled to motivate myself to get up and go in for something I felt wasn’t really exciting me enough. I started suffering from headaches and just generally feeling run down and after a long wait at the doctors I was told I was fine and homesick. He did not care to even check my temperature! SO I started to feel a bit unsupported, alone and misunderstood.
Christmas holidays soon came and I was glad to be packing up to come home. Although I didn’t really want to move back into my tiny boxroom, even if it was temporarily for 4 weeks. I cleaned my room and packed as much as I could fit into my little car, I said goodbye to my friends one by one as they each set off home for the holidays. When I got home I had an assignment to do for English – my favourite subject and it was on Phonics which I feel I know quite well. I sat down and wrote the title out about ten times on my paper, each time screwing it up and rewriting it. I couldn’t concentrate and felt like I had no intention of doing any work.
This is because deep down I knew I did not want to return to university. So without too much conversation with anyone else I quickly emailed my tutor and course leader saying I wanted to quit. Little did I know how my decision would impact my relationships with those around me who had been quiet supportive in my decision to move away. My boyfriend didn’t understand why I was quitting. I let my parents know I wouldn’t be going back, except to pick up the bits I had left behind and I was faced with clear disappointment and a lack of understanding. I had no money to go back to university, I had to borrow petrol money off my boyfriend and I knew that it was the right decision for me. Oxford was an expensive place and the pressure of funding my course and living out of home was costly. Especially when I wanted to fit in and appear to be sociable and up for having a good time with my flatmates and friends. I had got a job as a tutor before I even moved to Oxford because I knew I would need to work to get the extra money but I had to quit after a couple of shifts because I couldn’t commit to the timetables because of the unpredictable university timetables! So even my preparation didn’t help me to continue on my course. All these small factors contributed to my decision to leave.
So I didn’t work for a couple of months at all, I had a bit of student loan money left over which helped me get by with the direct debits and allowed me to still socialise a little bit. Then I got a big unexpected bill that I was told I wouldn’t be faced with for the accommodation costs at Oxford for the remainder of the term. I wasn’t even in the room and I had to pay. The problem was, because I had withdrawn from my course Student Finance had been notified and had asked me for a proportion of my overpaid loan back. I immediately paid this back as I knew I wasn’t entiteld to it and I didn’t fancy having a massive loans company chasing after me! So this letter from Oxford Brookes came at a bad time where I had no money. It was about £852 I owed.
I knew I needed to find my feet again and return to work, so I looked about for my ideal job again. Within a six month period I found myself dipping in and out of jobs:
I waitress-ed in the evenings at a local holiday caravan park – I quit because I didn’t enjoy the working environment.
I worked two temporary weeks at Easter as a play leader and Early Years Manager in Croydon.
I did some behind bar work on a casual basis – I quit because of the late nights and early starts at another job.
I worked as midday Supervisory assistant at an infant school which I enjoyed a lot. So I made an application to restart university at Brighton and continue my progression towards my dream career of teaching. I quit my job at the school and I worked the summer as a play worker and in October I enrolled as a full time student again studying Primary Education (3-7 years).
Again I loved my university course and made a group of friends who I traveled with on the train. I felt confident and sure of my future. Living at home helped with the financial worries, despite the ghastly train prices (thank you Southern Railway!). I got a job for Christmas at Monsoon and after two weekends I quit because I felt like it wasn’t fueling me enough. I couldn’t return to the world of retail after I had worked my idea job as a Teaching Assistant since leaving school. I felt like I was going backwards! I continued submitting my assignments and received really good feedback on them, again giving me confidence I was on the right track. Then placement arrived and it was a 40 minute drive away. I struggled to fund the journey and money worries returned. I tried to be savvy with my pennies, and made packed lunches and thought ahead of what I would need. I emailed my support tutor for guidance and didn’t receive a reply and then another email was sent and I was told it was normal to worry. I felt like my concerns weren’t being addressed and I was being labelled as a worried student teacher because of what the role demanded. This was far from the truth, the role has never really been a shock to me. Having family and friends as teachers and other educational professionals I have not been a stranger to the hard work involved. I was receiving excellent feedback from my observations and really got a buzz from the placement.
Then all of a sudden I felt tired all of the time, fed up with living at home, seeing my old peers graduating and moving onto their second year at university. I felt like everyone else was really happy and I was struggling to enjoy anything because of money worries. I got a throat infection and migraines and in the end was signed off by my doctor – he said it was to help me succeed in my placement. I agreed. Thinking that this would be okay with school and the university but I was wrong. The school were fine with it, they wished me well and hoped that I would be back soon. The university are very strict and it’s black and white on attendance. Five days off and you FAIL. I couldn’t help being ill, I had done everything to prepare myself and it was unfortunate that I got so run down. So I was told not to return to the school – by the University. The school didn’t really understand and I don’t think my partner completely understood either. It was a shock to everyone!
So I appealed and was granted mitigating circumstances, I am set to redo my placement in April and can’t progress into my second year until September 2015. Since then, I have been job hunting, scraping by for money, struggling with my label as a failure and the comments and questions from others. ‘why did you quit again?’ ‘you need to do what you want to do’ ‘do what makes you happy’. Well teaching did make me happy and it wasn’t my fault I was ILL. I actually don’t stand up for myself enough, I let them think what they want and I nod and listen to what they have to say. I know it is me who knows my life the best and I have my boyfriend who I think knows me second best!
In need for money I started working as a Gymnastics Assistant Coach which was great, the hours were perfect for me and working with children kept me engaged in that teaching mentality. I also got a job as a midday supervisory assistant again in a Special Needs School, which I loved. But I quit shortly after starting due to being signed off again for two weeks.
I search for jobs on a daily basis, probably an hourly habit now. I always look for a Teaching Assistant post. I find the ones I like the look of and I have let so many slip because I don’t want to have to quit again due to placement and returning to university. I don’t want to work a part time job and spend the rest of my time wondering what I should do with my life. I need to feel settled and stable, something which for since 2011 I haven’t had or experienced. When things haven’t worked out I have always planned my life around returning to university and to persevere the dream of teaching.
I have been a hypocrite to myself and haven’t been listening to what I knew and felt all along. I miss my first job. I miss supporting a teacher and loving my role. Whenever I am at university I miss school, whenever I am on placement I am unhappy because I enjoy it so much I know it won’t last. I miss earning some money and being able to do the things I would like to do without feeling guilt or worry, simple things like purchasing a double cheeseburger on a Sunday or a new pair of shoes because that makes me feel happy inside.
I’ve made the decision to quit trying to fit the mold and do what others expected me to do. People grow and change, I am not immune to this. The teaching profession changes and this impacts the decisions made. This week I decided to quit returning to full time university to return to the world of work and enjoy my early 20’s while I can. I have never been in a rush to qualify I am not a career driven person. My actions have suggested I am and I want to change that! My future dream is to enjoy my job, move out, have a family and just invest time in the people and things I love.
I am Lauren and I don’t want to be a teacher at the moment, I want to be a Teaching Assistant and study towards a degree part time – purely because I love studying. One day in the future I might opt into a post graduate course in teaching or I might follow a different career path. I will grow into whoever and whatever I am supposed to be and there will be no pressure on myself to ‘succeed’. A job title shouldn’t define my success!
If you are still reading this, I am extremely impressed and thankful that you’ve taken the time to read about this chapter of my life! It’s emotional and hard to accept change and to explain or justify this to people. Hopefully by sharing this I can show that quitting is okay and it can help you get to where you need to be. Now to find that job of mine!