What are we going to do now?, redux

This is what it comes down to:

Last Day of Service : ________________

Please tick your main reason for resignation:
(*Delete as appropriate.)

___ Better Prospects in Private Sector
___ No-Pay Leave Not Approved*Childcare/Accompany Spouse/PDL/Private Affairs
___ Join Independent School
___ Dissatisfied with Compensation & Benefits
___ Career Change
___ Dissatisfied with *Workload/Scope of Work
___ Lack of Career Development
___ Health reasons
___ Other Reason(s):

I confirm that the information given above for my resignation is correct.

Signature of Officer

Date of Notice of Resignation

Please note that interest will be charged for late settlement of any financial liabilities (eg. overpayment of salaries, liquidated damages, etc).
When I handed it to my boss, she started. "There's a form for it? You don't have to write a letter?"

Guess not.

* * *

I used to think I would write an irate letter when the day finally came: a letter filled with venomous diatribes against the misplaced priorities of the education system, coloured with sarcastic remarks about the empty Newspeak that has come to pass as professional dialogue and education development plans, concluding with self-righteous wounded disappointment at the demise of ideals and hope.

Instead, there's just this form.

What this form doesn't say: I've had a really good year working under someone whom I feel is a good boss. I really have had very little to complain about. I would recommend this place in a heartbeat to anyone that I thought would fit in and have as much fun as I've had. And the fact that this has been a great place to work has only made it harder for me to reach my decision to leave. Over and over this year, I've asked myself, "You sure you're going to quit? But you have it so good here --- good colleagues, the workload, good environment. You sure you want to give it all up?"

Yes. Yes, I am.

The workaday reason is this: I can't do the teaching thing anymore. Resuming the job, this year, something didn't sit right with me. I knew what needed to be done, how to get a class from point A to point B. But I struggled so much trying to think up ways that would engage them and help them to learn, and I wound up falling back on the me-talk-you-listen fashion (aka 'chalk and talk') that I was trying so desperately to avoid. Trying to plan lessons for each week soon hit a magnitude of difficulty on the order of planning a dinner menu with only fruit and salt in the fridge, or designing a wall mural with only white chalk and the ability to draw stick figures.

I suppose it didn't help that all around me I had colleagues with creativity oozing out their ears. I used to be like them; lesson planning used to be a cinch. But I've changed, I guess, and no matter how hard I try to retune my brain, I don't think that way anymore.

Now when you've got a teacher who can't teach and doesn't enjoy putting on the ol' song-and-dance routine in the classroom anymore, well, maybe that teacher shouldn't be teaching then.

* * *

As for the other reason I'm leaving, I can only quote Alfian Sa'at again: "If you care too much about Singapore, first it'll break your spirit, and finally it will break your heart." The casino "debate". The bloggers punished for "sedition". The "relocation" of Hock Kee House residents. The imminent demise of Geylang Serai. And all just this year.

I've been on the inside too. I've seen what I've seen and I've done what I've done. They get the job done, I'll give 'em that, but it's a job I want no part of, here on out. There are plenty of technocrats to take my place anyway. They won't miss me.

My parents have always said, "Change the system from within." I think I believed them, for a while. But I can't change a system when its fundamentals are so alien and divorced from my own. There is no basis for dialogue or discussion. Stay and be co-opted? I don't want that on my gravestone. Life, is elsewhere.

* * *

So here I go, into the blue. No new job yet, though feelers and resumes have been sent out. Friends have been extraordinarily supportive (thank you) and family --- uh, I haven't told my parents yet. I'm hoping to wait till the last possible moment, in the hope that I'll have a job offer by then to allay what I imagine will be their understandable concern about me striking out like this, at the age when they were having their first child (coincidentally, me).

I did blog about this some time ago, in a deliberately vague fashion, because it wasn't exactly public news then and I was in that uniquely bloggery quandary of wanting to blog about something, but not wanting the wrong people (i.e. people I hadn't told myself) to hear about it from my blog somehow. And then it turned out that some students read my blog, so I shied away from the subject altogether, because I didn't want them to think they were the reason I was quitting. (They're not, but a lot of things can be misconstrued over the internet.)

But people know, now. I was even able to coolly discuss it today with a colleague I hardly know, which then elicited, unsolicited, his remark that he would probably leave too, after a couple of years, to go see what else is out there. Other colleagues in the know have been wondering if I was really going to go through with it and I kept making jokes about reminding myself to submit my resignation letter before the end of November. But there's been no doubt in my mind. I'm good to go.

So I handed in my form to the boss today, which I suppose puts paid to any speculation that I might still be around in the new school year, and we had a really good conversation, as we always do. And then I walked out of her office, thinking, "So this is what it feels like to quit your job."

I usually end these self-indulgent maunderings with a Buffy quote:
Wesley: You need a strategy.
Buffy: I have a strategy. You're not in it.
Wesley: This is mutiny.
Buffy: (long pause) I like to think of it as --- graduation.
--- "Graduation Day Part 1", Buffy the Vampire Slayer
That works. But just this once, I'd like to end instead with something that I saw on an ex-student's blog recently:
"tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"
That, my friends, is the most precious question of them all.


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At 11/11/2005 8:44 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

All the best, Tym.

At 11/11/2005 8:47 am , Blogger louist said...

it's kind of depressing to see a teacher leave. makes me wonder what i'll be doing 9 years down the road, when it's my turn to reach this junction.

funny how we can start out so full of hope, huh?

At 11/11/2005 8:56 am , Blogger christine said...

Hey... Only got to know about your blog recently (or rather knew but thought it might be weird to even read a teacher's blog but then the art girls started gushing about your post about their coursework so i took a look today) and I truly am sad to hear that you'll be leaving because then it'll be hard to see you again! (not sure if you'll want to see us though =P)

but it's been great having you as our teacher, you're one of the most knowledgeable teachers I've ever had the privilage to meet and will probably ever meet. (seeing how you're no longer my teacher you know I mean it cos there would be no point saying what I didn't mean would it?)=)

Rather long comment i know.

At 11/11/2005 9:50 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

and so it is, tym.

like Arthur says in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: "How many roads must a man walk?"

i may be walking down the same road as you in the near future.

best wishes, Tym.

At 11/11/2005 10:12 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Tym,
When you leave, remember that, whether you think so or not, whether your students/their parents/your P/HOD, etc ever said so or not, you really have done 'something worthwhile with your life'. I still believe very much in education, though I'm not so wild about the job, and I do believe anyone who is a part of it is doing something good, at least some of the time.

All the best for your job search. People tend to think that teachers are 'unmarketable' because our 'experience' is not relevant for any other job. That is not always completely true. However, because many people think that, you may have to 'suffer a pay cut' in your next job. But whatever it is, experience is experience and you have learnt many 'life' lessons in your teaching job.

And, that form! Yes, it seems weird to resign by filling in a form, doesn't it? I felt as though I was obliged to attach a proper letter to it but was told 'no need, lah'.

At 11/11/2005 10:57 am , Blogger cole. said...

you'll still be a teacher, but maybe in another sense.

At 11/11/2005 11:43 am , Blogger sUdkeOki said...

I don't usually keep my eyes and mind on pure words for more than 5 minutes. But yours held 'em for an hour or so. It even led me to read your very first blog. I was especially affected by what you wrote on Sept 13 2001. I noted your interest in publishing. So do I, but I'm not even half as good with words as you. I actually just returned from a failed attempt in finding a job in the publishing mecca of nyc. Would you consider an editorial job now?

At 11/11/2005 1:31 pm , Blogger Elia Diodati said...

Join the club of ex-teachers :P

It's your life; no one can tell you what you *have* to do with it. But in this day and age, one never really stops teaching.

At 11/11/2005 8:24 pm , Blogger NARDAC said...

Good luck on the next move. Knowing you, I'm sure it won't be too long before you land something more plummy and get to rag about it. And you knew you had to do it sooner or later... so big thump on the back. Courage and love!

At 11/11/2005 9:44 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well Tym, we all have to pen that letter at some point or another.

Onward ho!

At 11/11/2005 11:19 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

wah. MCQ resignation form! piece of cake procedure after all the civil service rules and regulations that one has had to abide by for so long.
all the best with landing your next job soon!

At 11/12/2005 5:44 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello, just wanted to wish you the best of luck for the future!

I'm sorry you had to do that 'chalk and talk' thing, but I'll just like you to know that until this year, my class never made any effort to contribute to class discussions at all, for both gp AND lit. You're one of the teachers who made us try ! :)

And, a few months ago, one of the guys said, "She knows everything!"

It's been great having you as our teacher, nice to know that you've put in so much effort even when you were struggling with those issues. :D

And...if you ever run into us at pubs/coffeeshops/inconvenientpublicplaces, please don't run away. :D

At 11/12/2005 8:53 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi ms bala, it's a shock to read about your resignation. But still, good job(for what you have done for us and you're doing for yourself right now)! Glad that our class have had you before you leave
oh... and is the good boss here 'ms. low'?

At 11/12/2005 11:19 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

heya, jus wanna wish you the very best, whatever you do next..

i thought of being a teacher once, but i knew that someday, i'd reach the point where you're at now.. and it'd be time to leave...

you made a brave, but right decision! so, all the best!!

At 11/12/2005 1:09 pm , Blogger  said...

eh wa lao, K & you beat me to it?!

reckon i can use that resignation form too? =)

At 11/12/2005 1:30 pm , Blogger ampulets said...

Yay!!! good, happy for you!!! :>

At 11/13/2005 1:27 am , Blogger Tym said...

Thanks for all the kind words and well wishes, everyone. Nothing like a resignation notice to bring all the lurking student readers out of the woodwork, I see ;)

I don't think the experiences I've had and the place I'm in right now are necessarily the inevitable path taken by every teacher (or anyone in a job with vague associations of nobility or idealism. It just so happens that this has been my journey and this is the logical next step for me to take. I would hardly regard myself as emblematic of the entire profession :P

ShrL > I am, in fact, looking for work in the writing/editing/publishing fields. Anything editorial would be lovely!

儒 > I don't think you can use the form because you don't have a current boss who can sign off on it. That's the second part of the form, that I didn't reproduce here :)

At 11/13/2005 10:49 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good luck.

At 11/14/2005 2:42 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Tym,

your post echoes exactly what my wife is currently going through, though neither of us can imagine her doing anything else. It is doubly odd now that I just entered Edu HQ myself.

I'll keep an eye out if I see any openings in the publishing front.

At 11/14/2005 5:41 am , Blogger Tan Kok Seng said...

Godspeed. I hope there will be a strong wind that takes you where you want to go...

At 11/14/2005 8:59 am , Blogger Tym said...

paranoid > My domain name is named toomanythoughts.org for a good reason, you know ;)

Lucian > Thanks!

At 11/15/2005 11:08 am , Blogger Kiv said...

Filling in forms might not be such a bad idea actually.
After all, resignation letters do get recycled among friends and ex-colleagues pretty often, so it's not really very much different from inserting your personal info into a standard template.

I speak for myself at least.

That was how it was when it was my turn.
And u know what, not long after I threw in, I had my immediate supervisor coming back to me telling me I'd forgotten to sign.


At 11/17/2005 10:16 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

it's a waste to see u leave. cos u're one of the few teachers i know who really know her stuff. it's a loss for the school, but im leaving, so it doesnt really matter. =) good luck. (and u havent tell us which secondary sch u came from.)

At 5/01/2006 10:17 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, I came across your blog when I have every intention to quit. My bond ends on 1st december this year and seeing how your life has changed from the time u tendered the resignation letter to your current postings, it has given me the strength to hold on for another 6 months.

I will survive this. Thank You very much for letting me know that I am not the only one who feels this way.


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