Reader Request Week: Life after teaching

Yes, yes, it's definitely been more than a week since I solicited requests from readers about what they'd like to hear me prattle on about. And in fact, this entry is not in response to any of those requests (some of which are still outstanding, sorry!) but to a comment that came in several weeks later from (an) Anonymous:
... Am in the same industry as you before you quit and will probably follow your footsteps in leaving the service by the end of the year. Its been a few months since you left your previous job now and I can also see that you are still working as hard. But on hindsight, what are some of the special moments whereby you know you made the right decision? Do you get flashbacks and then realize that you are glad you left?
I don't know that there've been any "special moments" this year, when it's hit me with a flash of light, à la Saul en route to Damascus, that my decision to quit teaching last year was "the right decision". For one thing, I've never had any doubts about quitting, once I acknowledged to myself early last year that it was a viable --- if potentially terrifying --- choice. Even before I left, but after I'd started to leave warning signs, it was the only path that I felt at peace about and that kept me from going completely out of my mind during the last few months on the job.

There have certainly been moments since I left when I'm reminded why it is that I left teaching, and I'm the gladder for it. Something as simple as not having to wake up everyday before dawn is a special moment. Ditto having shrugged off the dry routine of morning assemblies and the staid pace of having one's day dictated by the school bell. I'm unreservedly glad that I will never have to mark another examination script or class assignment again, or tear my hair out over the egregious misuse slash abuse of "whereby" or "economical" (instead of "economic"). And I'm thrilled, thrilled, to leave behind the meaningless corporate doublespeak from Ministry bureaucrats and school administrators that filters its way insidiously down to the lowest levels (even though I still deal with it in other forms).

Pretty in pink

Instead of all that, I take regular two-hour lunches (even though a number of them are working lunches with the boss), and meet and work with people from a wider variety of backgrounds. Most days I dress like a graduate student --- or an undergraduate, depending on how sloppy slash uninspired I feel. If a job goes badly, I can only blame myself, not some amorphous bosslet or organisation. And if I don't work, I don't eat (so to speak).

And lest I be accused of painting far too rose-tinted a view of life-after-teaching, I should point out that I also make less money now --- and that's without medical and leave benefits.

Nevertheless, to every person who's asked over the last few months if I've had any regrets in leaving teaching, my unequivocal answer has been: none whatsoever. There are many things I could be doing this year, but teaching is absolutely not one of them.

None of which is to say that teaching is an irredeemably crappy job that everyone should flee screaming from. I know people who teach and love it, despite the usual grouses --- yay for them! But I was done with the job and all it entails. It's not the job for me, not right now. Of that, I'm absolutely certain.

Onward ho, then. What's next?


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At 6/02/2006 7:41 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

As you know, I'm planning to quit teaching as well but not for the same reasons. However, I am contemplating a career away from teaching (at least in Singapore) as I sometimes find it stifling and full of pointless bureaucracy. Yet I do like the actual classroom experience of teaching.

Ok, I'm rambling. It's nice to hear from those who have been in the same line and to see I am not the only one feeling this way. :)

At 6/02/2006 7:42 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oops, I meant to leave my nick in the comment above. Sorry.

Piper (http://www.jollypuddle.com)

At 6/02/2006 11:00 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey tym, what DO you do?

At 6/02/2006 2:14 pm , Blogger Kiv said...

I can relate to alot of the sentiments expressed here. It's the same with me - except that I didn't realise how liberating it can be until I left my old job and took on my current one.
No more waking up before dawn every single work day and making myself go to sleep by midnight. Yeah I love that too. And I really welcome the flexibility of not having to live out my day already knowing what it's gonna be like even before stepping out of the house every morning.
Best of all, these days, the lines between weekdays and weekends are blurring so i dun feel like I'm living only on and for Sats and Sundays.

Again like yourself, the trade-off was less pay and no benefits. But hey, like I tell many of my friends, only the really lucky ones get to be rich and happy at the same time.

At 6/02/2006 6:42 pm , Blogger trisha said...

Not playing devil's advocate here but my career path is the exact opposite of Tym's.

I left the corporate sector and went into teaching in my 30's and I remembered saying the exact same words as Tym - that of feeling LIBERATED from the corporate doublespeak and the superficial colleagues!

I guess Liberation (from whatever hellhole we think we're in) is truly relative afterall and one man's meat is really another man's poison.

PS: The waking up at dawn for teachers becomes a non-issue once you have school-going kids yourself and need to wake up at unearthly hours to see them off to school.

At 6/02/2006 9:47 pm , Blogger strangemessages said...

Do you think that, if one only wants to teach in JC, and not in primary/secondary school, one is just not cut out to be a teacher, because one shouldn't be picky about what sort of students to teach if one is genuinely committed to teaching?

and yes, my name lurks behind the "one".

At 6/05/2006 5:32 am , Blogger Tym said...

Piper > Go teach elsewhere. That's what some people I know who love teaching but have their issues with the Singapore education system have done.

ballsy > I'm a freelance writer now. A more grandiose term might be Editor At Large :)

kiv > I have given up on being rich. My brain doesn't seem to be programmed to be interested in the things that this world deems money-making.

Trisha > But there's so much awful corporatespeak in schools these days!! I hope you're not disappointed.

strangemessages > Teaching in Singapore is one of those jobs that has been saddled with a greater moral and social burden than it deserves. If only saints who were "genuinely committed to teaching" became teachers, then the system would be short of a lot more teachers than it already is. Students don't need saints. They just need the right fit for the right moment in their lives. Ditto teachers, in terms of who and what they teach, at different points in their career. Just decide for yourself if teaching is a career or a calling (without feeling guilty if you decide on the former), and stick with it.

At 8/18/2008 6:54 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I did corporate mktg for 10 yrs then became a computer teacher for 6 and just left. I have never been happier. Every career has its negatives..but teaching is for those with a lot of time. As a technology based teacher, most of my prep and grading occurred after dinner..the hours necessary to be a good teacher made me poor..in heart. They would've worked me to death. I have had a tough time transitioning back into corporate. It was sad that society has little knowledge and respect for educators. It's going to take a very long time before the system improves..patience for never seeing things improve...


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