As a teacher, who takes the biscuit with thirteen weeks holiday a year, I tend to wish away days and weeks. Whether it is because of our difficulty to live in the present, which I wrote about last week, or just my love for holidays and lie-ins, I have wished away another five and here we are – half-term! This half-term, in particular, is a milestone.
It is the first half-term of 2017 and my first half-term at my new school. In October 2016 I decided to make a change, enact an upheaval in my own life; altering everything I was used to and knew. It was a decision driven by hurt, stress and, honestly, the feeling of impending doom. At night, I saw my career nose-diving into an opaque black tunnel, I saw myself playing the blame game in months to come and saw any sane synapses flinching and threatening to snap.
There are many ways to interpret my decision to leave – I was being impatient, unable to wait and see, I was doing what was best for me, putting myself first for once, or I was quitting because I couldn’t handle it. I’d like to put forward my own interpretation, in the hope it helps a few others make difficult decisions; I was being resilient.
In the weeks leading up to leaving several people threw in their two cents, some supportive, others not so. One stood out. In sharing my fears, frustrations and fragility, I was told that “Well, it is about being resilient, isn’t it?” The not-so-subtle subtext was that I was giving up when I should have carried on and dealt with it.
I have a quitter’s past. I gave up gymnastics, I peaked at the low bar and couldn’t cartwheel. I gave up learning to play the keyboard because I struggled with incorporating my second hand. I was a serial part-time worker from age fifteen to twenty, over six jobs in those years, lasting just months; I got bored of monotony and graft, so I quit. I even left living at University in my final year to commute from home, over four hours a day. You could say, I’ve been a dedicated quitter.
Thing is, what all these instances have in common, apart from university, is I quit because I honestly felt I’d peaked; given my all. This time was different, I felt stifled, driven into the ground; into a direction I did not want to go. In the process of leaving I was out of my depth – I was an NQT contracted to a school and organisation, stepping out and away could incur issues I did not foresee. I interviewed for a teaching position for the first time, with no practise or guidance, I ended up teaching my interview lesson with no materials, thanks to a formatted USB, and I wrote my first, ‘proper’ resignation letter which I handed over trembling. Quitting was not the easy option.
Resilience, is about your ability to withstand something, your durability and your flexibility. Resilience does not have to mean staying put and abstractly dealing with the issue. I decided to make a change, a great one which took confidence, strength and determination to succeed. Staying put was making me unhappy, beginning to push me back over an edge I thought I’d seen the back of – it was not making me stronger. I was falling out of love with my profession, distancing myself from the people around me and giving up because fighting seemed pointless. Five weeks ago, I was far from durable or flexible. My decision to ‘quit’ changed this.
Change is uncomfortable, this is what makes those who make it, resilient.