12 years a teacher.

Sorry I have been a bit quiet lately. I haven’t posted for a long time. I haven’t lost my love for education or pastoral care but I have had some developments which I will share with you all over the next few months but let me start, not at the beginning but in the middle to latter part of last year.

I started a new job in August 2014, joining the Senior Leadership Team of a prestigious school in Bangkok. It has kept me inordinately busy- much busier than my previous post in a smaller, less established school but it has been fun and I genuinely love going in everyday.

My writing has been gaining more support and I have been invited to be a speaker at the International Parents Conference in September and asked to contribute to more and more magazines published here in Bangkok – writing for Expat Parents in Bangkok and Teacher Horizons   to name two. I have sadly neglected my personal/professional teaching blog here at Milk With Two. It’s because my life and career is facing a new and exciting direction, I still keep up with the education news from the UK- it makes for depressing reading almost daily but I don’t chase Miss Mcinerney’s blog or religiously follow the Head’s Round Table anymore. It’s not wholly relevant to me being abroad, I don’t have any plans to go back and teach in the UK.

As teachers we have all held long  conversations about leaving teaching, usually fantasy-filled with idyllic plans to retire somewhere far, far away but more and more of my colleagues are leaving the profession and not for pastures abroad or academies different but for new careers entirely. I know I have spent many a day dream wondering what I could do outside teaching. I have always wondered what life would be like if I no longer taught. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ready to leave the profession just yet but am wondering more seriously, what next?

I am in a school which values, supports and cares for its staff where the voice of the teacher is listened to- a rarity. The intake is for children from age 3 – 18 which  is providing new learning and challenges for me each day. I work alongside inspiring colleagues and pupils in a diverse, international school which truly values education. I adore my Year 10 class who provide me with a deeply satisfying teaching experience, they take challenges to a new level and go to the depths of homework and beyond. They have taught new ways to (www.pollev.com) to reach them and I have left some lessons in awe. After one poetry lesson, they bought me an imported Lionel Ritchie CD as a joke of course- but they will never know how much I loved driving home that afternoon, 80s power-ballads all the way, smiling at their humour. Teaching is still a real love in my life.

But I find myself looking to the future and whether I climb the ladder further towards Headship or not, I realised this passing year that the one thing I have been teaching my students each and every day since 2004, is the one thing I have neglected to do myself.

Follow your passion, dream big, aim high.

So I did. I collaborated on a children’s book called Peculia Fright’s Awful Night alongside my friend and former Art teacher Rachel Harker- we created a children’s rhyming picture book. We both have very creative little boys of the same age and we spent a lot of  our maternity leave together in Starbucks, ‘dreaming big and talking of leaving teaching’. Through the pleasure of our sons, we have pursued our passions. Rachel opened Rachel’s Art Shop an online personalised art store for gifts and I write.

Teaching is still fundamentally what shaped and shapes us- a desire to impart knowledge or creativity, to inspire, to keep learning.

So through the eyes of my son, I have been learning about Early Years and Foundation Stage development- the acquisition of language and retention of words through rhyme,  a linguistic fascination of his learning spurred on by countless hours reading Julia Donaldson’s The Gruffalo. I created Peculia Fright to take the everyday and turn it extraordinary because my son loves a rhyming story. The story aims to capture the slightly scary side of imaginative young children- a book they can read themselves or have read to them as a bedtime story. Rachel illustrated it creating captivating images perfectly.Featured image

When we left our school in SE London, where we first met, I headed to Thailand and Rachel went home to Liverpool. She left teaching altogether and I carried on in a sunnier, Ofsted-free climate of 36 degrees.  As we were no longer forced into multiple entry data drives, losing the will to live on 44/50 timetables, cursed with paperwork and long hours of marking, something magical happened…

Our Starbucks dream.

Peculia Fright was written and illustrated. At first we looked into an i-pad app and got as far as having it developed but it fell through. Determined not to give up we went on exploring other opportunities, possibilities – isn’t this what we teach children? Resilience and to work through disappointments and failures?

I researched self-publishing and decided the costs were too high with little return. And then as coincidences happen, I came across Mrs Vyle  via Facebook and it inspired me to submit our manuscript to Britain’s Next Best Seller a crowd-funded startup which launched in March 2014.

Dreaming big, aiming high

A huge amount of support came in the first week shifting over 200 copies in pre-order sales. We have to get to 500 before we secure that publishing dream but we are nearly there!

It’s still going great- we have two months to go. We have offered schools freebies to go with our book- schemes of work and ideas sheets in drama and literacy and art. Interest has come from America, Australia, Thailand, Turkey, Malta, Dubai, Ireland, Singapore… the dream becomes overwhelming with reality that we might just make it as an author and illustrator- the foundations to both of our degrees.

I have often said that leaving [UK] teaching was the best decision ever made, Rachel says the same, it has restored the creativity, passion, vitality and  self-discovery left on the doorstep of the overly-enthusiastic (and knackering) NQT year; when teaching was all about limitless passion enthused lesson planning, overcoming lobbed chairs and tables to secure the taking of a register or the hallowed ground of a written-down lesson objective.

To survive, you become hardened and have a grumpy- teaching face which lasts beyond the 3:30pm well into drinking time with colleagues. I knew my time was nearly up when I sat in the car park on a grey Friday watching the younger NQTS swing their school bags to the local whilst I texted hubby to see if it was me or him picking up the baby and he needed to decide between a ready-made lasagna or pizza from Asda.

Teaching in the UK took away things that I didn’t realise were gone until they suddenly reappeared. Family time, relationships, creativity and ambitions beyond the classroom. I have found them again and am hopeful that I can keep on using them to keep my teaching and learning imaginative and exciting.

Peculia Fright’s Awful Night is available to pre-order from http://www.britiansnextbestseller.co.uk  for 4.49GBP.

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About milkwithtwo

A blog about my experience as a Head of Year, looking at some of the issues faced by young people and teachers in the UK. Offering straight-talking child-centred advice.
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