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Thursday, 9 February 2017

Students leave; you stay.  Except when you leave, too.

The earth is still turning and the stars still come out at night - but for a while it has felt like neither were happening.  And so after a lot of soul-searching, I've decided to take leave of (or leave) teaching.

I will not sound original at all when I say that teaching has drained me in a way I had not thought possible.  Perhaps it's also not original to say that it has also sustained me - but not quite to the same degree.  The cons have become a lot more obvious than the pros, so to speak. Over seven years, I have felt an incremental drain on my personal resources that I'm not willing to endure anymore (and endurance is indeed the right word). Fulltime teaching is a beast that I do not wish to ever ride again.

I want to teach, OH! How I want to! The students are on the 'pro' side; the enthusiasm, passion and thoughts of my students will be dearly and sincerely missed.  But I won't miss the tiredness, the lack of energy for my own daughter, the urge to lie on the couch all weekend (and all holidays, for that matter).  I won't miss the institutionalisation of education. It could be so good!  And yet it's not.

It's really heartening that there are some places that are starting to explore the creative possibilities of education in our time.  I've tried to document a few on this blog, and, throughout my career, I've tried to synthesise some of the ideas I thought were (and think are) really valid. But fulltime teaching of 130 students per year (and then another 130 students the following ... and then another the following ...) does not allow for the creative.  Conversations never really have a chance to develop a richness or a depth when you are busy relating to 130 plus of them. I suspect it can be attempted if you are parttime, and I hope, in the future, to have some sort of experience of that.  I am good at what I do.  I've won awards, had positive feedback. Students are upset that I'm leaving.  And me, too.  But it's a choice that's not really a choice anymore.

I'll miss the diversity group I've been teacher representative for.  But students leave, and you stay. It's an unusual model, watching yourself age each year as students all stay the same.  Year 9's are Year 9's every year.  And Year 13's leave at the end of each year. And you stay. 

So I'm choosing not to stay. I'm going to try and figure out a way that the art and creativity of teaching can endure without the feeling of endurance slowly eating at your humanity and energy.  I don't know how long it will take, but it's important enough to try.

Here's a photo essay of contemplation.  All of these places helped me in my journey towards making this brave decision.  I'm really sad, but I'm sort of happy, too.  And I think once I really leave, in two months, the happiness will be very real and very present.  Like these cows.


  1. I've enjoyed following your teaching career Lara. I have felt proud of your achievements (odd I know)and felt you gave a lot of yourself, and that you really loved your pupils, which is something I identified with. I don't miss teaching, but I miss my pupils, and the privilege of teaching them. I look forward to what you do next. with love from Lee-Ann

    1. Thanks, Lee-Ann. That's really lovely to hear. Xx

  2. Hey, um, I met you at Emily Writes' Mother's Day thing, (I'm Ella's mum), and saw your fab write up of it for the booksellers blog, and now I've stalked you like a crazy person.
    Firstly, because I recognised, in the words you did not say, the reality of "I've been doing a really worthy thing for ages that I love and believe in, but it was slowly killing me, like being trapped under a burning couch," and I just wanted to acknowledge that. I have been in a similar place and it's horrible. Hopefully things are lighter for you now.
    Secondly, I wanted to invite you to a Facebook writers group (but one with a difference). It's called Brilliant +Amazing + Writers + Mothers, and it is truly the most supportive and nurturing online creative space I have encountered. There are women there who are all types of writers, from published authors to bloggers, to poets, to academic writers working in a publish-or-die environment, to those who just dream with a pen in their hand. You would be very welcome.
    And lastly, Ella would like you to know that the new English teacher is 'good, but not as good as Ms Liesbeth'
    Much aroha to you. Thank you for making my daughter's first term at school a special one, and well done for making a choice to nurture yourself. ❤️

    1. Hello! Yes! What lovely things to say. Ella is a sweetheart - like I said to you, I hope she keeps writing forever as I saw a deep passion in her soul through her eyes. And stalking - ha ha! Isn't that what Facebook is for!

      I'd love to join the group - should I search for it?