Monday, June 23, 2008

Changes (3) 

Sixteen years is a long time to stay in one job. It becomes so much more than just a job; no longer something apart from you, the boundaries become blurred, self and job are so enmeshed that pulling them apart must surely be traumatic. Loss of job, whether enforced or by choice, can be like loss of identity. All the more so when so much of family and social life have also been wrapped up in the package.

School rolls are falling significantly in our locality. As things stood, before too long so many classrooms would be standing empty that they’d add up to a whole school’s worth. This prospect was not lost on the accountants at County Hall; you could almost see the ££ signs flashing in their eyes at the idea of selling off so much prime real estate for housing developments. So it is that one of our local primary schools closes its doors for the last time at the end of this summer term, and the children who currently attend there will be transferring to other local schools, mostly to the school where my wife teaches.

Of course, fewer classes need fewer teachers. Even though ‘our’ school is actually growing in size my wife is fortunate enough to have been offered an early retirement package. In just over a month’s time – the day before our son’s wedding in fact - she will finish work at the school where she has taught these last sixteen years.

She loves being in the classroom, and children and parents alike appreciate her interactive, stimulating teaching style. She doesn’t teach by telling, she teaches by asking; she’s spoken of her role as being to help the children become independent learners. But that doesn’t always align well with government targets and prescribed practices; with all the paperwork and reporting required, actual classroom teaching seems to be becoming almost incidental to the job. Moreover it’s a physically demanding job, especially dealing with 4, 5 and 6 year olds. Both her doctor and her acupuncturist have said on many occasions that with her back problems she should not really be in full time work.

It’s going to be quite a dramatic change for her; so much of her life and her social relationships revolves around the school. She wont be leaving teaching altogether – the plan is to carry on doing supply teaching (i.e. standing in for teachers off sick or away) and various other education-related activities, some paid, some voluntary.

Quite a dramatic change for me too. Changes to our lifestyle, reduced ties to this locality so the possibility of moving house becomes a step nearer, but set against that is increased dependence on my salary.

It’s early days yet; I make no predictions what the outcome of all this change might be. But with two out of three offspring moving out and the balance of ties shifting, change may not yet be over.

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