How I Gave Up A Perfectly Well Paid Job And Became A Professional Artist Instead: Part 1

So why does someone give up their job and become an artist without the promise of a steady income? I'm going to have to spend a fair while explaining why I made this terrifying move because the change in my mindset didn't just happen overnight. Stick with it and we'll eventually get to the arty stuff.

After eighteen years of teaching infants in various schools around the country, the prospect of having to teach for another twenty-seven years before I could retire seemed to be way beyond what I was capable of. I was completely burnt out. The changes to pensions that the Government were proposing and the rise of the Academy were the final straws. I decided to leave teaching and give up a relatively well-paid job. Easier said than done you're thinking...

Teachers. Start at nine o'clock. Finish at three. Have massive holidays. Play with plasticine all day. They're having a laugh.

Complete myth.

Yet it's a myth that I believed when I went into teaching. The fact that it was incredibly hard work came as a bit of a shock. When teaching, I worked twelve hours most days and spent a fair portion of Sunday working too. The European work time directive doesn't figure in teaching in the slightest. Also bear in mind that working with a class of five to seven-year-olds can tire you out in just one day - as colleagues who occasionally covered my class found out - and you'll see why I was on the verge of exhaustion every year. (There was one instance where I collapsed and smashed my head into a door. Luckily the door was slightly open so I didn't cause any brain hurt.)

Ah, you say, what about those massive holidays? Well, since I left teaching I have worked in a couple of jobs with far fewer holidays. But the difference is that they are proper holidays where I can relax. I can switch off. I never switched off from teaching and there was always work to be done in that supposed leisure time. I feel like I have way more holidays now (despite the figures showing that I have less than half the time off that I used to.) Everyone would love the holidays that teachers have but probably wouldn't want the job that goes with them.

Add into this a government that hasn't got a clue about what life is like in the real world (I would include the New Labour government from 1997 to 2010 in this too), who think that all teachers work in lovely leafy suburbs with children who can spout Jean-Paul Sartre and solve differential equations at the age of two, and you've got a recipe for demotivation and a severe lack of morale. By the time I left, the pressure had dramatically increased and has continued to do so since.

I used to live for moments (mainly the odd day in the holidays) but now I'm able to live in the moment. My work/life balance was 90% work and 10% life (and in that 10% I still ended up thinking about work).

Something had to change.

So I left.

I could rant and rant about teaching, but I'm conscious that I need to get around to art at some point. But there's one last thing that I would like to make clear, the children I taught were all great with no exceptions. The time I spent with them was fantastic and we actually managed to have a fair amount of fun. It should be the best job in the world, but sadly...

Next time, I'll look into the money - or the lack of money - situation. (I promise, no more ranting about teaching.) See you then. Now, where's my plasticine? I'm getting withdrawal symptoms...

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