Education Quandary

'I have had a bad year teaching. Is it tiredness or burn-out? And, if I quit, are there jobs elsewhere?'
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The Independent Online

Hilary's advice

All teachers are tired at this time of year. Some are more tired than others.

Why, exactly, have you had a bad year? Was it the class you had to teach? A pressurised timetable? A syllabus you didn't engage with? Or a head who wasn't up to the job? You say you've been teaching for six years. What have other years been like? Have you been getting steadily disenchanted with the job, or was this year a blip?

Only rigorous self-questioning will help you find answers, and it is hard to do this when you are so tired. However, whatever you do, don't make a radical career move in this state either.

Try to do some preliminary thinking now, at the end of term. If answers come up, catch your department head, or head, for a word about the difficulties you have been facing and how you want to avoid or minimise them next year. Don't be afraid to do this. It is a sign of strength, not weakness, that you are thinking about your professional needs.

Over the holiday, think some more. If you do decide that you want to leave teaching, try to get a fix on the direction that you would like to go in afterwards. Then do your research and see what routes are open. Teachers move on into a whole variety of fields - training, IT, human resources, the arts - but the last thing that you want to do is to snatch at something in panic and then find that you've jumped from the frying pan into the fire.

Readers' advice

I was in a similar position nine years ago. I had taken up teaching secondary school maths after I found myself as a single parent with two children to support. After seven years, I knew that it was time for a change.

I had grown tired of the school system and of the struggle to teach the subject that I love. I had a daily 50-mile round trip and feared that I would either have an accident or become ill. After looking at options, I contacted Kumon Educational UK and was accepted as an instructor. I have been running my Kumon Study Centre since October 1997 and offer after-school classes in maths and English.

Now I get satisfaction from really helping children and seeing them grow and develop. I have a lower income than before, but a more relaxed lifestyle and a higher quality of life.

I am still working in education but as a self-employed professional, without the stress of being in school.
Sue Macdonald, Lincolnshire

Every year, in July, my wife, who is an English teacher, says that she is going to quit. Every year, by the time that we come back from holiday in August, she is making plans for next term.
Gus Mooney. Essex

I used to work in laboratory research and now teach in a primary school. My days are varied, rewarding, and full of human interest. I feel it is a privilege to teach. When people moan to me about teaching, I say they have no idea what other jobs are like.
Jean Bedeer, London NW10

Next Week's Quandary

Dear Hilary,

As a secondary head, I see more and more children coming from primary school already switched off from sport. It is clear to me that this affects their health, motivation and wellbeing, but how can we reverse the trend? My PE teachers work hard, but find it hard to reach pupils who have already given up.

Send your letters or quandaries to Hilary Wilce, to arrive no later than next Monday,at 'The Independent', Education Desk, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or fax: 020-7005 2143; or e-mail: Please include your postal address. Readers whose letters are printed will receive a Berol Combi Pack containing a cartridge pen, handwriting pen and ink eraser