Moving from the classroom to the boardroom – My exit strategy from teaching after 20 years.

leaving teaching

I was 22 years old in 1994 when I was appointed to my first ever ‘proper’ job, an English teacher in a secondary school in Runcorn in the North-west of England.  I had my own classroom; my tutor group ; full-time salary; 13 weeks holiday a year and a pension scheme. Wow!

My Dad was beyond proud, as I was the first child in our family to graduate university. This achievement outperformed anything he could ever have hoped for from the shop floor in the Viaduct Foundry in 1960 when he met my Mum.

He told me that I could now relax as I “have a job for life.” Looking back, he said it as if it was a good thing!  A teacher was considered a “damm good job,” a “proper profession.”

For over twenty years I held on to the misguided gratitude of the security that came with ‘a job for life,’ to the extent that I slowly and systematically disappeared, losing any sense of self worth along the way.  To be frank my job for ‘life’ was costing me exactly that – my life; my quality of living and at times my mental health.  

I can’t even begin to think of the moments I missed from my eldest child’s early years. That guilt can still slay me when I least expect it.

Teaching over three decades of educational change, when what is frowned upon as bad practice in 1996 becomes the latest pedagogy and the new ‘outstanding,’ eventually results in not feeling so much as a job for life but a life sentence. 

The Holy Grail being that great teachers’ pension you can get your hands on when you’re about 68.

How is a job for life a good thing if it makes your life so miserable?

So, at the age of 42, with a marriage behind me (which lasted 13 years longer than it should because I was either too busy or too exhausted to leave!) I went. I left teaching under a cloud, looking back I left with nervous exhaustion and just in the nick of time.

I then entered this whole new world that was happening outside of the classroom. Business, entrepreneurialism, hustling or trading, whatever terminology suits, there was this brilliant new foundland to be conquered. The land of the free…becoming your own boss. An empire to be built. 

Fortunately, my exit strategy was simple: To capitalise on the skill that had remained steadfast despite the years paperwork and assessment procedures that had tarnished the edges. I entered the world of tutoring. 

I started to tutor and money exchanged and hands and I was trading.

I developed, expanded, learned and grafted. As a result I am now able to actually live my life and see my children grow and develop with my guidance not my annoyance because I constantly have to be doing ‘school stuff.’

Don’t get me wrong, in many respects there is something to be said for the security of the pay packet that comes with ‘a job for life,’ but that’s about it. Also sitting bolt up right at 3am with panic that I would be homeless wasn’t uncommon in the early days.

Yet, it was also like being born again, able to be out and about at any given time in the day. I could plan my days with complete autonomy.

I grew my business, Conexus Tuition, I scaled it from one local class and expanded throughout the North West with a team of talented tutors offering group tuition in a whole variety of venues. 

I entered networks of worlds I didn’t know I ever existed and I love it.

The one gift that being so desperately miserable has given me, is the ability to compare and be grateful. For, even if I am having a bad day, I stop and think what I could be doing if I was still in a school and you know what? The world always seems brighter.

I have made no secret of the fact I have also expanded using the franchising model and it is at this point I help people like myself leave their ‘jobs for life’ not just teachers but all areas of work that garners no pleasure any more. 

As I now have the time to watch my children grow, I often stop and think what they will end up doing. I have absolutely no idea but I can assure you that having a “job for life” is not the end game for my two, I want for my children –  a life.

I know many wonderful people have, like me, forged an exit strategy from a job they loved and are thriving on the other side of the gate. My job for life wasn’t for life as it turned out, but that really isn’t the end of the world.

About the author: Sharon Cawley is the business owner of Conexus Tuition Ltd and Conexus Tuition Franchising Ltd 

For further information go to www.conexustuition.co.uk or about franchising opportunities.

Conexus Tuition- Head Office

3 Responses

  1. Such a wonderful inspirational woman. You impacted and changed so many wonderful young people’s lives (mine included) in the great work you do.

  2. Fantastic! I trained as a teacher later in life and found it emotionally and physically exhausting. I’ve also reinvented myself but as a resilience, emotional management and wellbeing trainer, helping children and teachers.

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