I began teaching in a sixth-form college. Throughout the ten years I worked there, pressure on results and changing qualifications and syllabuses meant that we were on an ever-faster treadmill of writing new assignments and marking assessed coursework.
Towards the end, I was also looking after elderly and ill parents.
This meant that I finally went under and I ended up taking about three months off with anxiety. On my return, still struggling and under intense scrutiny, I asked if I could go part-time and was refused.
So I left teaching.
We are lucky in that my partner and I had both had good, well-paid jobs and had saved for a rainy day. The rainy day had arrived.
But after a break of a few months, I signed on with an agency doing cover supervision, exam invigilation and TA work. I worked with all ages from nursery to high school and I enjoyed it.
One school I was sent to offered me a permanent job doing special needs support for a child in year 4 with a statement, although this involved general TA work as well.
I loved it. It was nice to be working with children and to still be doing some actual teaching, in some cases, with a single child or with pairs and small groups.
There were times when, sitting in the class during a lesson I thought “I wouldn’t have done it like that”, but I think moving to a completely different phase helped. It gives an interesting insight into the things that observers spot in your lessons that you miss.
Teachers (and most, but not all children) treat you with respect and generally TAs are actually very skilled at what they do.
The best bit? With no, or very little, planning or marking I was suddenly free to enjoy actually helping children to learn.
Mary Cooper is a former teacher and is now a TA in the north of England