“Do what you’re good at” is the general advice. I’ve followed that in the past, and I’ve come a real cropper from it. This week has been a busy one, and it’s reminded me why I no longer do things just because I can.
Last Friday lunchtime I was suddenly offered a place on a Cycle Training Instructor’s course, to run all week in Manchester. I accepted, and the last four days have been an exciting blur of learning and practise.
There were quite a few teachers on the course, and I enjoyed hearing their experiences and sharing my own. I started in secondary schools, then worked in a Pupil Referral Unit, moved on to work for the LEA teaching the children who’d been excluded from the PRU, and finally taught in prisons. I have pretty much specialised in Behavioural Management rather than a particular subject area.
I was good at it. I felt that the input I gave on this course was valued, and it reminded me of the good times when I taught wayward kids. It was challenging and rewarding. I earned good money as I climbed the career ladder, and I was a respected professional.
I could go back to it. I could do it again. I could be rather good at it.
It took me a long time to learn this lesson: don’t do something just because you can. Don’t do something just because you’re good at it. Don’t do something because other people say to you “wow, I wish I could do that!”
There was a flip side. There always is. I was good because I cared, and I worked hard, and I strove for improvement. I was tired – physically and emotionally – all the time. If I look at it objectively, I was good at my duties but I was not good at my job because the job was far more than the sum of the parts. I could deal with angry teenagers and paperwork and the LEA. But could I fit it all together and be a good and fully functioning adult with spare time, balance and a decent home life? No.
If I were only measuring success on being good at the everyday duties – hell, I was brilliant! But taking a step back and measuring success on being a well rounded and sane human being…. Nope.
It’s easy to forget to see the bigger picture and when you’re young, career and jobs can seem so important.
I loved the cycle training course. Now I’m (provisionally) qualified to teach Bikeability (the new cycling proficiency) in schools. It’s an exciting new opportunity, and I am glad that I used to be a teacher – the experience is hugely valuable. But would I go back to it? Heh… what do you think….!