The leaving teacher (and everyone else)

Checked out

International schools are funny places. A hive of people buzzing around like workers bees.

Life is all about coming and going and international schools stay very true to that, in concept and principle.

I am a teacher.

I am leaving.

I am the leaving teacher. We have all been there. It’s what we go through as international educators.

Please refrain from saying to teachers who are leaving that they have ‘checked out.’ It’s a label you hear all the time during this time of year or much earlier in some cases. Don’t make that generalization to judge just because someone is leaving. Yes, some people do ‘check out’ for whatever reasons. Not everyone leaving needs to be coloured with the same tar brush.

No, I have not checked out (to use your words). I have a lot of things to think about, consider and plan for as I make this transition, right? Schools are living ecosystems, not a grocery store where you pay at the end of a shop and it’s nothing more than a transaction. Am I looking forward to the next chapter in life, yes! Am I having to do police checks, tax forms, dealing with shipping companies, health checks, visas, flights, housing…… yes! Plus all the other plates spinning around at the end of the year, which we all know about. Have I checked out, no! Not who I am, just a lot of things happening in my work-life and home-life.

We all know what it is like to be leaving a place. We get very reflective and introspective, even a bit emotional – which is completely understandable. And it is not till we are leaving a school that we remember what that feeling is like. Our head space changes. Our heart space changes. We have one foot out the door and one foot back where we are. People (everyone else) stop investing time in you. The conversations dry up, the level of contact lowers and you start to fall out with the one thing you gave so much of yourself to – your school.

It’s a funny place to be in when you make that decision to leave and everyone else knows you are going. The landscape changes as the sun starts to set.

I am experiencing two distinct and different paths right now and everything in between.

Path one: You start to care less about the things you would have normally been very involved with. You let what people say slide and smile because you know you are moving on and it’s just not worth engaging with it. This is the ugly side to leaving, a home truth none-the-less.

Path two: You care so much that you bring challenge and invest in the things that mean something to you. You go up to people and share your true and honest thoughts without hesitation or worry no matter how it lands. The things that bug you in schools where you’ve made a conscious decision not to say something, you do, because you are leaving. You have the freedom to speak your mind and have full faith that it won’t blow back on you. As long as you remain professional and respectful it really does bring light, in colour and in weight. I’m finding that when you can be completely upfront with someone your whole world tilts. I wish I could have been like this much sooner without having to ‘leave.’

Something happens to our psyche. We begin to see all the flaws. The flaws in the school, the people we work with and also ourselves, if you are able to catch yourself in the act. We may even make stuff up or accentuate things, so we feel better about the decision we made to leave.  I will finish well and give whatever I have left in my tank.  So if the leaving teachers seem preoccupied, you’re right, we have a lot going on. Saying goodbye is difficult too as we leave a piece behind only to create a new piece to where we are going.

I am treating people differently and they are treating me differently back. This is just the way it is. I just want those who are staying on to remember that their time in leaving will arrive too. The problem is we are teachers, and we have mastered the art of conveniently being a certain way when it suits us most, and the cycle continues.

Oh, teachers….. we are unique!




    • sherrattsam

      Hi Amita… I didn’t write this, it’s written by Chad Walsh – my friend, colleague and business partner in Time Space Education. I’m not leaving just yet, but Chad is going to be PYP Coordinator at Vientiane International School.

  1. Jayne

    Such an insightful and honest piece. Thanks Chad, for reflecting so openly and reminding us all of some simple truths.

  2. Monwei Yung

    Hi Chad, as a fairly recent “leaving teacher” I was drawn to your post. It was bravely authentic; I think we can all be a little batshit crazy, but so often we try to give the impression that we’ve got it all together. There were times, as a leaving teacher, where I felt like an interloper; was I still considered a teacher or a part of the school’s community? Interactions between colleagues became more anxious and awkward when the scripts for the day to day interactions throughout the years didn’t seem to fit the new situation. We end up “not investing” in relationships that were formed by virtue of being in the same place and dealing with the same challenges. I get it though and I have done the same. As Sinatra sang, “That’s life!” Thank you for sharing!

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