A career break experience – taking the time to figure out what you want

A career break experience – taking the time to figure out what you want

Many thanks to the wonderful Aistear Muinteoir for sharing her career break story with us. Availing of a career break is a fantastic opportunity to press pause on full time teaching in the classroom to take a chance to travel, look after your family and try out something different. Here is her experience.

Taking stock of where you are right now

Christmas and the New Year is always a time for reflection and planning. This time last year as I was relaxing during my Christmas break - I began asking myself what I wanted for myself, was I happy in my current role and what other options were there for me.

The holidays allowed me time to really think about me, my happiness and what I really wanted and I came to the decision that I needed time to figure it all out. - time that I did not have while teaching a busy multi-stream, mainstream classroom. At that time, little did I know, I would have ample time to reflect on myself and what I wanted just a few months later.

Taking the courageous step of applying for a career break

When I returned to school in January, I knew that I needed time out. I spoke to my principal who was very supportive and explained that I just felt stuck and needed time out. Having spoken to her, I downloaded the forms for a career break. It was not a decision I made lightly as it would involve many changes and I wasn’t a person who liked lots of changes at the time. When I spoke to my teacher friends, they were excited for me and understood my decision, but there was an air of sadness also.

Covid ‘19 was a twist in the tail

My initial plan was to relocate home from the summer, however, due to Covid19, I relocated sooner than I thought. I worked from home from March to June, returning to school to clear out my classroom and for Confirmation in August. As circumstances changes and the lockdown became longer, I really did think about my career break and the decision I had made. But I felt that despite the challenges and fear of school closures this was a break I had to take for me.

Availing of professional support

Having made the decision to take the career break, I wanted to know what other options were available to me. I looked at management positions and then I had a call with a career guidance professional. That was the turning point for me. From chatting to her I now felt that my head and heart were leading me away from mainstream or management positions and towards CPD for others.

New opportunities arise

This is where my journey began. I decided to apply for roles with two colleges for initial teacher training.  Having worked with Science Foundation Ireland for teacher CPD I felt this was a new direction for me to pursue. So now I work with an initial teaching training college and as a research supervisor with another third-level institution. These new opportunities, along with my role in Science Foundation Ireland have been a huge boost to my own personal development and career break journey.

Developing self-awareness and availing of new experiences

I have learned so much about myself during my career break so far. Before this, I disliked change and now, I am embracing it. I have found my own self-confidence has grown in the last few months and I am looking for new opportunities. I have had so many opportunities through subbing and my own teaching experience has grown and changed as a result. I’ve worked in mainstream, in a school for children with additional needs and I have had time in an ASD class.  I am really enjoying the variety and the challenges it can bring.

Secondly, I have learned that I am stronger and more resilient than I think. That my experience in my school over the last 16 years can be seen. I admit that I am enjoying the lack of paperwork and planning that the career break can bring but I do miss my colleagues and friends.

Preparing for a career break

Finances: To prepare for my career break I had to become more mindful of saving, lockdown did help with that too. I had to prioritise what I needed and what I wanted. I also had a call from Cornmarket who explained options for Salary Protection and pausing my AVCs.  Financially I was prepared for my career break and the change in salaries along with the summer break 2021.

CV and SAF: I also had to update my own CV in preparation for subbing. I also began the process of my SAF and Orla Dempsey had some excellent tips in her page and highlights which definitely helped me along the way. Having sent out the CV’s it was time to wait.

Waiting for opportunities to arise:

In terms of substitute work, the first few weeks were quiet and now I know they tend to be. I began to overthink my decision and whether it was right for me, but the calls came in and I was really busy. It has been great to sub in different schools, meet new people, see how things work in different schools and learn from the classes and situations I am in.

I have also had other opportunities with Science Foundation Ireland this school year - which I hope to share in the New Year as they are finalised. In 2016, I completed a Master of Education thesis on Aistear.  Aistear will always be close to my heart. Subbing in various schools means that I get to observe the importance of play for children in a variety of settings - especially after school closures.

Working with teacher training colleges

My work with the teacher college is part-time, so I can work weekends or evenings. It can get extremely busy, but then I can take a break from subbing if needs be. At the moment I'm working with research dissertation students and correcting assignments. It’s fantastic for my professional development.

Looking into the future

The future for me is yet to be written and I am ok with that.  I have learned to take opportunities as they come and that it’s ok to say no too. As I had deadlines with Science Foundation Ireland in November along with the 3rd level college I knew I needed a day for myself and when subbing, I can do that.

When I was working full time, the thoughts of a day off meant preparing work for a sub - along with catching up with things on my return.  As a sub, I don’t need to worry about that. Yes, I would prefer to be working, but sometimes you need to take the break for you and now I can recognise that.

Aistear Muinteoir’s advice to teachers considering taking a career break

If you are like me this time last year, and you’re wondering what you really want, take the time to figure that out. Talk to family, your principal or colleagues and explain how you feel and what you want and they will support you on your journey. My family, teacher friends and friends have been amazing and so supportive of my career break and it has made the decision so much easier.

For now, I am embracing the juggling of different roles, emails and all it brings. It allows me to learn so much more about myself and decide what I want. So don’t rule out a career break!! Look at other options if you need to. Get help and support so you can figure out what you want and what is the best option for you.

Many thanks to Aistear Muinteoir for sharing her career break experience to date. I wish her continued success and lots more opportunities along the way. You can find her blog at http://aistearmuinteoir.wordpress.com/




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