As I have reached the crumbly age of 33, you may be forgiven for thinking it has been several years since I was in any classroom. Admittedly, it has been a while since I was on the other side of the desk, looking out from hastily scribbled notes at the lecture slides (or, if I am to perhaps reveal too much about my earlier education, at the overhead projector acetates.). However, you may be surprised to learn that it has only been five months since I said goodbye to my classroom. Five brief, whirlwind months since I packed up my books and lesson plans, gave away resources I had developed over the past seven years, thanked colleagues and mentors, wished my students well and walked away from a career in English teaching.
Many are in a similar position to me. Many young (at heart, thanks) teachers are leaving teaching positions across the country to pursue different careers. It is predicted that over the next 18 months, over 40% of teachers in Scotland are planning to leave education due to the stresses of the job, the unrealistic workload or the mountain of administrative duties which has been increasingly piled on them in recent years. I can’t speak for all of these teachers. I can’t say whether my myriad experiences as a secondary teacher in Scotland mirrors any of theirs. And this is not that story. This is about my new journey, my venture into the world of words, this time from a different perspective.
I’m not afraid to admit that, despite my added years and ability to stand up in front of a room full of people (even when I haven’t fully planned what I am going to say), it was with a certain degree of trepidation that I entered room B32 on Friday the 8th September. I needn’t have worried. Over the past 12 weeks I have met so many kind, enthusiastic, hilarious, like-minded people – and not just my fellow students. It appears that there is a rich seam of passion, dedication and support that forms a glittering substrate in the creative industries in Scotland. The world of publishing is full of people who will help you, who will give you advice, who will share their stories of starting out and of trying to mine this seam for themselves. To someone coming from the insular life of a teacher, which can be incredibly competitive and isolated, this was vital. The way in which I have been welcomed to the realm of publishing has made me completely certain that I have made the right decision in my life.
Being a student (again) has come this time with the added advantage of having been on the other side of the desk. When our Programme Leader came into our first lecture and immediately hammered home the importance of meeting deadlines, of keeping up with reading and of ensuring a high standard of work; I felt a wave of familiarity and relief wash over me. Putting the fear of God (or yourself) into your students in the first couple of classes is a classic tactic, one I have deployed with glee over the past few years. It is nice to recognise the strategies and terminology – learning outcomes, marking criteria, assessments and assignments, class expectations – and yet this time I was faced with a loss of control. It was no longer me setting these rules, providing this guidance and knowing every aspect of the course in detail. They were no longer my deadlines to work to, I didn’t know the parameters of the assessments and it has been a long time since I had to learn to use a new piece of software. Having gone from organising every single minute of my (very) full-time working life (and, let’s face it, my evenings, weekends, holidays as well) around delivery of the curriculum, planning lessons, developing resources, marking exams, providing pastoral support, undertaking administrative duties and avoiding the flying chairs when Billy in 4B kicks off because he has a crappy home life and struggles to manage his anger but he still needs to get a National 4 in English because he needs it for college, it felt different. It feels different. It feels…liberating.
This course has already given me so much. I love InDesign. I never thought I would get to grips with any of the fancy-schmancy Adobe applications, but there it is. I have embraced Twitter (sorry, Dad) despite previously thinking that it was basically one big stream of narcissistic word-vomit and that no good could come from immersing myself within its putrid flow, I now quite like it. There are some really great people out there. I have found work experience through Twitter; shared ideas, fished for tips and offered my own advice. It’s not perfect but then, this is 2017. Nothing is.
The aspect I love the most about this course is the optimism it gives me. For the first time in a while, I can see myself opening a new door and really enjoying what is on the other side. The MSc in Publishing is the key to that door.
 Shan Ross, ‘Mass exodus’ of Scots teachers as 40% plan to leave profession, The Scotsman, published 8 September 2017 <http://www.scotsman.com/news/education/mass-exodus-of-scots-teachers-as-40-plan-to-leave-profession-1-4553743> [accessed 21 November 2017]