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Fully qualified teacher with complex medical needs: advised a TA role may be a sensible move....

Discussion in 'Career clinic' started by Thursdays_Child, Aug 3, 2016.

  1. Thursdays_Child

    Thursdays_Child New commenter

    To summarise; PGCE in primary education qualified in 2010, went to a school in Barking for 2 years which started as a maternity cover contract and was extended on 2 separate occasions. I was able to complete my NQT year from Jan - Dec 2011.

    I have a complex and rare genetic disorder that is controlled by a variety of means; dietary control (I eat only prescription foods and veg as my body cannot break down anything else - everything has to be cooked fresh and from scratch it cannot be fridged or frozen), I have to take 90 tablets a day, I have to do blood tests. The thing my body can't break down (an amino acid) builds up on my joints and muscles in a similar way to lactic acid when you exercise. This causes pain which needs massage to break it down and so I have to spend some time doing therapeutic massage.

    We all know teaching is a heavy workload career. It's more than the normal "full-time" hours. Anyway long story short when I was teaching I found I could not keep up with my medical care and I became increasingly unwell. I was either on top of my marking and my class workload and feeling unwell, or I was healthy and falling behind with my work. The tiredness was horrific to the point of painful. (I know we all get tired and I'm not wanting to insult anyone else who works hard because i know that as teachers we all do but I want to emphasise that this is more than the normal). one on occasion I fainted/passed out/lost consciousness (to be fair I'm not sure what actually happened) but I got taken to hospital where they kept me in for hours trying to find a medic that knew anything about my condition, (which they couldn't because no doctors had heard of what I have) but essentially they sent me home diagnosing me "medically exhausted" (their words not mine) and signing me off work for two days. My blood levels were out of range and far too high. In addition, I was taking a high number of painkillers because I couldn't do the necessary massage and care. This in turn was upsetting my tummy. I was just constantly ill.

    After my contract ended it took the whole of the summer holiday and winter term of my being unemployed and not working just to recover and bring my blood levels back to normal. I had a very good gp who helped me, referred me for massage and Physio, gave me painkillers, helped me back on feet. There were days I just laid in bed and cried because a) I felt so useless and b) it hurt. I debated what to do and decided part time supply teaching was a way forward. Since then I've done a masters in museum and gallery education and been working in Musuems doing freelance education (as well as a few other full time roles based in Musuems). This has allowed me to look after my medical care and I have been much healthier but my heart is in schools and always has been.

    A former colleague and headteacher heard me recently say I want to return to schools and how much I miss it. She suggested a TA / LSA role could be just right for me allowing me to have evenings to care for my medical concerns but still allowing me contact with children and the curriculum and the opportunity to use my skills.

    This would make me forever happy. I'm just very anxious about it. And worried that some might try to 'force' me back into the classroom which scares me. I have to confess I have a bit of a mental block in that being a teacher means having to endure the same physical pain as before. A kind of: Teaching = pain equation. I'm also worried because the last time I was in school was in spring 2015 and I have missed all the important things around the curriculum changes. So not only am I scared but my knowledge is old.

    A few things to point out:
    I didn't get DLA when I was full-time class teaching but it has since been suggested that I try for it. I likely won't get it because I can still function and the points based system doesn't take pain into account.
    I did ask for help from my teachers union but they weren't very helpful and I didn't ask for flexible working because I was the cover teacher. Who wants to find cover for the cover!?
    Finally I'm not motivated by money. If I can pay my bills I don't care. I want a career that I can enjoy and feel like I have made a difference to kids lives so even though in manny ways I'm over-qualified for a TA role just to be able to work in that setting would make me so happy. Wage is not a motivation for me.

    I'm very anxious. Can anyone offer advice?
  2. hhhh

    hhhh Star commenter

    I know of teachers who have done it. Would you not consider a part-time teaching role?
    claire_jean_ likes this.
  3. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    I was going to suggest part time as well.
    Many primary schools like someone mornings only from Sept to SATs to run booster groups with year 6.
    Or PPA cover could be afternoons only.
    Or just a normal job share role. From what you post, you may prefer to work each day, but for a shorter time. Many 0.6 or 0.4 contracts would allow this.

    I imagine, though haven't been there for a very long time, secondary schools are able to be even mroe flexible with part time staff.
    Certainly in my current school (independent prep) we have part time staff on all kinds of hours and days.

    Part time would pay you heaps more than a TA role.
    And to be honest would surely suit you more.

    Then again a great many qualified teachers do find they prefer doing a TA or HLTA role.
  4. ViolaClef

    ViolaClef Lead commenter

    Part-time either working with small intervention groups or doing PPA cover both sound good ideas from @caterpillartobutterfly. I would be wary of a class teacher job share as then you are back into extra admin, tracking, marking, reports, parents' meetings etc. which all add to your workload and hours. Ease yourself back in gently - you can always try and increase your hours if it's going well, @claire_jean_ . Good luck!
  5. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    Well done for sticking at it. You need to listen to your body and your doctor. Part time may be the answer perhaps doing PPA cover which is contained. TA may be an answer, maybe there's a role outside mainstream. Another option might be tutoring.
    Good luck.
    claire_jean_ likes this.
  6. Thursdays_Child

    Thursdays_Child New commenter

    Thank you everyone for your comments. I have to say that my friends and former colleagues (and yourselves) have all been very supportive. I agree with ViolaClef in the sense that a job share could still mean increased levels of admin. Medically I would be able to handle that workload but I think my fear is that a teaching role- even part time could be too easily turned into full-time commitment.
    Doing interventions and ppa cover sounds ideal. To be fair this is what I did as a supply teacher for over a year or so. I guess that is my other option. To supply teach as a career option because that would allow me to work part time plus if I were to feel unwell I could step back. I know a colleague who has been supply teaching for around 10 years or so. It's her career choice and she enjoys it. I did have several schools I had regular placements so I did get to know the staff and the students.
    Thing is as a supply teacher I get no pension and no career development. Plus I just like being a part of a school community - you don't really get that coming in and out every day. I met a former colleague yesterday and she said that she would be worried about me being unsatisfied as a TA and not being fulfilled. Thing is I think I have felt that way as a supply teacher. I feel I can swallow that if I can be healthy. I guess I have to decide what I can handle giving up and what I can can't walk away from.
  7. Thursdays_Child

    Thursdays_Child New commenter

  8. CWadd

    CWadd Star commenter

    You are really amazing for having had such a difficult time and yet sticking at it.

    However, I'm not sure supply is the best option for you. As you correctly say, you have no pension, holiday pay, or sick pay. Plus long term placements are as demanding as permanent jobs in their expectations, and daily supply is drying up.

    Your colleague may think you will be unfulfilled as TA, but frankly its not her life. Perhaps you could look for a TA post and also keep in mind the museum work?
  9. Thursdays_Child

    Thursdays_Child New commenter

    CWadd the museum work is amazing. Between the freelancing that I do and the supply I've done in the past I have taught so many children. I have developed a skill in being able to build instant rapport with a class. Sometimes I am only with a group for 3 hours and then they go and I never see them again so I have had to learn a new skill. It's certainly stretched my behaviour management skills and teaching at pace is really a must. I've also had to be more creative and have learnt more about what creative activities can be done with little budget or time. I think going back into schools I will certainly bring with me more skills and insight than I had before. But again it doesn't give me that "connection" with students or the sense of community from being in a staff team.

    These are the things I really miss.

    I think you are also right about my colleague. It's not her life, and I think until you've lived with it you can't imagine what it's like.

    I do wonder though about perception...... Would recruiters question it? What would other teachers think? And how easy would it be for a headteacher, for example, to beg me back into the class room in order to cover sickness/long term absence?
  10. CWadd

    CWadd Star commenter

    Hey up, @claire_jean_ , some thoughts:

    1. Recruiters would not necessarily question it - in fact, I think quite a few would consider your trying to balance what reads as a very difficult condition with a demanding job as highly worthy of recruitment. Resilience, problem solving, and determination!

    2. What other teachers think if they're not in your dept/Faculty is neither here nor there. People go on maternity/compassionate leave/travelling/working abroad and when they return they can step down/go part time. People's lIves are people's lives and frankly it should be between you, the HT, and HR.

    3. If you're employed on a fixed term/permanent job, they can't. But if you're on supply as a teacher in a school you can find your job changed. However, if you're employed as a TA, they can't. You're employed as support, not as teaching staff.

    4. The HT can beg - but remember, you have the right to say no. And if you have declared your condition, you are covered, I think, by the Disability Discrimination Act if they ask, you refuse, and they threaten dismissal. (Worst case scenario!)
  11. Thursdays_Child

    Thursdays_Child New commenter

    Thank you again to everyone - hope you don't mind if I come back to this thread and keep you up-dated on my progress
  12. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    We'll be really miffed if you don't! :)

    See this thread...
    Thursdays_Child likes this.
  13. Thursdays_Child

    Thursdays_Child New commenter

    Just want to up-date you on my progress:

    * I have registered on gov.uk's Return to Teaching website. I feel like I could take advantage of the programme - indications from what I read online - suggest that it does offer some training especially with regards the curriculum changes that have happened since I left in March 2015 - somethign that I am continually researching but still feel quite anxious about.

    * I've also got back in touch with my old union with a view to starting that up again. They actually provide training as well, including a session for teacher's with disbailites which will run in Ocotber near to where my parents live in East Anglia. Should be an easy one for me to attend.

    * I have one job application (in the heritage sector) in the pipepline. (I'm only going for this role because it's a venue i know really well and at any rate it's a short 6 month contract meaning I can still work it with a view to returning to schools in September 2017 for the new academic year). If this doesn't work out I have drafted letters to my old supply agent, and a local school who through a contact I'm led to believe would be happy to have me come in and do some oberserving/voluntary work to get some confidence back and become a bit more familair with the curriculum again. This is all very dependent on what happens with that one application ut the letters are ready to go and (if sent) will likely reach them around October half-term time once schools have had a chance to assess new classes and identify where needs are.

    * I'm also in the middle of an application for PIP or Personal Independence Payment. I'm doubtful as to the outcome - I think they don't like giving money away (who does?) but if i could just get something towards physiotherapy I'd consider it to have been a success.

    I have to confess to a bit of jealousy regards all the 'back to school' talk in the media an in general conversation at the moment. So wish I was there and feeling nostalgic for my old classroom! Good luck to you all for this year

    I think that will be all for now, but I will let you know how it goes!

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