It’s October and I’m in the car park, staring at the red brick building in front of me. I’m more than halfway through my teaching career and I’ve driven for a solid two hours to get here. It feels like a million miles from home, but perhaps it’s worth it because I’m about to have an interview for what seems to be, on paper at least, a pretty good job.

As I switch off the car engine, I notice someone in the distance who I think might be one of the other candidates. She’s got short-cropped black hair, has a slim build, and is wearing a beige suit. It appears that she’s having her obligatory tour of the school-that’ll be me soon, after my interview with the headteacher and one of those ‘It’s not part of the selection process’ conversations with the retiring deputy head. Years later I’ll meet the other candidate in that smart beige suit, but neither of us will ever mention this dreary, cold, wet morning.

But moving on, you’ve probably guessed, or maybe you didn’t, that I was successful and that I eventually started my new job 11 months later. How exciting, right?  

Before I answer that, let me bring you back to the present day, to February 2023. I finished my teaching career in 2021, almost two years ago, and now I host one of the UK’s top educational podcasts called ‘The Independent Teacher’. Regular listeners will know that one of the questions that I sometimes ask my guests is what advice they would give to their younger selves-it’s a good question and often elicits some moving and insightful responses. So, you can probably see where I’m heading with my current train of thought.

What advice would I give to the youthful, confident, happy version of myself on that morning in October? Because for many years, I’ll tell people, that if I had my time again, I would never walk through those doors because I have come to believe that by doing so, I made one of the worst mistakes of my life and that there would surely have been a different, better, happier ending somewhere else.

So, imagine this scenario, I am catapulted back in time, I open the car door and I sit beside my younger self, and I give her the following advice:   

  1. In this job, you’re going to do great things and meet wonderful people and forge beautiful friendships that will last a lifetime. Of course, you’ll encounter people who do mean-spirited things, but no job is perfect. Keep learning from your mentor-always try to see the good in people.
  2. It’s going to be hard leaving your Mum behind, and she’ll never tell you how she feels-ever, but she’ll be there for you, always-imparting her words of wisdom with love and kindness.
  3. Finally, your current Headteacher always tells you to “Keep Smiling”. Well, in this job, when you lose the smile inside of you, you’ll know that it’s time to walk away and begin the next stage of your life.

So, maybe it’s time to re-think that question I have been asking myself for so many years, namely, should I have walked away and never gone through with the interview? Here goes:

  1. Right now, at this moment, despite all that’s happened over the last two years, are you finally happy? Answer: Yes.
  2. Have you learnt from your mistakes? Answer: Maybe, but with me, you never know!
  3. Are you going to write that play with your friend about the life of a schoolteacher in a top-performing school? Answer: Yes, we are and when we do, we promise it will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth!
  4. Finally, have you rediscovered the smile inside of you?  Answer: Yes, most definitely, yes!