Blog Comment

Season To Leave: let’s go exploring

Tell your tales, set yours sails, you’re on your way

In January 2001, I left my job as a projectionist at the Cameo Cinema in Edinburgh and set off for the bright lights of Bottrop, Germany to work as a British Council lingua-assistant in a Grundschule (primary school).

I played this song by The Guthries on repeat before I left.

It was a transformative experience. Overnight I became the exotic teaching legend of Herr McLauchlan (not my own definition). As soon as I returned I started the Primary PGCE at Moray House, Edinburgh and the rest, as they say… I have loved my job from day one, and in all honesty have never looked back. Although, I still miss the lazy endless days of watching and discussing films from dawn until dusk.

But another turn is further up the road.

I recently got married and I am moving to China.

It’s a mental sentence to absorb but I do like saying it out loud. People either guffaw out loud thinking I’m joking or just stare awkwardly in disbelief. My partner is a journalist with the BBC and has got a new job in Beijing. In March of this year the family unit is moving out to start a new chapter. I’m giving up my job and becoming a house dad for a bit. I’ll write about the marriage bit another time.

Truth is, I can’t wait to leave. I’ve been at my current school and house on and off for nearly 10 years. It’s the longest I’ve lived or worked anywhere. The past decade was broken up with a year spent travelling the globe, an 18 month stint as a Development Officer with Education Scotland and a year as a Principal Teacher. I’ve wanted a change of school for a long time, purely because this is a good thing and also because my usual period of living and working anywhere has never been longer than 4 years. Since last June I have applied for lots of promoted posts and had 8 interviews. I was unsuccessful at each and every one of them. I’ve had glowing feedback and been told often I was a close second, which is flattering and soberingly uncomfortable in equal measure, a bit like being told you are only good enough as boyfriend material! It’s a funny old process / ordeal to put yourself through. You feel like part performing monkey (I have amazing answers on the NIF), part fraud (all this stuff I said I did, how good was it really!?), part charlatan (whenever I wear a suit to school, fellow staff assume I am either at a funeral or a job interview) and part reject (here we go again, this is the one, chin up, big smiles, think of your family, this is your day…) More about this another time.

I don’t believe in fate and I hate it when people try to comfort disappointment by saying something was just never meant to be. But I do believe in opportunity and just going for things when they come along. I’ve always been thankful to be in a profession that is flexible and adaptable. I still love being a teacher more than anything else I know, other than being a dad. I’m genuinely not sure what is different about being a husband yet. Too soon to tell on that front! But I can’t wait for a fresh challenge. And I can’t wait to leave.

Days are getting longer
The season’s almost here
It’s the season to leave
but there’s no time to grieve.

I’ve not set any grand goals for blog posts, book reading, album playing for the year ahead. Life is too unpredictable and I’m not sure we genuinely need to set ourselves goals all the time. I’ve been looking backwards (sometimes in anger) for too long recently, cursing my luck and my steadfast inability to change my course. Now I’ve got a reason to leave I feel confident and self assured again. It’s not about the credentials or the salary. It’s all about the challenge and the next steps. It’s a magical world if we want it to be. Let’s go exploring.

By Athole McLauchlan

Dad / primary teacher / literacy / technologies / outdoor learning / M.Ed student / #MIEExpert / #AppleTeacher / #ScotEdChat / #hatecelery /#rubbishatcartwheels

8 replies on “Season To Leave: let’s go exploring”

Happy New Year and good luck to you Athole and your family. What a great opportunity for you. I hope you all enjoy the experience of a new culture and a new chapter in your life. The children will love it and can only benefit and if it doesn’t work out…so be it…you will come back all the wiser and with another story to tell.
I am a lot older than you and probably more set in my ways but fate has finished my teaching career too!. The premises where I run a very special little kindergarten have been sold and we are being evicted in April. Try as I may, I just cannot find new premises so at 59 years old, I too am looking for a career change. I am thinking that maybe I’ll open a pottery or an art gallery – my other passion – or write a book:)
We are only here for a short time when you look at things so don’t waste a second of it. Have a great time and enjoy your new life.
You are entering a fascinating culture and you will be intrigued, moved, excited, surprised and challenged but think how much richer your lives will be and what an experience you are giving your children.
Good Luck – may all your hopes and dreams come true!

Aw, Helen, thanks so much for that. Beautifully written too. Write a book, you say. Go for it!
Really sorry to hear about your business. Your’s was the outdoor kindergarten, I think. But I love your determination and positivity. We are only here for a short time, this is so true. My wee boy turns seven tomorrow. Who knows where the time goes? Best not to think about it and keep going forward!

Thanks Athole – Happy Birthday to your little one for tomorrow. We are a nature nursery and split our time between being outdoors and inside in our lovely cottage… but alas not for much longer! We won UK Nursery of the Year in 2012 but suddenly things can change. Part of me is devastated but, as you say, best just to keep moving forward. I really do hope that you all have a great time in China and make lots of new friends. Take care and keep writing:).

Hi Athole,
This sounds like a wonderful opportunity, not to be missed. There are obviously a few schools that missed the opportunity of employing you. You will also be sorely missed in the Scottish edu online world.

Even without setting goals I do hope that you blog about your explorations. I look forward to reading about your life in China.

All possible best wishes.

Thanks John. That’s a lovely comment. The plan is to write a lot more. It would be amazing if you were to follow our journey. Hopefully we can meet up for beer before I leave.

Hi Athole. Good luck with the move when it comes. One day, I might be brave enough to try teaching elsewhere. You’ve definitely given me something to think about.

Thanks for reading. I’m looking forward to the adventure. Teaching is greatest job in the world when you are loving it too. Lately, I’ve been close to losing sight of that.

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