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Being a Dad Changed the Way my Job Felt


I have been a teacher for what sometimes feels like a long time! I'm proud of my job though and far prouder of the type of teacher I have become, I feel like my care for the kids I work with and knowledge of where they have come from and where they are going is the key to that pride. I work in a individual needs unit in a great, big, middle school and the move there has been rewarding and challenging beyond measure... This is boring though, enough "setting the scene", lets talk about the Dad thing and the effect it's had.

Teaching is a job where you see a lot of people at their best, and a lot of people at their worst. You see kids achieve things they never thought possible and the effect that has on those around them. And you see kids, parents & colleagues at some real difficult points. At these times I have developed tremendous respect for a lot of people I've worked with (I don't think I ever used the word tremendous before, it just kind of slipped out!). And at my low times, high times and indifferent times I have reacted to situations in a variety of ways that provoked the sentences "You'll understand when you have your own kids", "You'll think differently when you're a dad" or "You probably don't get that until you're a parent" from one colleague or another.

"ARE YOU F*CKING KIDDING ME?!", "DON'T BE SO GOD-DAMN NON-PARENT-IST", & "SHUT THE HELL UP" Was the general theme of my thankfully, usually(!), in my head responses. I was young, and maybe a bit of a dick, but I was genuinely offended at the thought that my capacity to empathise or to provide excellent care in this (or any other) professional role was somehow limited by my not being a dad. In truth, I have always given far more of my focus to the wellbeing and happiness of my students than the academic and organisational parts of the role, as I'm sure my early supervisors, mentors and colleagues would attest to (some embarrassingly slim paperwork trails!) The thought that being a dad would change anything was a strange one.

Having matured (a little) in a range of teaching jobs across the UK and Australia before having kids, I found out we were expecting Isla when I was working in a school in the local juvenile detention centre, a fairly unpredictable place. I started to look for another, more consistent option and ended up starting work in the individual needs unit about 2 weeks before Isla's due date. So by the time I had worked there 5 weeks, 3 of which were paternity leave, I could finally settle into the job as a dad and prove that nothing had changed.

Everything had changed! In fact every thing I will ever do ever again has changed. The stakes are higher, the rewards greater and the emotions I now posses are on a different scale than before. I even cry at the odd tv show, it's ridiculous (in fairness those northmen do get a rough time in Game of Thrones!) I find that the sad stories I hear at work affect me so much more, the wins we get feel so much stronger and the mistakes we make hurt that much more. I don't feel that I act differently, I can tell you now, with confidence, that the decisions I make in my role as a teacher have not changed, but the way those decisions affect me definitely has. I am infinitely more affected by the world around me and that includes at work and in every other aspect of my life. My reaction to news stories - it's almost a subconscious thing, I don't find my self thinking "what if that were us" or anything like that - but it hits me harder than it did. When we travel, the enjoyment I get through meeting new people, experiencing new and weird things is enhanced. The threats, the opportunities, the excitement... I am seeing the world through new eyes, the eyes of a father, and assessing it against totally new standards.

Being a dad has not made me a better teacher, it has not made me a worse teacher, I don't think it has changed the way I teach at all. It has just changed the way I view the world, permanently I think, so that the dad-ness is always there, always a part of what I do and who I am. It's all part of the Dadventure.

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