I sit in my office on the final day as a deputy. I have, over the last few weeks, been very reflective on the journey that has led me to this point. In particular where I started. My first blog last week covered the journey up to the start of a new manager and my increasing understanding of the leader I would never aspire to become.
The new store manager had been appointed as I took up my new role as chief display assistant. This move was seen as one that could ultimately lead into management with the possibility of being a store manager in the future. This was something I had given little thought to while in retail but I now considered it a possibility. Or at least I thought I did.
The new store manager was ambitious, aggressively ambitious. He dressed in powerful looking suits that were double cuffed and shaved his beard into a neat moustache. He was very clear on what he wanted. More power, more money and more success. It was his way. His vision was simple. We were to make more money as a store and work harder. He patrolled the shop floor and warehouse like a night guard dog. His nose would twitch at the sound of shop floor chatter that was not focused on work.
Clearly we had differing approaches to work. Mine being a typical 20 year old laid back approach. His focused on career, money and power. This relationship was not going to work. I would be asked to pick litter from the floor (he was above this), I would be verbally shouted at in the warehouse to ensure others would hear his dismay at my lack of thought, I would be given a BIC razor, shaving foam and told to shave in the toilets if I was not cleanly shaven. A job I had enjoyed, found to be fun and social was now a job I hated and did not want to do. I no longer wanted to be there. My sickness record increased, I was absent often, would look for excuses to leave early and, inevitably, I became depressed.
I was never clear if it was his direction and vision or whether he simply disliked me. My job in retail now frustrated me. I felt trapped, not challenged, jobs I had enjoyed now became repetitive. My best was never good enough. There was never an end point. I would go home thinking the job was done only to return the next day and be told it was, in fact, not good enough.
The social aspect kept me going to an extent. Nights out, Christmas parties any excuse for a night or day out. But the seed was planted. I did not want to do this for the rest of my life. I did not want to one day become like this manager. I did not want a career in retail. I wanted to enjoy work.
I worked in retail for some years after this. A new manager started and my career picked up again. I enjoyed some good times in the years that followed but my mind was made up. I never again wanted to work for a manager like I had. I wanted to be one step ahead. I would ensure my work was always of the highest standard but would also ensure I would not again be pushed around so easily. I worked until I was 23 in retail. The store was closed and I was offered the chance to move into management as a trainee or take a package. It was the package all day long. This was the opportunity I had waited for and I wanted to grab it with both hands.
I was living at home still supported by two very loving parents. I returned to college, resat my GCSE’s and in 1 year secured a place at University. I had achieved more in one year than I had in several years in retail. What’s more I was enjoying it. I enjoyed learning again, I had to read and study, I spent the the hours I had worked in the library writing assignments. I felt engaged, challenged and positive about the future. I had also made a significant decision. I had decided to teach.
The next four years at university were fantastic. I was so enthused by the other students, I felt part of something and respected my teachers while often seeking their advice. The work ethic and routine i had developed in retail stuck with me. While my peers lay in bed until 3 in the afternoon, I would be in the library. I would read books, research papers, surf the net (still in its infancy at that point), even study maps and examine learning resources. I loved it.
I was studying for a degree in primary education which meant blocks of teaching practice. What more could I ask for I was working, studying and still had the most amazing social life! The teaching was amazing. I worked at amazing schools, with amazing teachers and the most incredibly supportive children. It was a fabulous four years.
I developed a style of teaching over those four years. I was creative, an actor, lively, engaging, a risk taker and loved it. I was given the opportunity to work in different environments in differing contexts. My first teaching practice was in a diverse location, with children that had a range of needs. I would never have believed that I would be back there years later. In a very different role.