For fifteen years I was a teacher of English in secondary moderns and comprehensives in Camden and West Sussex. When I gave up I was head of department in a school of over 2,000; the next step in my career would have been either into the LEA advisory service, or into a deputy headship; I was on an LEA working party on language learning, and I was a committee member of the local branch of the National Association for the Teaching of English. I enjoyed much of what I did in the classroom, had few problems; I enjoyed the prestige and responsibility of guiding a large department of dedicated teachers; in the year I left our English Language ‘O’ level pass rate was over 80%; our successes in other examinations were comparable. I mention these facts to dispel any idea that I gave up through incompetence, or because I had no further prospects in education.
The reasons that pushed me into giving up are simple enough though they interrelate in a way that is complex. I shall start with the simplest – a not unnatural desire to survive.