Jackie, now a Carer, describes why she decided to choose Caring over Teaching, and why she values this rewarding role.
As a single parent of 11 years, I began working as a teaching assistant in 1999 when my children started secondary school.
I had run a successful private children’s nursery for a few years from my own home, but when my own children became teenagers, the whole of my house space was necessary for our lifestyles.
At this point in my life, I decided to return to learning and began a degree in Psychology; this learning would monopolise my life for the next 6 years – as I also needed to work part time.
I soon realised that a teaching assistant was in a unique role whereby only they and the students could evaluate the teaching experience from a candid and sincere perspective.
This experience was not always an effective one for the students and I vowed to improve this learning experience.
I applied for a better paid role as a Teaching assistant at an FE college, and was soon asked to cover a few classes for teacher absences; these few classes became a more regular occurrence, and before I knew it, was teaching full time and enrolled onto a three year Teaching Certificate with the University of Central England.
For five years I juggled teaching and studying, even teaching at weekends for extra money; I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t physically, emotionally and intellectually exhausted.
However – a glutton for punishment (following my BSc hons 2:1 graduation), I then embarked on a Masters degree in Education, graduating with a First after another three years’ study.
My Teacher Trainer was so impressed with my work and practice that she asked me to teach on the first year programme of the Teacher Training programme; this was an absolute revelation to me; I taught the theory and practice of teaching and learning to classes of students whose ages ranged from 21 to 60.
These trainee teachers taught subjects as diverse as maths to music, chemistry to carpentry and French to floristry and I loved every moment!
Following on from these early days, I worked as a senior lecturer in teacher training for 15 years until ill health forced me to take early retirement at 58 years.
I then agreed to teach GCSE English part time for a local school whilst teaching private students in their own homes.
This was a perfect solution for me; 10 hours in school and a few hours in private homes. Then COVID struck …
Remote teaching wasn’t for me; my IT skills were adequate for the task, but for me, remote learning felt like ‘cheating’.
In my humble opinion, the relationship between student and teacher is paramount for an effective learning experience, and face to face teaching is the only way to achieve such an experience.
For the first time in 23 years I came disillusioned and unmotivated with teaching; my previous joy (yes joy!) of planning lessons became a chore and I knew that I needed to change my career path for the final 4 years before I could draw my state pension. But what would I do instead?!
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Why I Chose To Work In Care
A few of my friends worked in the Care sector and seemed exceedingly happy in their work; furthermore, a couple of these friends had worked in Care for over 15 years and stated that they could never think of doing anything else.
These friends encouraged me to think about Caring as a possible career move; commenting that my personality and work ethic would be compatible with the role.
I mulled it over for a month or so, and then contacted Mobile Care Services in Tamworth.
I have no idea why MCS were my first choice; they were advertising for staff in the Leicestershire area (where I live) so I decided to respond to their advertisement.
From the outset, I knew I’d made the right decision in choosing MCS as a company to work for; my Zoom interview was highly professional, informative and inspiring. I was offered the job and accepted it without a moment’s thought.
I spent 4 full (paid) days training at the head office in Tamworth, with an excellent trainer and training facilities.
I was introduced to basic principles of caring including handling, communication, medication and record keeping.
As with my early days of teaching / learning theory, I was fascinated with the theory and keen to learn more in practice.
I shadowed an experienced carer for the first month and when I felt confident enough, I was assessed for working alone.
My first few weeks were extremely challenging, and I was concerned that I wasn’t up to the physical side of the job; compared to sitting at a desk, kneeling on bathroom floors and bending up and down, was exhausting at the very least – and soon became enormously painful – I then found out that my left knee was arthritic!
There was so much to do and remember, that I sometimes became overwhelmed … but, I carried on.
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Eleven months later, I have my own ‘round’ which I have now worked on for eight months.
I start work at 6.50am (my own choice – I am contracted from 7am, but prefer to start a little earlier) visiting 5 customers in their own homes; providing them with personal care and getting their breakfasts until 10.45am.
I go home for an hour’s break and then complete three lunch calls from 12 noon until 1.30pm. My day is then finished!
I work for 5 days each week; the company policy is to work alternate weekends, but I was unable to do this at the start as I was still teaching privately on a Saturday morning – so it was agreed that I would not work on a Saturday, but would work every Sunday.
Since then, I have stopped teaching on Saturdays, so now work every Saturday and take Sundays and Mondays off, which is ideal for me.
Challenges And Rewards Of The Caring Profession In Comparison To Teaching
There are many more rewards in the Caring profession than challenges.
The obvious challenge is the pay – as a single person, who still has a mortgage - I could never have afforded this change in career path without my teacher’s pension.
Community carers are only paid for the time they spend with the customer; typically 30 minute or 45 minutes, and the time spent driving from customer to customer is unpaid – however, we do receive 40p an hour for our mileage.
And 28 days holiday per annum is a shock in comparison to 12 weeks a year!
But the rewards far outweigh the challenges: all of my customers are adorable and I have an excellent relationship with them all, their families, their neighbours and even their postmen!
Most days are roughly the same – each customer has a set routine; determined by their (customer focused) careplans and our shared experience. For example, one customer prefers to eat her breakfast before her shower, whilst another prefers to ‘get all the washing stuff’ over with, before she settles down to tea and toast!
However, we need to be prepared for all eventualities: flooded kitchens/bathrooms and failure of power, as well as health emergencies or even death.
The office is open 24 hours for emergency calls and we are trained well to cope during emergencies.
Each carer is assigned to a local managers and mine is absolutely outstanding; preparing weekly rotas as well as arranging our holidays, liaising with HR and a hundred and one other demands.
We are paid on a four weekly basis and there is always overtime available; so if a little extra is needed – the opportunity is there!
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My Final 3 Years
I will retire in April 2025 and intend to continue in my Community Care role until then.
I am as happy as I’ve ever been, and can say with all honesty that Mobile Community Services are the best company I have ever worked for.
The government might not value the Caring profession, but my company certainly do – and I look forward to my final three and a half years with anticipation, a high level of job satisfaction and utmost joy!