In response to our writing prompt No. 42 (‘Fight or Flight’), this is a heartfelt, unsigned post from a beleaguered teacher who turned her back on a much loved profession. The coulda, woulda, shouldas haunt her still. She chose flight, but constantly replays the what-ifs had she decided to stay put and fight. Ed

Looking back, do you often see moments in your life where you wish you could have said or done something different? Do those memories fade with time or rise up to fester like the passing whiff of a city drain? See there’s this period in my recent history that won’t seem to stay down.

Remaining vague on the details, suffice to say I was shocked to the core by a sudden 360 turn-around in an unblemished career, which quickly spiralled to closed doors, workplace bullying and falsehoods (falsehoods committed to paper thereby making them truths). My initial rebuttals were met with increasing admonitions and legalese responses. Line manager meetings which had before been chatty and forward planning now documented every utterance and teetered defensively on fences of mistrust.

Then came the command of censure. The gagging which meant shutdown of support from team mates and colleagues. All I could rely was family, who I knew were growing jaded with the incessant gripes and groans about my work; shut up and put up or get out, right?

Within the three months of senior management silence in the corridors and looming figures lurking into my classroom and office, I forced myself to rise each morning with a smile whilst inside I was collapsing. Maintaining my professionalism and expertise through each change of lesson bell took every inch of strength until I could shed private tears in the solace of my car on the journey home.

As my spirit waned and my resolve crumbled, I decided to step out of a role and a job (and now a career) rather than watch myself disappear to the wreck I had become. I resigned, which is what they wanted, and flew the staffroom coop without the fight they were expecting.

Nearly three years have passed and still the sickening feeling lingers with the words and actions I wish I had said. I dream of the letters I should have written, the evidence I should have produced, the demands I should have made. Hindsight and distance are marvellous aren’t they? I can barely recognise the weakened, broken woman I was in December 2013 from the safety of 2016. Yet I wish I could have force-fed the words of strength and reason I am able to construct now into her frightened, silenced mouth.

And what crushes me all the more when I consider the failure of my defeat is the many teachers; the many successful teachers; the many successful, working mother teachers; the many successful, working mother, 40+ teachers this is happening to with increasing regularity. And yet they speak of a teacher shortage.

Those who carried me at the time say I had to leave because I was heading for a breakdown and that it was the right decision. But I subconsciously replay the fight scene that results in me at my rightful place – in my classroom, with my students, doing my job.