A few years ago, after a holiday in New Zealand, I fell in love with the country and really wanted to move there. I researched the options for emigrating as a qualified teacher and decided to go for it. It was a slow and expensive process. I had to get all my home qualifications certified in New Zealand, get letters from every school I had ever worked in to confirm my employment and get an expensive medical examination. I went through an agency. They offered some different schools and I decided on one in Auckland. It seemed like a decent school. I had a Skype interview for the job.
Time passed and I must have spent in the region of £2000 on visa fees and other fees. Finally my visa came through. I was quite anxious about starting in a new country even though I have worked overseas a lot in the past. There was also the added worry that my stepfather was elderly and had dementia. I had really wanted my son (who was 20 at the time) to join me but he did not seem interested. He was on a working holiday visa in New Zealand at the time and had decided to do the same in Australia. So I was on my own.
Furthermore I had not taught in schools for some years. I had instead been private tutoring and I was not prepared for the behaviour I would encounter.
I decided to have a bit of a holiday in NZ before starting work. I arrived in country about 5 weeks before the start of the new term. I met the staff as it was the end of term and they were still in school. I met one of the teachers whose year 9 class I would be taking over as she was going on maternity leave. She proceeded to tell me how I would not be able to cope with the kids in her class and went through a list of all their problems. It was all very off-putting.
I had a lovely holiday and drove all the way down to Wanaka on the South Island, stopping at Fox Glacier to see friends..
I was renting an Airbnb in Auckland while I began to seek out a place to live. I was depressed by the cost of some of the accommodation and what I could afford was very pokey indeed. The school was in Henderson, a deprived area of Auckland. In fact all I read in the local newspaper was about the high levels of crime and gang violence.
I had been taking antidepressants for many years. But I had decided to make a clean break and stop taking them. I had not realised how difficult this would be. I had also not declared this to the school (that I was on antidepressants). So sue me.
The new term was approaching and I was about to start my new job. I felt strangely detached and yet at the same time quite anxious. The staff in my department (science) were lovely and very supportive. But as I took on each of my new classes, I was concerned at the low standards and very poor behaviour. Sone kids in my year 9 class constantly tapped on the metal legs of their desks and that was when they weren’t shouting unprintable obscenities at each other. I felt that I was losing control and by the second week this was happening in two of my classes. I had to ask for help from the year 9 pastoral head. By the end of Tuesday of the second week I ended the day so depressed that I just wanted the ground to open up and swallow me. I was mostly concerned at the reaction of other teachers as I could only see things getting worse with these classes. I was on my own in the country so I had no-one outside of the school to talk to.
I went home that day feeling empty and just knew that I couldn’t cope at this school. That evening I stayed up late thinking about the predicament I was in. I booked myself onto a flight at 8am the following morning and went half way round the world to get home again. At the airport, I had to dump a lot of my possessions as I was over my weight allowance. In the bin went my tent, sleeping bag and a load of my clothes.
I had even shipped all my worldly possessions out to New Zealand at great expense.
Once I was about to board my flight I emailed the school to tell them the truth. I was so ashamed.
The whole experience cost me the best part of £10 000. I decided to leave so abruptly because I thought that they would try to persuade me to stay otherwise.
I had to return later that year to collect my possessions which had followed me to New Zealand. I could not afford to ship everything back so when I returned, I sold most of my possessions (bookcases, books, a bed, mattresses, a whole load of kitchen appliances, furniture, lamps, my TV, a full-sized desk, you name it.) I gave away my entire CD collection and more to charity shops. I even threw away my entire collection of exercise books from my school days. I shipped a fraction of what I had sent back home. Then much of what I shipped home got pilfered by the shipping company.
It took me two years to get up the courage to write to my former head of department to apologise. She said that they had been worried about me.
It was a learning experience for me and a very tough one. Not only was it a big financial hit for me, but I had failed. I was very embarrassed about the whole thing. No more teaching in schools for me.
On my return, I stayed in a friend’s static caravan in Folkestone while I got my private tuition business up and running again.