Here’s some bad news. You know that person you want to be in 2016? The one who eats healthily, has time for family, and achieves their goals? Well, you have almost zero chance of making it.
Research suggests that while about half of us make resolutions at the start of a new year: fewer than one in ten of them will stick with it for longer than 13 weeks.
And if you can’t even make yourself eat soup instead of stodge for lunch, what chance do you have of making a new life for yourself?
This is where Joyce Matthews dances into the spotlight, with her brave (and rather brilliant) book designed to help teachers who are unhappy in their current work to find a better job.
“There’s no mystery, no big secret, and no astounding surprise,” she reveals early on – somewhat suggesting that I had just wasted £6.73 to get this e-book. (No physical version exists, yet.)
But it’s a trademark of Matthews’ style not to mince her words and instead of secret promises she gives seven steps to inventing a “job worth leaving school for”.
Hang on. Worth leaving school for? Isn’t it a terrible idea to write a book about how to get teachers to leave their job when there’s a recruitment crisis?
I bugged Matthews via her website, and then on the phone. She was reassuring. “It’s about getting the job that you want – that could be in school, or out of school. It’s about teachers looking at their skills and realising ‘Hey, I can do a lot that will help me get another job that will make me happy’, wherever that might be.”
With brow wiped, I continued reading. And didn’t stop. It’s short and sweet, but brimming with clever ideas for thinking about what would make for a perfect job and, crucially, how to get it.
An example: Matthews gives 14 questions for you to answer about your perfect future job. The first: what date you want it to happen by? Then you are told to write what you are doing, what you are saying, who is with you, in this future. Not earth-shattering, part of me haughtily thought, but answering the questions really was more fun and useful than I expected.
Next, she guides you to put the questions into a mission statement. Ugh, thought the part of me involved in one too many mission statement-building INSET events at school. Ooh, this is exciting, thought the part that went ahead and did it anyway.
At the end she asks that you sign the statement. But not just in any format. You must write it as FIRSTNAME “Your future job” LASTNAME. I like my job, but even I found the phrase Laura “the Editor” McInerney quite empowering. Of course, Laura “Queen of England” McInerney isn’t bad either, but Matthews isn’t into delusions of grandeur. Oh well.
Continuing apace, the book reminds teachers of their excellent planning skills. “We are planning machines”, she points out, “Over our career lifetime we must make thousands – lesson plans, department plans, school improvement plans…”
Using those planning skills teachers can identify the direction they want to take and design a path towards it.
There is one sharp caveat. Matthews is adamant that you can’t have just any future. She is scornful of gurus who recommend “playing” as a form of work, or merely finding your passion.
“I thought I could get paid to play,” she bemoans, “I couldn’t … The truth of the matter is, no one is going to pay me for playing hockey, or travelling, or reading books, or drinking gin.”
Harsh but true. Matthews brings straight talking, sensible options for what to do when you don’t like your job and you want a new one. The title provocatively suggests one outside teaching, but the book will help you get to wherever you want to be.