“I was feeling exhausted and becoming a bit grumpy too.”
From Teacher to Governess in Russia
What work were you doing previously?
I was a primary school teacher.
What are you doing now?
I am a governess for a family with two young children in Moscow
Why did you change?
When I first went into teaching, my plan was to teach for maybe five years or so and then do something different. After four years I still had no idea what this would be! Part of me wanted to move abroad for a while, or work for a charity, or use my languages (my degree subject), but I had no clear ideas or direction at all. However, at the time I felt sure I was ready to move on.
When was the moment you decided to make the change?
I remember chatting to some of my colleagues and teachers in other schools. It seemed that lots of us were feeling run down with the workload. I was certainly feeling exhausted and I think I was becoming a bit grumpy too! I also knew that if I kept putting off my rather vague plan to 'do something different', then I might never get around to making the change. It was really hard to give up a permanent job, but definitely the right thing to do. Of course, it's much easier to say that with hindsight.
Are you happy with the change?
Yes! I don't speak Russian yet, but I like living in another country. Being a governess is less tiring than classroom teaching as I'm only working with two children rather than a whole class. I get to plan activities and lessons that match their interests and learning styles too, so I see quicker progress. There isn't a class-load of marking either!
What do you miss and what don't you miss?
I miss having the natter in the staffroom with my colleagues as you are more isolated when you work in a family. I also miss custard and Marmite!
How did you go about making the shift?
I had already been talking to colleagues, friends, and relatives about what they could see me doing. During my fourth year of teaching I had intended to look for other jobs, but couldn't find the time alongside work.
I went to the Careershifters workshop, where I met other teachers and picked up some more motivation to make the change. I didn't have a job lined up to go into, but I knew if I waited I might still never find the time to search for something else. I handed in my notice the following week. The job hunt that followed did take longer than I had thought it would - about eight months. In the meantime, I did some local voluntary work to keep me occupied and active.
Eventually I found an advert for a British governess in Moscow on my university careers website. As I had a teaching qualification and TEFL, I realised this would make an ideal shift. It would use the skills I already had, while giving me a change and an adventure.
How did you handle your finances to make your change possible?
I took in a lodger to help pay the bills. I had also saved up while I was teaching so this helped a lot too.
What was the most difficult thing about changing?
Giving up a permanent job. Job-hunting can also be a long and frustrating task!
What help did you get?
Having a family and friends who were supportive of the change really helped.
What have you learnt in the process?
That being proactive and taking the risk pays off. You can't have a new adventure without taking risks! However, I had a financial cushion in my savings and taking in a lodger, which was definitely sensible.
What do you wish you'd done differently?
What would you advise others to do in the same situation?
Definitely think through and plan the financial side. I may well not have handed in my notice if I hadn't had some savings to start with.
What resources would you recommend to others?
The government's Rent A Room scheme allows you to earn rent from a lodger tax free up to a certain amount.
Also, the Careershifters workshop is really useful as a motivational kick into action.
What lessons could you take from Rachel's story to use in your own career change? Let us know in the comments below.