It’s very rare that I will take time out of my schedule to write a serious blog. The usual, if annoying, tactic of frequent pop culture references to illustrate my points would (unfortunately) feel out of place in amongst this offering. I’m going to attempt to write about my career, rather introspective I know, but hopefully there is something to be gained from reading it. All four years of it. Brace yourself – it went wrong along the way.
NOTE: It starts very drab and dreary. Bear with it. It ends up positive. (It has to, Colin said so.)
I left Sheffield Hallam with a degree in primary education (with QTS. Important that.) four years ago – fresh faced, immature, un-waistcoated and naive. Our final lecture had been rather eye opening, as the lecturers almost had to apologise for government meddling (“The levels you have got used to throughout your training? They’ve been scrapped.”). However, with indomitable spirit, I set off into the world of interviews, as I eagerly anticipated the challenges ahead.
I had a VERY successful interview (although some children were annoyed that our magical spells didn’t actually turn teachers into frogs and were instead a cover for an underground maths learning ring) and was hired on a temporary contract, teaching year five. I was beaming as I got home to tell everyone about it! Me, my mum and dad’s only child, succeeding in my goals!
I hated it.
Day one of transition week – one child walked out halfway through lesson one. Smirking. Looking back, do I feel I could have done more? Oh yes! That school taught me behaviour management like you wouldn’t believe! It was here that I learned the importance of rapport and how to properly guide pupils with EAL to succeed. But it made me ill.
It started with dizzy spells, first when standing up to fast, then when I was just stood up, and then more often. Increasing in frequency, I started requiring time off from work to see doctors until one day, at work, I just blacked out. I hit my face on a heating pipe on the way to the floor. Somewhere in that enormous school, two halves of two of my teeth lie in wait for an unsuspecting child to find them.
The school were helpful, lovely even, about me returning to work, but I had taken such an enormous knock that it was time to move on… to PPA cover.
PPA cover, across the whole of school, covering everything. It was BEAUTIFUL! Every child in school knowing you and sharing things with you, every member of staff understanding who you were and what you could do. It was too good to be true, but I ran with it while I could. I had my own room, organised and displayed the way I wanted it to be.
“Could you cover year six while [redacted] is on maternity leave?”
“Of course I can!”
Year six is HARD. WORK.
Eventually I got into the swing of things, and then we had the hardest night of my life.
A call in the middle of the night told me to get to hospital as quickly as possible. My mum was in intensive care, hooked up with a breathing mask and every machine going. What had started with blood poisoning had turned into sepsis, and we were told that mum was 50:50 to make it through the night.
I’m still angry with myself for it, but I even rang a colleague at 11PM to let them know I wouldn’t be in the next day. Never do that.
Again, I was thrown entirely off kilter. I had no idea what I was doing when I returned to work, and I spent the majority of my time going to and from my mum and dad’s house and my own home, an hour away. Mum was, eventually, paralysed from the waist down. It’s believed that she will never walk unasisted again, and physio, though helping her with basics, can never get her to the place she once was.
She stood up for my wedding.
Let’s not. I ended up teaching supply.
I started teaching a mixed year 5/6 class this year. And I started well. Very well.
Then my Grandma died.
You’ll notice that my luck comes in fit and starts.
It’s very difficult to deal with grief and work at the same time, yet there I was, dealing with losing the only Grandma I ever knew, supporting Mum and Dad, getting on with work, and meeting an assessment deadline. Something had to give. Unfortunately it was my standards at work (Not teaching wise, just generally).
I still feel a sense of shame about that – letting standards slip. There’s a level of emotional blackmail that comes (not from the school, I should point out) from teaching thirty tiny humans. A feeling of “I should be giving 110% every day”. This is a toxic feeling, that can grow and infiltrate the mind. Giving everything all the time is impossible – it has taken me a long time to realise that.
It must be said my head and deputy have been fantastic this year. I fell into a very dark place at the start of 2018, and without the support (and occasional kick up the backside) I would not be where I am now. I wouldn’t be a part of GroundEd, I wouldn’t be attending Primary Rocks, Northern Rocks, Reading Rocks and Total Teaching (£2 a plug ladies and gentlemen!), and I certainly wouldn’t be hosting #BrewEdChezzy in September.
A supportive leadership is EVERYTHING in a primary school. It makes or breaks the staff. Thanks to mine, I am a much more confident, brave, dedicated educator than I once was. Yes, there are still parts of the job I hate, of course there are. But I’m beginning to see wood for trees now. Two positive book scrutinies, emails from parents and postcards from nineteen peer observers later, I think I may just have this classroom thing locked down this year.