Dicky Ticker

With all of this new found ‘free time’, I’ve been busy making my own dog food. I feel like the Annabel Karmel of the spaniel world! Our dog is a princess. Plain and simple. She will eat dog food when there is another dog around. Otherwise, she will turn her nose up at dog food. What do we think she is? A dog?! So, I started researching what I could feed her. She was the runt of the litter and is pretty small. When she started getting bony, it seemed the logical step, feed her what she WOULD eat.

Now, every Saturday, the big cooking pot comes out and she knows exactly what that means… her humans are completely whipped!

Today she is having a heart ultra-sound scan.

We weren’t aware of any problem with her heart until taking her to the veterinary hospital to be spayed, and during their routine checks they heard a murmur that they weren’t happy with.

So, I’m sitting in a tea shop, with my laptop, catching up on e-mails and blog posts and generally looking, I imagine, quite ‘wanky’! I’m even wearing black from head to toe. Wanky.

Wanky and worried…

Hoping for the best, preparing for the worst.

Relativity and The Application of Old Skills to New Environments

A Wedding!

Last time I posted I was about to head off to the wedding of two theatre friends. Another example of the theatre and the love of it and the mental-ness of our hobby, and how that understanding can bring like-minded souls together. It was a lovely day. The lovely Hannah Kelly of http://www.hannahkellyphotography.com was taking the snaps, and I took some of her at work… mainly she seemed to be on the floor!

The theatre is where I tend to be when not at work or home. It was the place that took me out of myself while my Mum was dying of cancer. It was the place where I always knew I would find a friendly face, a smile, a hug, no questions asked if I didn’t want to talk. It has always been the place that has reminded me that there is life outside of work. Whilst teaching, it was a difficult juggling act. Where I compromised in many areas of my life, this was where I drew the line, I didn’t compromise (although often I would take school work with me whilst also rehearsing). It’s been my haven.

Now, after years of acting as part of the company, I find myself directing a play! It’s a great piece, ‘Playhouse Creatures’. I have a lovely cast and we are currently crafting a piece of which I hope we will all be proud. If you’re around Kidderminster from April 9th… drop in!

Having the ‘head space’ to also direct a play has been a breath of fresh air. I had never felt able to contemplate it before. I can merrily stuff envelopes, type letters and file paperwork whilst also running through scenes from the play in my head. Luxury!

One of the women who voluntarily works at the theatre has just started her own blog. I am excited to see what she writes, as I think that it will be a fascinating read… she is a brilliant technician of lights and sound. If you’ve never seen a woman with one arm run a lighting desk or operate sound cues with her feet… it really is something! Please take a look at theonearmwonder.wordpress.com 


After a few weeks of temping, I’m getting to grips with the new pay scale. Some might say that it is in bad taste to discuss money… but if you’re thinking about making your own escape, you need to know the financial reality. So… I have picked up just shy of £300 per week. In real terms, a shade over half what I used to earn. The lack of stress can, and does, make up for some of it. I certainly pay lots less tax! But this is probably not sustainable long term. But it’s better than a poke in the eye! And everything starts coming into a new perspective. What I wouldn’t have flinched at spending before now seems like a fortune. And I think that’s a good thing. I am re-thinking how I spend and what I spend. It’s all relative…

Old Dog, Old Tricks

I find myself dusting off the old memory stick and dredging up something I didn’t think I’d need… I have been tasked with drafting an Improvement Plan! For the office. When presented with a (very) rough draft of what they wanted, I saw the format and titles and immediately knew what I was looking at… and I have written many an improvement plan in my time. I’m actually rather looking forward to doing something so familiar in an unfamiliar context. I reckon the same rules apply… just to a new situation…

A dress, Shakin’ Stevens and lunchtimes with Millenials

A Dress…

A fun week has been had… the banter is still keeping me highly entertained, the lack of stress or even not having to use most of my brain is enlightening, and my New Years resolution has resulted in me wearing a dress to work for the first time in a long time!

My New Years resolution was to reduce waste caused by manufacturing and to reduce my own costs. I am a bugger for clothes! I love having something new to wear. But, I also have a dreadful habit of buying things on a whim, and then never wearing them. So I decided to not buy any new items of clothing for the entire year… I have more than enough and then some. This is beginning to make me be slightly more adventurous in my clothing choices day to day, and to dig out things that have never been worn. The dress I wore this week I had bought on a whim from Pop Boutique in London… about 6 years ago… I had to cut the price label off before I wore it to work! I rarely got my legs out at school… with 3-5 year olds with little understanding of physical boundaries, it was just too risky!

A dress... at work...!
The first time I’ve worn a dress in about 15 years…

Shakin’ Stevens…

I am enjoying working with people who are at least 20 years younger than myself… it’s almost as entertaining as working with 5 year olds! Last week we had a corker from my lovely colleague who I sit opposite in the office. She’s 25, beautiful, an annoying combination of being pretty and really nice person, and hilarious without intending to be. I love her! So, the scenario went thus…

Colleague – “That person you’re just about to call has changed his name by deed poll to Shakin’ Stevens”.

Me – “Does he have a green door?”.

Colleague – “No!”.

Me – “He’s missing a trick there!”

Beautiful 25 Yr old – “Why? Is Shakin’ Stevens a real person?”

I love her…!

Lunch with Millenials…

Lunch with Millenials is also a new phenomenon. Eating with someone who is 18, enthusing about this amazing film that they’ve just seen… they outline the plot. You think, ‘there is something familiar about this plot’ … And then they drop the bombshell… “Titanic. Have you seen it?”

Bloody hell! I saw that film when I was only a couple of years older than this boy…!

And he loves it, he bloody loves that film! And that makes me smile. Because it reminds me that some of the things that I have grown used to and perhaps don’t ‘see’ anymore, can be shown to me anew through the eyes of someone who is discovering it for the first time.

In many ways, working in this office isn’t that dissimilar to being in the classroom when I think about it…

Workin’ 9 to 5

Well, 8:30 til 5…

The last time I posted I had just signed up with a temping agency. I was still holding out hope for the theatre job I had applied for but alas, that was not to be. This time. But, I was called for an interview on the Tuesday, and by the time I had got home from what was essentially less interview and more a jokey chat, I had a call from the recruiter to say that they liked me and could I start tomorrow?! I was hoping for a bit more time off if I’m honest! I was enjoying my time to myself far too much! But, I had finished Grace and Frankie on Netflix so why not?! I knew that I also had to get real and earn some money. So I said yes. Despite the job I was sent to interview for being sold to me as a month long admin thing, and finding in the interview that it was 3 months minimum and not quite what I had been led to believe.

So, 8 days in, and I am now working in social housing, of sorts. I was brought in to do filing, send letters, generally do the shit that everyone else in the office didn’t need to spend their time on when they had more important things to do. As often happens, the phone rings, the office is busy, everyone is on a phone call, so I pick up the phone… and then I find out how to use the various computer systems, and then before I know it, I’m entrenched in dealing with people over the phone! 2 days later and they ask me to stay permanently…

It’s been years since I worked in an office environment, and it kind of felt comfortable to come back to it. On my first day, I came home and my partner asked what I had been doing. “I used the franking machine” I gleefully replied. “Ooh, I love a franking machine” was his response! We are meant to be together.

And I do love using a franking machine. I love working in an environment with men in it. It’s a rare thing in primary schools. Certainly in my experience. The atmosphere is very different. There is a lot of piss taking. It’s like I’ve been accepted if I’m being taken the piss out of and giving that shit back! I’m being called by my first name. I get to go for a wee whenever I need to. I have a hot drink at my desk… and drink it while it’s still hot. I snack at my desk, without half a dozen people gathering around me asking me “what’s that? What have you got? Can I have some”… well, sometimes!

These are all small, insignificant things. And the novelty won’t last, I’m sure. But right now, it’s a lot of fun. I see managers juggling work loads and staffing issues. I speak to people at the photocopier (I’m there a lot!), and every one of them has been friendly and welcoming and ask why I’m there? Am I staying? Am I settling in? When I tell people what I used to do, they are surprised at first, then the stories start to emerge from them… the guy whose wife used to be a nurse, but couldn’t give any more, the people who are choosing schools for their children… So far on this crazy journey from a career to who knows where or what, not one person, and I shit you not, not one, has asked “why”?

I read an interesting article in the Telegraph that was asking questions about Academy Trusts… Trust is not a word I would associate with them. This is purely my opinion and I have no desire to get political, but it did harken back to the big corporate meeting we had in the academy trust I was part of, and the speakers talking about ‘their’ trusts, and the large pots of money that were available to the schools who pooled their resources. Yet on the front line we were scrabbling around for laminating pouches and whiteboard pens. Who are they accountable to? When a school is run by local government, the parents are all stakeholders as they are voters who have a say in the local governance. And as such, have a voice in their child’s school. With an Academy Trust the lines are so blurred I keep blinking and rubbing my eyes and am still non the wiser. Does only the opinion of the people who put the money in count? But this is from my very limited view point and I only say what I see and experienced. My gut is telling me that no good can come from this method of running schools…

Yet again I have been told that I am ‘brave’ for leaving. “Ooh that’s brave.” It doesn’t feel brave. Sometimes it feels really fucking stupid! When I look at the 40 hour timesheet, at £8.45 per hour… it’s less than before. But I have left the office just after 5pm, got home, and the whole evening is my own. I finished work last Friday and that was it. Done. Tonight, I know I have my work list ready for Monday morning, but for now, the weekend is as chilled or as busy as I choose to make it.

I see the ‘high fliers’ at the company. I see and hear the stress. I relate to some of it. And I crack on with my filing, and my letter printing, and my calling of tenants, or answering the calls when everyone is busy, and I am quietly happy.

This is still the Plan B. And I am happy with Plan B. I read recently that having a Plan B is fine as long as Plan A doesn’t slip away and merge into your plan B… And that you are happy with Plan B short term. So as flattering as it was to be asked to stay permanently, it is my Plan B. Plan A is still bubbling away. The headshots are ready… although ploughing through hundreds of photos of your own stupid face and trying to choose a few that will go on to represent you in the wider world is really difficult. I’ll enlist some help with that as I can’t really judge which image of my own face is a good one or will be a good one to put out as a job prospect!

The cogs are whirring. I’m still not entirely set on what I will do next. But for now there are irons in fires and all that shite.

For now, I shall enjoy my Aldi wine (it’s great, why had I not done this before?! Because I was probably a snob before!) and work it out as we go along.

Happy Friday! xx


Continue reading “Workin’ 9 to 5”

Hey there!

It’s been a couple of weeks since I last posted. Sorry. The queen of procrastination!

So, what’s been happening?

Well, I’ve been searching on job sites. I’ve signed up for a few things. I’ve read a lot of stuff about being a virtual PA… the last time I was unemployed the internet wasn’t the thing it is now. I know, I’m so old! There seems to be so much more out there now that is a possibility…

I signed up with a recruitment agency. Filled in all the forms. And was told that many prospective employers would be wondering why I want to do some simple office work, data entry, stuff that doesn’t stretch me. The recruiter said “employers will ask why you want to be in an office”. I responded with “give them a week in a classroom and then ask them that question again”. You have to be a certain type of person to teach. It requires very strong, emotionally and mentally, people to be the many things that a teacher needs to be. A social worker, a listener, a problem solver, a lateral thinker, someone who puts others before themselves. I admire everyone who does that job. Right now I just want space to think…

I’m pondering what I want to do next. I appreciate that I am in a position that many others are not. I have a partner who is able to support me, us, financially, in the short term. He’s supported me hugely emotionally over the years. I acknowledge that others who find themselves disillusioned with the job that they love, are not in my position to make the choice to leave without anything to go to. But the sense of relief and freedom I feel cannot be bought…

Having read some of my old posts, ones I wrote whilst in the job, but which were not published until I had left, I realise how paranoid and angry I was. I feel sorry for the people who had to work with me. I must have been a nightmare. Those feelings are all gone now. There is a new ‘lightness’ to me. I’m slightly concerned about the future, but I made the right decision for me.

I tailored a new CV, one that wasn’t the standard teacher one I’ve been able to simply add my latest position to and send off for another teaching job. And here’s what I found…

Transferrable skills in ‘normal’ world speak

I went through a job spec for a job that I have applied for, and had to adapt what I’ve been doing in a school context, to a different context. Here goes…

Working through a website that builds a CV for you, I came up with these…

  • excellent communication skills – well yeah, you have to communicate with children and parents daily, sometimes you have to have meetings where you have to not only tell parents where their child excels, but you also have to very carefully gauge how a parent will react to the news that their child isn’t meeting developmental and academic targets… very tricky conversations!
  • articulate and well spoken – you have to sound intelligent. You are the person responsible for their child’s education. You have to make sure that you have all of the ‘speak’ for meetings, but also not have too much of the ‘speak’ to not be accessible to parents and be someone they feel able to talk to, relate to. In some areas I’ve worked in, I’ve had to make sure I tone down how ‘posh’ I can sometimes sound. I once had a parent comment to me that their child was correcting their grammar at home because of how I spoke!
  • Customer service oriented – how often have we had a shitty day but have to smile and be emotionally engaged with parents and children and leave our own shit at the front door, regardless? Their issue is big to them, even if it means bollocks-all to you at that point in time!
  • Flexible – Oh god yes! Can you see a parent at 4pm? Yes, of course I can. I didn’t have anything else to do… This lesson clearly isn’t working, it’s Wednesday and blowing a gale… fuck that shit off and go to plan B, STAT!
  • Accurate and detailed – how many IPM’s do you have to write? How many notes do you have to keep about vulnerable children and how they present each day or what they say? You know this may be part of something bigger someday, you have to make sure it’s entirely correct.
  • Excellent planner and co-ordinator – goes without saying that everyday has to be planned and TA’s have to directed as needs of children dictate. The bigger the team, the more people to co-ordinate.
  • Works well under pressure – even the best day in school that goes to plan can have elements of pressure. Then you have days, often the last ones of term for some strange reason (?!), where an issue can arise with a child, and you suddenly have a situation where you are having to make a referral to social services… no-one wants that. Not because it’s the last day of term, but because you never want to think of a child in potential crisis, and you’re about to send them into that situation for a period of time called the ‘holiday’, but you suspect that for them it’ll be anything but… and they will be on your mind every day… but you still have the last lessons to teach and the assembly to make certificates for and the data to be complete and, and, and…
  • Data analysis – I’ll admit I’m shit at this bit! But every teacher has to input the academic progress of every child into some sort of system that has algorithms to determine their scores etc. The algorithm’s tend to be a bit shit! They rarely reflect the child that you interact with every day. You end up having to battle the algorithm to try to make it show the child that you know. My partner does this stuff for a living. When I showed him my data collection system he was baffled… “It literally makes no sense” he said. He isn’t in education. He has been more insightful than most educational specialists I’ve ever met… Then you get people from County call you and ask if your data is correct… basically, ‘can you make this look a bit better with some tweaks here and there?’…
  • Student training and development – Ah, yes, the student teacher. We were all one once. Wide eyed, shitting ourselves. Or, the other end of the scale, uber confident and think they know everything already. At some point in your career, you will have had a student. A good one is a godsend. One that’s not so good can tip you over the edge. You’re pressured to pass them. People will disagree with me on this publicly, but privately…  I have friends who work in universities who refer to some of the teacher training students as ‘cannon fodder’… it’s not nice, but we know that some of them don’t have what it takes. And we are pressured to pass them. Which always frightens me.
  • Project Planning – Ahh, the week long projects for maybe science based or history based topics! We all dress up, plan a ’round robin’ of activities around the school, mix up year groups, get everyone working together, go ‘off curriculum’ i.e. little numeracy or literacy for a week… To be fair, these were some of the best weeks! If planned well, you got a lot more from the children. Within your day-to-day you would plan projects to fit a theme, and they were great. So yeah, you can do that!
  • Pleasant demeanour – many would say not after reading my blog…!

So there you have it, the bullet points are the points that I put into my CV for office work and were provided by PerfectCVbuilder. The examples are provided by me!

In other news…

I’ve been thankful to be at home with a hormonal puppy in her first season… it’s bloody infuriating! For her and me. I’m thankful that I have the time to keep up with the washing, the neediness, the walks where I’m scoping out the horizon and trying to work out if the dog approaching us is male or not… and can I beat him off (not in that way!) with the ball wanger? (Don’t know what you call those ball launcher things, so in our house, it’s a ‘wanger’ and we go out ‘wanging’. I even have a condition known in our house as ‘wangers arm’… its not as good as it sounds!)

My resolutions of doing more yoga and reading and meditation haven’t gone so well… but I’ve watched all of Osark and Stranger Things 2 on Netflix… and Grace and Frankie started today…

The money runs out next week, and then shit gets real!


The First week of unemployment

It’s been a heady week of housework, dog walking, spending some time catching up with loved ones, and trying to get up early. Living the high life!

Back to School

I woke up later than planned and kept thinking to myself ‘the children will be coming into school now.’ 12 pm – ‘They’ll be having lunch now’. 3pm – ‘They’ll be getting ready for home time now’. I was thinking of my colleagues as I watched the teachers at the school opposite to where I live return to work. I felt naughty! It’s an odd feeling and one that’s difficult to accurately describe.

Theatre Stuff

I finally drafted a rehearsal schedule for the play I’m directing from next month. I thought planning for a team of people was difficult but blimey! Trying to work around dates that every actor is available, and ensuring that each scene is given due time to work through, was tricky! I got it done, and was pleased with my very first rehearsal schedule… I e-mail it to my cast. One comes back to me… they had a Christmas present of tickets for a show on a rehearsal night, is it okay if they miss that one? I like to think my response was lighthearted… I meant it though!

I helped out at the theatre ‘stuffing day’… when volunteers come together and put brochures for the next season into envelopes, along with flyers for outside lets, and address them to be sent to everyone on our ticketing database. Over 2800 done in under 2 hours! The camaraderie was lovely. I sat with friends old and new, chatting as we worked, people joking about my ‘retirement’ and how was I enjoying it?! Several former teachers were there, and they shared some stories about experiences post teaching, things that they did next, the circumstances that lead them there, and I had a great sense of reassurance and support. My theatre family have been supportive through so many life changing events that I always appreciate them being there.

The Birthday Party!

Myself and my partner went to the 30th birthday party of a former colleague. Seems a bit weird even typing that! I’m really glad we went. I won’t pretend there wasn’t some trepidation… I’m hardly flavour of the month with some people. But the birthday girl appreciated the gesture, and that was what was important.

My first negative comment!

I was wondering how long it would take after putting myself out there publicly… the fact that someone was incensed enough to even take the time to comment negatively was great! It’s lovely having people of a similar mindset make positive comments and being supportive. But, not everyone thinks the same way or has the same opinions. I’m not offended by someone expressing a different opinion to mine. This is a very personal blog in terms of it is my opinions and feelings, and I don’t expect others to have the same opinions and feelings as me. That’s fine.

I’ll be very honest here… when I was leading an Early Years unit, there were members of staff within it that at times were struggling to cope. At the time, I was juggling home, work and theatre. I had performed for 3 months at the RSC in the first amateur ensemble that they had ever assembled. In my own time. Rehearsing every night of the week, and most Saturdays.  I had achieved many personal successes, both in and out of the classroom. I was a senior leader in the school. I was well respected by professionals I worked with, within County, within other schools in our pyramid. I was called upon to mentor, to give advice, I was listened to. And those members of my team who were struggling, I didn’t support as well as I could have. My attitude at the time was ‘I’m juggling all of these things and still keeping on top of the job, doing it well, what is your problem?’. I’m shocked by myself now, looking back.

When someone who has never met me, observed me working, or knows what my background is, accuses me of being ‘overly dramatic’… well Darling, as I shall now refer to the D in your name, what do you expect from someone with a drama degree and who has been acting for over 15 years?!

When you accuse me of being incompetent and not being conscientious… you are tapping into what I’ve been thinking of myself for the last year, and so are many others in this profession. Not because we are, but because we work in a culture which is increasingly demanding and we feel we are never good enough, doing enough or caring enough. I suggest that I burnt out because I was TOO conscientious. I gave and gave and gave of myself. Those children were the most important people in my life. When I felt I was failing them, I decided to go. As for wasting my time being self indulgent and writing this… this takes me minutes to do, on a sporadic basis. It’s not just for me, it’s for anyone who feels like me. Just knowing you’re not alone can be helpful. I have the luxury of being able to say it how it is, for me, because I don’t intend to come back to the profession. I’m burning those bridges baby! Many cannot say it as honestly.

But trust me, they feel it.

If you feel that you have got the whole job nailed, that you are competent and conscientious and none of what I have said is an issue that you experience, great! Genuinely. If you can do this job, that I wholeheartedly believe is an honourable and brilliant profession, and not be ground down by the bureaucracy, the paperwork, the data crunching, and everything that detracts from children and their best interests, brilliant. Well done!

Rather than criticising someone who is being open and honest about struggling, maybe you could be part of the change. Build up other women in your profession. Encourage. Share the secrets of your success and how you make this work for you. There are many out there who could use your tips for how to survive a very difficult job. I admire anyone who can.

And to all those who I didn’t understand when they were struggling, and thought of as weak, incompetent or not as conscientious as me… I’m sorry.

We all have different breaking points.


New Year, New Start

Hey! It’s been a predictably busy Christmas period. It’s been the first Christmas in 15 years that I haven’t had work to do, which had always taken me (mentally) away from my loved ones, and added a certain element of stress to the frivolities. It’s been amazing!

Don’t get me wrong, there’s been plenty to do. The ‘teacher’ garage for a start…! Had a very satisfying trip to the tip and binned all of my old paperwork, anything I had been holding on to, ‘just in case’. It felt strange, but good.

Memberships Cancelled!

Had to tell Twinkl that I no longer needed my membership. They were very lovely and sent me a personal e-mail to wish me luck. A nice touch and one that made me like the company even more!

Today is the day I have cancelled my NUT membership. They’re not called that now, but I hadn’t really paid attention.

I’ve not only lost membership to a professional body, I’ve lost friends too. It’s been a hard lesson to learn. It’s been disappointing to find who I can truly call a friend. For whatever reasons (and I’m sure that they are sound ones and I respect those who have made the decision to cut social media ties), some have decided that, as I have left their place of work, I am no longer their friend. It’s fine. It’s hurtful. But ultimately, it’s fine.

Auspicious Day

Today is also a year to the day that we lost our good friend Rob Broadhurst. It’s a day that I made sure I kept myself busy. I procrastinated quite a lot if I’m honest! I’m really good at making a list and then hitting the easy ‘wins’. It’s a habit I know I need to get out of.

I went onto the inter webs and found a site claiming to build the perfect CV… I looked at the skills required for a ‘normal’ job and then equated them to what I have been doing as a teacher… turns out there’s a lot of transferrable skills when you really pick it all apart. Of course, trying to convince people to employ me may be difficult. The biggest barrier at present is myself and my perception of myself. Of what I’m capable of. My confidence has been well and truly knocked over recent months!

Going down in Flames!

Last year was tough. my professional reputation, despite my trying to remain ‘on top’ of it all, to maintain a positive and professional attitude, was shot to pieces by the end. I felt that I had already torched my career, and I was going down in flames, Not in a blaze of glory as I had hoped! No exit interview, just a few gifts (not that I’m not grateful for everyone contributing at an expensive and horrifically busy time of year). I packed up the last of my things and I walked out of the door.

I then went to the pub and was poured into a taxi before 9pm that night!

Back to School for some…

…but not for me tomorrow. So far, it has all just felt like I’m on holiday. Granted, a school holiday where I haven’t had to work and plan, and resource and think several months into the future.

For now, I’m thinking of each day.

There are jobs out there. I shall stop procrastinating and get on with applying for them. I shall worry, and wonder if I’m doing the right thing.

And then I’ll remember…

I’ve already gained a lot of my mental health back.

And what happens when things burn to the ground…? Well, I’m hoping this particular pile of ashes springs forth with a phoenix…

Let’s see shall we…