Snow Days!

Oh my goodness! The fates have smiled on me and given me my last Teacher snow days! I didn’t ever think there would be any more of these, but here I am, snoozing dog by my side, in my pyjamas, Christmas lights on and The Crown on Netflix…

The snow was a slight inconvenience to our other plans though… The Christmas Entertainment show should have been in its last tech rehearsal yesterday. We should all be able to make it to dress rehearsal tonight, but we will be a little short from where we should be the night before the show opens! At least this snow day means I can rehearse the songs and my readings at leisure. (As I write, my partner is upstairs, blasting out the tenor line to one of the songs from the show!)

I’m directing my first play next year, so am in the process of casting and am prevaricating by writing this rather than making the phone calls I know I should!

The other day I realised I had 12 working days left… The Twelve Days of Christmas. (That should have been a blog title that day, but I ran out of time!)

Now I have 6…

Time is flying by, and the pressure of impending unemployment has started to show in my partner, who rarely shows any signs of stress. When he gets niggly and snappy, I know that he’s really feeling pressurised. I feel guilty that this is having a negative effect on him before I’ve even left post… He’s not been sleeping well lately. I’m starting to feel that I should be anxious by now. I keep waiting for the fear to come… but there is no fear. Friends recently asked me if I’m starting to worry, have I made the right decision?

Yes. Unequivocally. A resounding ‘Yes’!

I’m exploring different avenues. I’m looking at the possibilities. And do you know what? They really are endless. I could literally do anything. I’m taking all of the best bits of teaching and looking at how to put those things together in a way to make a living.

I have teaching friends coming out of the shadows, asking how it’s going, who are feeling similar to myself, but who can’t seem to see a way out.

That’s why I’m writing this, primarily to help others who may be in the same position as me, those who see how broken the system really is, those who no longer want to keep banging their head against the brick wall of data, results, fear mongering and the relentless feeling of failure, that nothing you ever do is good enough. This is for you. If I can do it, anyone can…

Oh, and after 2 months, the report has finally arrived from our disastrous ‘audit’, you know the one that wasn’t an audit at all… Yeah, that one! It’s particularly damning. I’ve been formulating my response to it most of the weekend…

The person who wrote it is about to discover the true meaning of ‘both barrels’…

A career or a job?

It’s been a little while… Sorry!

As Christmas approaches the term just gets busier and busier. Our Nativity plans are going well and of course it’s my last one so I’m a bit ‘go big or go home’ about it! It took some doing to persuade the boys to be angels but I’ve endeavoured to make their costumes as ‘cool’ as I can. And it’s actually quite exciting this year. I suppose my new found enthusiasm for the job is born from my knowledge that there is an end in sight. A rapidly approaching end that I am more and more unprepared for.

My partner and I have been discussing what ‘stuff’ will probably have to be forfeited in the new year… it’s sad but it is only ‘stuff’ at the end of the day. When I contemplate staying in this role and keeping the ‘stuff’, the fear and the tears start to prick, and I know that that isn’t really an option. So I keep telling myself that the ‘stuff’ ultimately hasn’t made me happier (I don’t want to use the word ‘happy’ because that would imply that I’m not happy, and I am, very happy, with the friends I have, my closest relationships, our home, our hobby, our dog, our life. It’s just one aspect of it that I’m not happy with… it just so happens to be a massive part of the whole!). On the whole, I still feel really positive about the move.

Unfortunately, with a busy day job that just gets busier with parents evenings, staff meetings (talking about things that I have to bite my tongue and pretend I give two shits about!), training courses (I know, they’re paid for, I know, I have no idea why either?!), there has been little time to do the other stuff like, oh I don’t know, finding a new job?!!!

I’ve been looking, of course I have. But I have a little quandary at the moment, and it is this…

Do I want a career? Or do I want a job? By that I mean, do I want another ‘definition’ of who I am by what I do, something as all consuming as teaching? Or do I want something that is a means to an end, isn’t my passion or even very important to me beyond enabling me financially?

People keep asking “Any ideas about what you’re going to do?” and “What would you like to do?”.

I have many ideas, which is part of the problem. But none I would be brave enough to tell most people. And I’ve always known what I’d really like to do, but I’m not sure Jodie Whittaker is looking for a female companion in her early forties to travel through space and time with her!

So, at present I’m concentrating on doing the best job I can for my last four weeks… and worrying about it later…

That’ll be fine right?

Where this all began…

So, I had a lot of thoughts swirling around before I started this blog. The first was how this all started…

I think I need to let you all know how I have come to the decision to leave the profession. It’s a combination of things. Lots of people said that 2016 was a bad year. It’s been nothing on 2017 personally. The year started as most do. And then my partner had a phone call from a theatre friend (I’ve been a part of an amateur theatre group since before my mum died in 2005). He answered the phone. It was January 2nd 2017. It was a bank holiday. He answered the phone. I saw his face change. He said the words ‘Rob Broadhurst?’. He questioned it. He finished the conversation. He said “Rob Broadhurst is dead”. It was around 8pm. He had been packing to go to work. He dropped the phone on the floor. I went numb. I’ve experienced the death of a friend, taken too soon, before. My friend Yvonne died from an epileptic fit at 27. It was weeks after my Mum died. It was a tough time.  We went though the motions of the day… he packed, rang Rob’s theatre friend to tell him. The conversation stopped abruptly. I asked what happened. “He broke down” said my partner. In the morning we went to work. On our respective drives we both later said that at some point during that drive that morning we both broke down.

One morning, not long after, the theme song to ‘Alfie’ was played as I arrived to work. I struggled to get in to work. Tears were stinging my eyes. I had to turn the radio off and have a moment. Rob and I had known each other since he was a teenager in our youth theatre. I didn’t know him that well, until we did the play ‘Alfie’ together. I was 36. He was 18. And we had to kiss! It was hilarious. He made it very easy from day one, and we kissed every rehearsal to make it a very normal thing that we just did. We joked that I was old enough to be his mother. I was a cougar!

When I lead the youth theatre the group wanted to do a version of Alice in Wonderland. He had just got home from university and told me he had done a great contemporary version of it. He gave me his script. I still have it, with his hand written notes in it. I now treasure it.

I saw him around the theatre a lot after that. We did Hotel Paradiso together. He was then working on a tv programme and had got into gemology. Who would have thought it?! He was studying gem stones, and sharing his knowledge with members of the society. I remember sitting with him talking about what he was now learning, and wondering where the kid I had known had gone. He was so confident and happy.

The last time I saw him, I was on stage doing a performance of our annual Christmas Entertainment. And there he was. In a Christmas pudding jumper! I spotted him about half way up the auditorium. I briefly spoke to him afterwards. I regret not speaking to him for longer. It was the last time I saw him alive. Less than two weeks later he was dead. Days after he turned 24. He was driving to work along a stretch of road I used to drive a lot between Kidderminster and Bromsgrove. I knew it was a bad area for black ice. I had seen lots of cars spin off the road in my time commuting between home and Redditch. I knew exactly where he had gone off the road. The bridge had been rebuilt  a few times… He span off the road, we think he hit the bridge, and it was deduced that he drowned in the icy cold water of the stream below.

We will never know.

On the 27th of January we lost my beloved canine companion Max. He had been with me through so many important events in my life. He was with me the night my mum died. He was with me when I went through a tricky break up. He was always there. And then we had to make the difficult decision to say goodbye. I went to school that morning, knowing that when I went home for my PPA time, I was actually going to be having my dog put to sleep. It was a tough time. I looked into his eyes and held his paw as he went. And it was horrific and beautiful at the same tine. It was my late Grandads birthday.

And after that I still had to e-mail planning to my team…

Then we came to February. My best friend whose family have been there for me through everything, especially my difficult teenage years (!), her Nana died. It had been a long process, and had been hard on all of the family. I had had many happy christmases with that lady, and had shared many of our big events, birthday parties etc. with her. She wasn’t my Nana, but she kind of was. I had so much to do with work the day of her funeral I couldn’t stay for the wake…

And then my maternal Grandmother was ill. My aunt kept us posted about progress via e-mail. I read one and thought she was okay. Realised I had missed one. Got home from school the first day after Easter holidays, and she was gone. I hadn’t seen her as much as I should have done. She fell out with my Dad because he had a new partner after my mum died, and people of her generation find that difficult. I had difficulty with seeing her for a while after that. I’m an only child. My dad is my only direct relative I’ve got. You hurt him you hurt me. But I had seen her since then. But not enough.

Her funeral was a bank holiday weekend. Have you tried getting a flight to Dublin on a bak holiday weekend?! It was a nightmare.

Added to that, it was the weekend that we had agreed to have a new puppy. We had never had a puppy. Max was a rescue and we never had the puppy phase of his life. I literally had a breakdown from the stress of the whole thing. My dad was brilliant. We discussed the options at length. It was a horrendously difficult decision to make, but I didn’t go to the funeral. I agonised over that decision. I lit a candle in Worcester cathedral when she was being cremated. We collected our puppy. I cried. I grieved. And I enjoyed a new life.

Grief overtook me. I was surprised when a doctor told me that 4 bereavements in 4 months would tip anyone over the edge. The grief I experienced was close to the grief when I lost Mum. It was horrific. My partner will attest that most Christmases he spends one night holding me while I rack with sobs. Then it passes and I get on with life. But this year started with many days like that.

And now I’m here. I’m pretty sure that these experiences have shaped my decisions. I’m not just leaving teaching because of teaching itself. It’s been tough year. Life can be short but full of joy. It can be long but full of regrets. I want to be somewhere in the middle.

And it’s had many high points since then… A friend I thought I had lost came back, two people I love got married. My partner continues to be amazing, we got a puppy!

We are made up of many things. This year has taught me a lot.

I am grateful for that. x

Nearly at the half way point…

Last week was almost as tough as the week before it… here we go…!

Monday – awoke at 5am, churning in my stomach at the thought of going into work this morning. Couldn’t get back to sleep. The day was relatively uneventful, mercifully! Had what is rather dreadfully named a ‘Self Help’ meeting after school. I know! We sound like a group of suicidal depressives, rather than a group of professionals who all teach within the same Academy Trust network of schools! I have no idea why the meetings changed name from Pyramid meetings (what are we selling?), to ‘Self Help’, but this week it really felt like a group of people on the edge. Only 3 schools turned up, one of whom is new to the post and is covering a maternity leave. I felt really guilty about everything she had to listen to as myself and staff from the other school vented for 90 minutes! I kept apologising to her! Interestingly, we had all had our ‘audit’… and were all essentially slated. A surprise I have to say, I had thought it would just be me. As one colleague put it, she was presented with the classic ‘shit sandwich’ of good news, bad news, good news. As it transpired, none of us had very much bread in our shit sandwich! So, upon this revelation, we delved deeper. Is there a set way of working that the Trust, (always say that word with a sense of evil overlord), want us all to follow? That would make sense. Everyone under the one umbrella, working to the same formula. And yet, we had all been given conflicting advice?! What one of us was told not to do, another was told might be an idea to try doing… We couldn’t fathom what on earth was going on. What was the purpose? Apart from making everyone feel worthless and rubbish at their job? One colleague was now second guessing herself when she took the register… Seriously?! A professional with years of experience has been brought to such a level of lack of self belief that she questions if she’s ticking names off on a list in the right way… what the fuck?! Ended the meeting with tears from two of us… one who is leaving and one who I would say was pretty close to breaking point. Bravo Academy Trust. Bravo.

Tuesday – awake at 5am again. Same sense of dread. Didn’t go to the supermarket after the ‘Self Help’ meeting… felt too broken and knackered and just wanted to get home for a hug and tea. Therefore I hadn’t bought shaving foam for an activity today… moved said activity to Thursday, team member agreed that that was fine… until we have an after school meeting with the whole team and the Head. Then the lack of shaving foam was brought up as a frustration, as they never have the resources they need for something I have planned…???!!!! Disregard all of the laminated, cut out, pre-prepped resources for every other focus led activity you’ve been asked to do this week. Disregard that the world didn’t fucking end because we had shaving foam on Thursday and not Tuesday. Thrown under the bus over fucking shaving foam… I went home and made cinnamon and nutmeg play dough, and laminated counting hedgehogs in a rage… No shaving foam you say??? Have this spicy play dough instead bitch!

Wednesday – Awake at 5am… Today was a little frosty! I know I should be employing emotional intelligence and being a leader and not allowing stuff to bother me… but I’m not that emotionally intelligent. And I’m pissed off that shaving foam-gate even happened! I put out the play dough when I arrived at 8am and all of the other resources I had pre-made… in my head I swore quite a lot!

Thursday – we broke up today. Had a staff lunchtime diary meeting. Discussed the conference that the whole school and every school in the Trust is attending tomorrow. I have to go. I need to spend at least a day in my classrooms (plural). They would rather spend the cost of a free lunch on me. Fine. I’ll go. I won’t pretend to be ill and work at home, as tempting as that is. Although I have joked about it. A colleague asked me why I was bothering anymore… I was surprised. I don’t know why? But, to have someone say to me, if I were you I’d be doing as little as possible or go off long term sick for the last half term… I responded that I have too much professional pride to go out like that. I may be going down in flames right now, but I’ll sure as hell hold my head up high as I go. Of course I’m bothering. I want to leave well. I want people to think well of me professionally after I’ve gone. I thought about her words often today… concluded that it says a lot more about her attitude at the moment than mine.

Friday – Awake at 4:30am… pointless lying in bed, seething, so I got up and had an early morning cup of tea. Conference! Yay! Was just like the good old days when I was in the corporate world. They tried to turn our heads with free mini danish pastries and fish and chips for lunch, but we were all more than a little cynical about why we were there and how much this was all costing, when we don’t even have money for whiteboard pens and laminating pouches… It was a hideous waste of a day. But it did mean I got to network a bit which was fun. We had some uninspiring speakers, a dreadfully unfunny MC, and lots of inspirational quotes bandied about like ‘Be the change’… You know what? I used to think I could be the change. Then the educational system wore me down… Saw colleagues from the Monday night meeting. We hugged and were all glad to be able to see each other in make-up and not crying! On the plus side, I completed my journal, wrote some ideas and coloured in a whole page of my mindfulness colouring book!

Half term is shaping up to be working punctuated by nice things like getting my nails done and a hair cut… But I do get to sleep in, and hopefully I will sleep!

The week that was…

So, this week started with an audit… an audit that I had perhaps naively believed would be a useful tool to let me know what I need to work on and improve. Not so much. I was asked a question… “Have you lost your way?”

I cried.

Yes.

It was a hard question to hear.

And even harder to answer.

I have never in my career had a bad judgement made about my practise. And on Monday, my professional world fell apart. An audit shouldn’t carry an Ofsted grading… but it did, and I’m requiring improvement. I know this. So, I began the week as a failing teacher. I now have to write a weekly action plan of what I’m going to do to improve each week, just to add to the workload. Because that will help right? It’s demoralising, when I’m already pretty low. But I’m getting on with it. It was nice to come into work on Tuesday morning with an action plan drawn up. I wasn’t going to turn up with my towel ready to throw in! It matched the action plan of my Head teacher, which was good. I think she still believes in me, just. I was told that HR have deemed this blog in breach of my contract, so am now writing this under the radar, for now. It was also good to meet with my head teacher at 10:30am and already have ticked off some things from the action plan. Good start!

We had several accidents including split heads, paramedics, a sting on the eye resulting in the child looking like they had gone several rounds with Rocky Balboa. It was a tough week. Although accidents aren’t directly my fault, I feel responsible.

My data looked shocking. I hate data. I’m hopeless at it. It’s playing the game, and I’m not good at that part of the job. But. I spent a day going through it with a fine toothed comb, and it looked better, a fairer reflection of the children as they are now.

I’ve spent the last three years trying to buck the trend, to not be the teacher who gets out the same planning year after year, trying to tailor it to the children, and making more work for myself, But, because I believe it’s for the good of the children. Since Monday’s disaster, I have now fallen back into the classic formula of Adult led activities, picking stuff up from a shelf, less free choice for the children, less autonomy, and less work for me in the long run.

Wins and losses.

“Have you lost your way?”

I didn’t think I had strayed so far from the path.

This week has been hell.

And this weekend I have taken time to spend with my loved ones and my dog. Good for the soul.

So, it’s Sunday, I find myself crying at Strictly, because that’s how I roll!

And I have 8 weeks of teaching left. 8 weeks. The last one felt long. Hoping for less accidents and heartache this week. And then a week off… well, a week of planning my Nativity, the last half terms lessons, writing a CV that works in the ‘real world’ and getting my shit together for the next phase…

Oh, and we’ve already been economising ready for the drop in pay after Christmas! Fun times!

Lou. x

 

So it begins… or ends…

This is the post excerpt.

So, been thinking about doing this for a while… I’m a primary school teacher. I won’t be able to say that for too much longer. And that feels weird. I mean, defining myself weird. I’ve been able to say that I’m a ‘something’ for a while. Nearly 15 years in fact. When people ask “what do you do?” I don’t say what my job is, what the job is that I do. I say what I am. I am a teacher. For now…

When I started this job, it was a bloody hard slog to even get through the training. Hours of work, assignments to write, college to attend, placements to complete, and all to a high enough standard. Because educators should be working to a high standard right? Yes. Yes they should. And the level of dedication I have seen throughout the years of doing this job has been second to none. People who give up their evenings and weekends, because they love what they do, because they love their children. And that’s the weird thing that I learned quickly. Every child in my care has been called ‘my kid’. They are my kids. They are mine for 12 months to worry about, to care about, to pick up when they fall, literally and metaphorically, to soothe woes, dry tears, make smile, make feel valued, make feel loved (when sometimes they have no adult in their world who does that for them), and lastly, to educate. To teach them new things, skills, knowledge, or just fun stuff!

I thought that the system wasn’t good, it didn’t work. And I thought that I could make the most difference and change from within the system. I could topple it from within. Ha! My naivety was huge! I write this now as a cynical shell of the teacher I was when I started. I believe in children having a strong start to life. I believe in making children resilient, happy, confident, risk takers. I always have. I always will. But I’m tired. I’m so fucking tired. I’m tired of the bureaucracy. The goal posts of where I should be getting the children to changing year after year, government initiative after government initiative. I’m tired of being constantly told by education ministers, people who seem to have never had contact with a small child in their life, how I should be providing them with the best start in academia. Please!

It breaks my heart to say that I haven’t effected the change I wanted to when I started out. It breaks my heart that I have had to become hardened to the shitty situations some children live in, and that whatever I do, I am not single handedly able to break the cycle of depravation that some children exist within. It breaks my heart…

So, here I am. Saying “I quit”. This weekend I worked until 11pm on Friday (I started school at 7:50am), I worked 5 hours on Saturday, I worked 3 hours today (Sunday), and this is just to keep my head above water. This isn’t classed as going ‘over and above’ to most of my colleagues. This is ‘normal’. Schools are run primarily on the goodwill of the staff within them. We spend hours of our own time, hundreds of pounds of our own money (Amazon Prime loves me!) This is without any overtime pay. This is without any acknowledgment from parents. All they say is “where’s their jumper?” or “they’ve lost their water bottle”… is it named? No. I’m supposed to memorise everyone of the cherubs bloody belongings like Derren fucking Brown! And that gets tired, and tiring, after a few years.

I shall try to keep you posted about the thoughts, fears and musings of leaving teaching as I enter into the last phase of my career. I finish on December 19th. A career I thought I would have until I was too creaky to get up off the floor after being at a child’s level (turns out that that’s 41!). I’m sad. I’m tired. I’m done.

What’s scary is, there are many more like me who aren’t able to quit, and they are the ones who are caring for your children. Think about that when you next demand from the woman who is dead behind the eyes “where’s their (un-named!) jumper…

Look at me in the picture… smiling! It was summer. The well earned summer. And I’m happily trading 6 weeks ‘off’ (what a joke that is!) for, well, I don’t know what. But it has to be better than this…

 

Lou. x

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