A few years on

Three years ago I was employed, a full-time, yearly renewed contract but it was still ‘proper’ employment.

Things hadn’t really been going well, work was very stressful, I was being forced to teach something I felt unqualified to teach – I tried to explain I couldn’t teach it and was told I was being ‘inflexible’ and where I worked people who were inflexible did not get contract renewals. Marking was getting on top of me, I had over 100 students doing BTEC and some of them were not passing the unit I was struggling to teach. I was going to work at 7am and leaving at 9pm, my weekends consisted of grunting at my partner during meals and then getting back to marking or lesson planning or tracking.

I also had had time off to get married (that made me popular – not) then, three days before the Easter holidays I was at work at 7:30am and my mother called me sobbing – my grandfather died. I had to leave and go back to Yorkshire and care for my grandmother, help arrange the funeral, view the body, the body with half the face smashed from where he’d fallen. We’re a close-knit family and I’d told the place I worked I wouldn’t be back before the Easter holidays.

I was told not to worry about it. So I didn’t.

I should have.

When I returned I was told I should have returned the next day. I was told that I had let my students down. I was told that I had let the other staff down. When I’d explained to my students why I had been absent I was told how dare I make them feel bad for asking why their work hadn’t been marked? Slowly I began to realise I wasn’t welcome in my department anymore, several people began to blame me for things, the others began to close off from me. I’d suddenly become the department scapegoat. I had to reinterview for my job and I didn’t get it. Friday afternoon the week before final deadline my boss told me that she’d finally IV’d my Unit two marking and none of it was up to her standard. This was a shock to me as I’d marked it the same as the year before and when I asked why she hadn’t said anything in January (as that’s when it should have been IV’d) I was told she couldn’t find it then and all my students would have to re-do, resubmit and I would have to remark anything above a pass in one week.

That day as I drove home I stared at the trees along the route and found myself thinking “If I drove into one of those trees…I wouldn’t have to go to work on Monday” I was so desperate not to go back to that toxic environment that I was willing to seriously injure myself. I didn’t want to kill myself, I could never do that to my partner and family, but I wanted to hurt myself so badly.

The Saturday I treated myself to the local Pick your own and went to pick strawberries. A few hours in the fresh air would sort me out I thought. I don’t remember how it happened but there I was in the middle of a strawberry field, on my knees in the hay just sobbing my eyes out silently.  I don’t know how long I sat there, I an remember it so clearly, the bees, the smell of strawberries, the green of the plants and the bright blue sky but I do remember thinking ENOUGH.

I drove myself to the local walk in clinic and sat for an hour in the waiting room barely holding on.  I explained everything, the nurse was brilliant, she listened and I was a blubbering mess she prescribed me some Valium to get me through the weekend as I hadn’t been sleeping and sent me home with strict instructions not to go back to that place.

I called my two best friends as my partner was away. Please I need someone here with me I begged them and they came. They stayed the whole week with me, they fed me ice cream and didn’t complain when I ate the whole lot myself. They made sure I slept and took the medicine the Dr prescribed me. They drove me to that Dr on the Monday morning and she made sure I knew that I wasn’t in the wrong, she told me it was okay to feel how I did and she also said she’d wanted me to take a fit note when she’d seen me in March but I’d refused saying I’d tough it out.

I love my friends. Someone I don’t speak to anymore called my partner and explained everything to them, including how I was feeling and what had happened and how they could help me.

The medicine I was taking knocked me out, dead on 2pm every afternoon. I started in May 2014 and the whole of May, June, July….I would fall asleep at 2pm, that’s how exhausted and sleepless I’d been. I started therapy, I didn’t think it would help, I hated filling out the survey every week asking if I still wanted to hurt myself. Some weeks were better than others.

As I’m writing this I’m sat in a library at university. A library I probably wouldn’t have been sat in without the support and help of my friends, partner and therapist. I felt so low and useless I wouldn’t have even considered doing a Masters.

Yet here I am, two years in to a part-time masters, I’m sat in the library surrounded by the books and papers I’m reading for the literature review for my final project. The lowest grade I’ve gotten so far was 69%. I still have bad days, I’m currently crying as I write all this out – it’s like poking a wound that’s inside, it causes an ache in my chest even this many years on. My experience has damaged my love of teaching, it damaged my confidence and it’s damaged how I work with other people to a degree.  I couldn’t even drive past the building at first.

It took over a year of therapy, and it was only in September 2016 I took the last of my medication to the pharmacy for disposal. I’m better than I was, and one day I hope to be able to talk about it without being angry or crying.

One day.


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My Armour

My armour is the shoes I wear

Flat so I can walk

My armour is the words I use

The soothing way I talk

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My armour is the suit I wear

So you can’t see the real me

My armour is the smile I wear

So you will let me be

My armour is my colleagues

Who tell me of my worth

My armour is my students

For whom I move the Earth

 –

My armour is the necklace I wear

A reminder that you’re there

My armour is the Love you send

It reminds me that you care

Sometimes the armour we wear can be stifling and it’s more of a shield that hides you. Sometimes it’s armour which strengthens you.

Gosh I sound poncy. I’m just trying to say that armour can be a good thing and can be a bad thing.

Better tomorrow

; Things will be better tomorrow

I’ll attend that meeting

Things will be better tomorrow

I’ll get out of the house

I’ll go into the scary world

I’ll face the things I fear

I’ll let the sun touch my face

I may even look into a mirror.

I’ll face that class

Remind myself they don’t hate me

I’ll teach that class

Tell myself they will learn something

I’ll go into work

I’ll see my colleagues

I’ll try to work out my boss

I’ll try to work out the marking system.

Things will be better tomorrow

I’ll attend that meeting

Things will be better tomorrow

I’ll get out of the house

I won’t cry

I won’t feel like I’m choking

I won’t feel like I’m drowning

I won’t feel so tired

Things will be better

Tomorrow.

27.10.14

Wow, I can’t believe it’s almost the end of October already. This can only mean one thing to teachers across the country where I live. Half-Term. Glorious half-term! How I doth love thee.

I have friends visiting me and I’m glad as they are really helpful when it comes to my number one task during holidays – cleaning. I can do small cleans during the weekends but having them over inspires me to do it better. Plus they’re happy to give me a hand (one really likes hovering and the other is amazing at cleaning hobs!)

Haven’t really felt the need to lower my medication dosage again, we’ll see how this term goes. My therapist is happy with my progress and has decided that the next session is my last.

I also need to give the school an answer to their offer of employment till June/July. Hrm. The money would be very useful, but I’m not sure about the stress. I have decided to try to get a place on a masters but with the fees going up the way they have done (a whole £1000/$1613/1270EUR) I’m going to have to do some serious saving. This will include saving my tutoring money. By my calculations I have about 48 weeks until a masters could start. This means I need to be saving at least £105 a week added to my £2000 savings. Ack. That’s remembering that I have the 6 week holidays beforehand, I really need to think about a way to earn some cash over the holidays.  I’m sure I’ll think of something.

I’ve got a terrible cold at the moment which has left me feeling snuffly and grumpy. At least I know my partner is safe.

Until next time.

2.10.14

It’s been a hard and odd week so far.

Monday was terrible, I didn’t even want to work at the school anymore after having the horrific year 10 group… I even wrote to my agent and made an appointment to speak to the head of dept after school.

The day did improve, my agent asked me to hang in there and see if it got better, the other lessons went okay and the chat with the head of dept made me feel a lot better. I realised that afterwards the dept/ head was slightly worried about me leaving, I can understand their concern. Afterall they got me in because a supply teacher left/asked to leave (I’m not sure what happened to them) and just after I’d done a week another supply teacher left on the friday and did not come back on the monday.

Up until now they had been aware that I had only wanted short-term and day-to-day contracts, and I knew that they wanted someone a bit more permanent. I sent him an email outlining the fact that 1) If I said I’d work at a place I wouldn’t leave or not come unless I was ill or injured. 2) If I found it intolerable I would give them at least 2 weeks notice and lastly, if they wanted me to stay until half term, or christmas all they had to do was ASK.

They emailed me back and said ‘Please would you stay until christmas?’

In the morning I walked in, nodded at them and said ‘Yes I will’ then went an carried on with my marking.

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It is nice to feel wanted and appreciated, it’s also nice that the head of dept. told a person in front of me that I am a lifesaver and not just a body in front of the kids.

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I decided that now I have the schools behaviour software that I can be more effective and also deal with a loom band issue. Basically there is a class that when I’m writing on the board flick loom band bands at me. They don’t hurt, I admit I can’t even feel them, but it is disrespectful and could cause me problems if one were to say hit me in the eye. The whole class have been giving me grief the last week or so. I decided that enough was enough and asked several senior members of staff to stop by the lesson.

It wasn’t a perfect option, however after one of the senior members came in, saw some loom bands on the floor, made them all empty their pockets, then started taking them all out of class one-by-one, they realised that they may have made a mistake.

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I also came to a compromise with a pair of girls in one of my other classes who I had back for detention today. It basically boils down to this – I will allow the class to not sit in a seating plan for one lesson. If they all behave then I will continue to do so – however, if they do not, the two girls will not only have a half hour detention with me, but will also HELP me write a new seating plan. We’ll see how that goes, I’m willing to give a little, but I’m not naive enough to think it’ll be a perfect ending.

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Therapy continues, this weeks session was very difficult and I don’t really want to go into it too much. Let’s just say it involved going over some bad memories that I have kept locked away for a long time and some other things that I have never really spoken about to anyone other than my partner. *sigh* I’m sorry to say that I pigged out afterwards. When I’m tired and upset I automatically go for food, then I’m not hungry so I don’t eat….then I pig out….you get the idea. I have spent so long trying not to rely on food as a comfort but it’s damn hard sometimes and I backslide.  Gotta keep at it, at least I haven’t eaten two tubs of ice cream yet this week!

I’ve also spoken with my dr and reduced my dosage of drugs. it’s only by 5mg but I’m wondering if it was a good idea as I’ve been having trouble sleeping.

Tomorrow is with another difficult group so I had better grab some sleep. Goodnight.

I leave you with this video. (p.s. I feel sorry for the goldfish, but I’m sure it was only in the jar for a short time)

 

27.9.14

It’s been a busy old week this week. I’ve somehow fallen into a semi-long-term teaching position (well, I ask them on a friday if they’ll need me and so far it’s been yes). I suspect the head and I need  a long chat about how long term this job is going to be.

It’s partly scary having to do the planning and marking, I really need to plan more and not just wing it as I have been doing the last week, my students need stretching and others need a smack up the side of the head. I’m planning on doing one but not the other (clue: I’m not allowed to smack them up the side of the head). I’m learning more about how the school works, how detentions work and other things. I didn’t know I needed to take registers (as they weren’t given to me and the kids are registered in form twice a day) So now I need to start remembering to do that! I started on friday and turned it into a game with my classes, one student is allowed their phone out and is the ‘timer’ I have to try to guess the students names, they have to tell me their names and spell them for me to write down, the timer can’t stop until all this is done and there is complete silence. We have to try to beat that time the next time they see me. I’m thinking if we can get it below a minute I’ll have to think of a reward.

It’s really hard going from KS5 (156+) to KS3 (11-14) I’m still not sure how much detail I need, how much time I should be spending on a topic. I know I know this stuff, but how to get it across to the class whilst half of them are messing around (in some cases 75% is difficult)

My therapist asked me an interesting question: What would I do if i didn’t teach? It’s a hard question…people who go straight into teaching I feel don’t always have another easy way out. I’ve not got enough training or experience to do anything industry related, most other jobs require other qualifications and I can’t afford my masters or to retrain. She tells me that I have to think of ways around my obstacles, I know the way around – I could get a loan to do other training or a masters, but I’m not sure I’d want to get a loan if I can’t guarantee a job at the end of it!

She also broached the subject of me moving back home again. I’m still in two minds about this, there are many, many pros and cons to both staying and going. When you live with someone else you can’t just make that decision by yourself either.

Pros to moving back home

1) near family

2) I really like my home county

3) All my local ‘spots’

4) Friends from back home

 

Cons

1) near family (seen as free babysitter etc)

2) Some areas are not nice

3) not as much work

 

pros to staying

1) I love my flat

2) large transport network

3) starting to make friends

4) large population density

5) good place for my partner to travel to work

 

cons

1) i miss my family

2) lack of support network

 

Not all pros and cons are made equally. I just wish I could decide. There are a couple of jobs I’m thinking of applying for where I live at the moment and if I do that then I will have to stay here. That’s not exactly a bad thing, but the trapped feeling is there and sometimes I want to pack the whole thing up and go away. Then again I’ve done that before (when I was younger I left the country and became an au pair) I’m not that person anymore and I remember how lonely it was.

I bought some jumpers from various charity shops today, I have plans for them – you’ll have to wait and see!

 

15.9.14

I hope you didn’t miss me too much yesterday but here’s the post:

Today was terrifying!

I had my first every lesson, a proper lesson, not cover supervising, an entire class.

One of my agencies had asked me to do a trial hour-long class for a school which at first annoyed me as trial means unpaid and I had to write a specific lesson on quite a vague topic.

The kids behaved, the lesson went well – I think I maybe put too much in, but I reckon as I get more experience in ks3 teaching i’ll be able to bring that level down to the correct one.

They asked if I’d hang around for an hour to get feedback and as I’d got no other work for the day I hung out in the science staff room and tried to get a feel for the school whilst pretending to be very busy working on my laptop.

When the head of the department got back that’s when things started to get slightly strange. Firstly I got to meet the head on the way to the meeting room. he seemed nice but he kept asking me a question that I had no idea what he meant. That left both me and him with a strange puzzled look. Turns out he was asking me how I coped under stress but using some kind of teacher slang to do it.

During the meeting they asked me to summarise what I thought had gone well and he usual questions. Then the head of department put down his pen and said ‘I thought it was a good lesson, and aside from what you said, which were things that were neither here nor there, and relatively minor I couldn’t pick fault with it’. I nearly DIED, he went on to then say that he’d like me to come back tomorrow with a view to long-term and also he’d like to allocate me a mentor and to treat me like an NQT and hopefully help me to get QTS.

I stopped him there and basically gave him and his second in command the low down on my mental health and the fact that I have appointments I cannot miss.

He blinked a little but then said that the department would do its best to support me and that they would be flexible in regards to my appointments as long as I let them know in advance and I in turn tried to have them later on in the day like I’ve been trying to have.

Before I knew it I had agreed and in half an hour I shall probably be at the school ready to learn what I’m teaching today. Why do i get the feeling my agency suckered me into taking on a long-term post? Although I’ve made it quite clear if it upsets me then I will not continue there.

Then I went onto my therapy session. Again a place that had no parking for patients and I was completely out of change I ended up calling a shop I’d come out behind and asking them if I could please have permission to park behind their shop? The kind lady said as I’d asked she didn’t mind and I felt a lot more relaxed.

My therapist delved a bit more into my childhood which was uncomfortable, I made peace with stuff that happened in my childhood a long time ago and it’s not pleasant having stuff brought up. Apparently stuff that happens in your childhood can affect how you cope with things now though. She was pleased that I’d made such leaps since last week with securing this work and also starting a choir. I told her I was frightened by this job and she told me that sometimes fear is excitement named differently.

Afterwards I went to a big shopping centre near me, I needed to go to a book store as, despite me having three shelves of textbooks, I had not a single KS3 book! My new manager had emailed me through the topics I’ll be teaching and I want to make sure it’s the right level.

He gave me the rock cycle with delighted me as I enjoy geology.

I also grabbed  a new notebook and some new hair bobbles.

9.9.14

Today I’d booked off as it was my first meeting with a counsellor. Hence why you didn’t get an update at 9:30 as is usually my habit now.

I knew I’d be a mess after the session which is why I’d taken the whole day, it’s quite funny in a way because my old work, for all their ‘oh we’d always let you have time off for medical appointments’ probably would have pitched a fit.

I was annoyed by the lack of onsite parking available, but I guess I shouldn’t complain too much – at least I don’t have to pay for therapy.

We chatted about different things, why I’d come to this point, how long it had been going on, the situation (which I’m not going to go into full detail here because I’m not really ready for that) she asked me what I wanted to get out of the sessions.

I told her the truth, I want to feel better about myself.

My head knows I’m capable how I feel is different.

My therapist also told me she was a bit concerned that I’m using supply teaching on day to day as a form of escapism. That hiding from situations won’t exactly help me overcome them as I’m avoiding not dealing. She also thinks that if I like being outside then I should try and spend more time outdoors and also try and find some more social activities to try.

At first I was a bit reluctant, but I can see the wisdom in what she was saying.

She does agree with the idea of doing supply teaching before getting another permanent job but she also told me that I should try to be good to myself. I’m not entirely sure what she meant by that…but I think she means two things. 1) be nice to myself as in take care of myself. 2) To not be as harsh on myself. Yes I made mistakes but they shouldn’t be haunting me so much and making me doubt myself. Strangely she’s not the first person to say this to me this week.

When I got out I had a message on the phone from one of the agencies asking if I’d go to one of the academies on Friday for a kind of interview. They couldn’t give me any more information which I told them I’d need more – he said he wanted to see if I was free first then would get back to them and then me. I will admit I had a brief panic attack after that conversation, I hate this self doubt that haunts me – then again I’m sure I’m not the only teacher that feels this way.

*sigh* more ice cream I think. Until tomorrow I will leave you with this quote from the film pretty woman.

“Vivian: People put you down enough, you start to believe it.

Edward Lewis: I think you are a very bright, very special woman.

Vivian: The bad stuff is easier to believe. You ever notice that? “