I’m leaving teaching

In just over two weeks, I will be stepping away from a career that has come to define my life- ten years, my identity, hours and hours of work just… gone.

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There are lots of reasons why, some much bigger than me and others that are more personal. You’ll know of the biggies: the workload (and a curriculum that I feel is deeply, deeply flawed and unfair), the pay and pension issues, the funding issues that mean we can’t do everything we need to do in order to make sure that those in our care are happy and healthy individuals who can think independently and creatively in a world that is becoming ever more challenging. Teaching has changed so, so much in the ten years that I’ve been doing it that I honestly can’t understand why people still want to train- and that those who have trained in the last couple of years seem to be told that it’s normal to be overworked, underpaid and to strive for constantly outstanding lessons, otherwise you’re a crap teacher. (I promise you, that last one cannot be done all the time if you want to have anything that resembles a work/life balance.)

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“A work/life balance, you say?”

On a personal level, I’m tired of the commute. I’m lucky enough to get a lift, so I’m not at the mercy of the railways, but it’s still exhausting. I’m tired of having to work when I get home; it’s not cool to be sat on the sofa when your 4 year old gets home and his face drops because you’re marking again and probably will be when he goes to bed. I’m often exhausted (and/or working) on the two days I week I have at home with him. Teaching is a job that never stops. For example, today I’m finding it very hard to not check my email. We are always contactable in a way that I never experienced early in my career. I have to mentally shut myself off from this if I am to get any work/life balance, otherwise I could drive myself mad- and I have done. I am pretty sure that most of the anxiety attacks I have experienced in the last few years have been as a direct result of work. I’m a good, conscientious worker; I hate letting down my colleagues and, most importantly, my students. I also want to be around to take D to school- leaving at 6.50am everyday isn’t the best thing for this.

So I’m going. I resigned in January (on the day of Trump’s inauguration, as it happens.) I’d had a tearful discussion with one of my bosses about it, (although I’d decided the previous May with Benn, in a Pizza Express on our anniversary, as he had picked up that I wasn’t happy and hadn’t been for a while. He asked me what I needed and said that he would support it.) I knew that I needed at least a break, if not something more permanent, otherwise I would be at risk of becoming one of those horrid, bitter and jaded teachers we all remember having. I genuinely adore most of my students and I didn’t want to inflict that on them. I mean, I’m a tired teacher, but I’m not a horrible one. I also knew that moving to a different school wasn’t an option. I just need to be out of a classroom.

Five months have flown by and I have no plans. This is a deliberate choice, for now. I wanted to keep giving my focus to the kids in my classes without worrying about other stuff. I also have the holidays to sort out my CV and interview skills (teaching interviews are unlike any others I have ever had. My last non-teaching interview was in 2005.) I also need some time to unwind and sort my head out; my identity has been so intertwined with my job that it’s going to take some time to sort myself out. I have been asked if I want to do supply/private tuition, to which my initial reaction is:

tumblr_ml2rlfaQC71s5ipdco1_400.gif At least for now. I need to focus on my own kid and getting him settled in school. Also, I really need a break on correcting people’s spelling. Never say never and all that, and I will miss my students, but for now I’m quite happy to leave teaching to other people.

People find it really hard when I tell them I have no plans. I mean, I’m not going to live off Benn (I managed to save a bit- so if you’ve invited me out recently and I’ve said I’m skint, you now know why…), but I am going to take some time to find something new. I have no idea what, yet, but I’m sure something will come up. And yes, I won’t have the holidays, but I will have my evenings and weekends back- 90% of parents cope with holidays, I’m sure we will too. It also means that if Benn’s office does finally get its long threatened move to Croydon, I’ll be around for D. We’ll just be reversing our roles a bit and I’m OK with that. I probably won’t have the same sort of wage, either, but you cut your coat according to your cloth and I’ve coped before- I’ll cope again. Right now, I’m looking forward to reading, writing, listening to music, all without a deadline.

But if you do see any jobs in Brighton, give me a shout, yeah?

Angela Lansbury, the NHS and looking forward to Christmas

Hello! It’s been a while, hasn’t it? How’ve you been? I’ve been good, if busy, and life has done that thing it does sometimes where it sort of meanders away from you in a haze of stress and too much junk food because you’re too tired to eat properly. I’ve also been hding from the news and stuff, because I’m not 100% sure how I’m coping with the wider world on a daily basis. It’s a wonder we don’t run around wailing at the state of it all.

So, on a smaller scale, where are we at here? Well, D had an operation on December 2nd- a fairly straightforward one, to remove his adenoids and to put grommets in his ears. We’d first had him tested just before last Christmas and discovered that he did have a degree of hearing loss. As I’d had glue ear as a kid (and I have an on-going processing disorder as a result), I suspected he might have it himself- so I was relieved when we knew what it was and how it would be treated. And, unlike me having the op in 1990, he didn’t have to stay in hospital overnight, which was a HUGE relief. He was diagnosed quickly and within eight weeks of confirmation, he’d been operated on. Thank goodness for the NHS- it really is bonkers that some people want to get rid of it. I can’t praise the staff at the Royal Alex highly enough. Every single person who worked with us and D throughout the whole process was lovely and I’m very grateful that they have given him his hearing back. He’s got a whole new part of the world and it truly is a bit of a marvel to see.

You may also be wondering why I’ve mentioned Dame Angela Lansbury in the title of this post (unless you follow me on social media, in which case you’ll totally know what I’m on about…) D has become slightly obsessed with Murder, She Wrote on ITV3 every evening. We were channel-surfing one night and he asked to watch a bit. I figured there was not really any harm and: BOOM. His new heroine is Jessica Fletcher. It’s now a bit of a shared passion of ours, if I’m honest.

Anyway, I wrote to Dame Angela, asking whether it would be possible to have a signed picture for him. I had read that she usually sends out printed autographs- this was fine- although I explained about the operation and D’s love of Jessica Fletcher. So imagine my surprise when we received this:

15039737_10154002715702267_7634002859009306621_o She even addressed the envelope herself (I double checked the handwriting with examples online.) And so, dear reader, there is proof that there is good in the world in 2016- and that good is Dame Angela Lansbury. I framed it and hid it until the night before the operation; D insisted we take it with us to the hospital, much to the bemusement and amusement of the adults who spotted it. It now lives on our mantelpiece, as if Jessica Fletcher is our long-lost aunt. It makes D happy, confuses the hell out of Benn and makes me feel like I did something cool for my kid- everyone’s a winner.

And now term has ended, I don’t have much in the way of work to do over the holidays and all is well with the world. D is going to be Joseph in the nursery Nativity, I am going to read and knit (I won a £250 Etsy giftcard, which I seem to be intent on spending on new yarn, despite good intentions to use it for gifts throughout the year) and just unwinding. It’s been a whiplash of a year and I just need to recover. Who knows- maybe I’ll get back into the blogging spirit!

The terror of toddler night terrors

As it’s a week from Halloween, it seems appropriate that I take to the blog to discuss one of the scariest, most challenging things we’ve been dealing with since becoming parents. Are you ready?

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D has recently been experiencing night terrors. And there is virtually nothing we can do except hope that he grows out of them- a phrase that brings dread to all parents of toddlers.

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They really are vile; D, halfway between sleep and wakefulness is clearly terrified. I can see him fighting something off and his body tenses. I can totally understand why people in the middle ages thought those experiencing night terrors were possessed. D arches his back and sort of lifts his legs too. He screams and shouts. He will try and fight us if we are in his way at all. It’s pretty scary.

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Websites are not much cop, either. “It’s really rare- only 1-6% of children get them!” they trill. Which is fine, unless you’ve got a kid in that 1-6% band, which we do. “Don’t try and wake them!” Which is sensible, but is totally alien; after all, as a parent, your first instinct is to comfort, right? But we learnt quickly that it makes it worse. D is clearly fighting something and if we try and intervene, it makes him more scared. So all we can do is sit with him and… wait.

This is hard, and Benn generally has to do it. I find it too distressing and I’ve cried more than once. Also, if D senses me in the room, it upsets him, sometimes to the point of trying to go for me. Benn seems to be the best, most calming presence and so we’re sticking with the plan that he will be the one to go in. I just lie there and will for it to be over (in about 25-30 minutes.) The other night, he had three bouts. I suspect it might have been because I’d been at work all day and he hadn’t seen me. Apparently night terrors can be linked to seperation anxiety (which he has a bit of, since starting nursery) and a break in routine (me not being home when he gets back.)

The worst thing is that there’s nothing we can do- there’s no point taking him to the doctor, as they can’t do anything. Thankfully, D doesn’t remember anything in the morning, except maybe a fleeting sense of a bad dream and a sore throat. I’d say that Benn and I are more exhausted the next day than he is.

So what are we doing? We’re making sure that bedtime is calm- we talk about all the people D likes and loves, we read stories, we keep the house quiet. I’ve been to explain to the next door neighbours that we’re not murdering him and we’re sorry if they can hear it (they’ve been wonderfully British about it and claimed not to hear a thing, which I know is a complete lie, but sweet of them all the same. I’ll definitely drop a Christmas card round this year.)

And now, we just wait for him to grow out of it. There’s nothing else we can do.

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Bye, summer…

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This week- the last week in August- has felt more like the end of September. We’ve had a difficult week (we lost my grandma last week, the funeral is next week) and the weather hasn’t helped to lift the familial mood.

Yesterday, Benn suggested we take a walk in the rain and I readily agreed. D could only be coaxed out by the promise of hot chocolate with marshmallows afterwards- he’d seen an episode of Show Me, Show Me in which Chris and Pui enjoyed fake hot chocolate and suspiciously rubbery looking marshmallows. On the verge of cabin fever, Benn and I agreed.

(The ominous figure in the background is actually just Benn in a cagoule.)

(The ominous figure in the background is actually just Benn in a cagoule.)

I’m mentally preparing for autumn; D is about to start nursery, I’ll be going back to work and we’ll be gearing up towards D’s third birthday in October. I don’t mind, I quite like it when the nights draw in and Strictly’s back on the TV…

I’ve already started painting my nails in ‘autumn’ colours- navy, grey and dark red- and today I dressed for a wet, windy day. It’s much more my natural habitat than summer clothes! Tights, cardis and Doc Martens boots in dark colours are more me than floaty dresses and pastel hues…

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I’ve also been commissioned to knit winter socks, which is obviously focusing my mind on the coming months. It’s really upped my game in terms of skills; what will work as ‘oh well, that’ll do’ for myself is sometimes not good enough when someone is paying you. So I’ve been revisiting my (ahem, quite large) library of knitting books and approaching technique in a more professional manner, which is a good thing- there’s always room to learn and I do like a challenge!

Bring it on, autumn. Bring. It. On.