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Having had a half term break last week where I spent most of it trying (and seemingly failing!) to catch up on JustMaths stuff, today was a tough day back at work. No tougher than lots of you would have found it but I came home and needed a cwtch (google it! … and no! its not rude!) from my husband. There is nothing I can pinpoint but my brain has been fizzing all day …. it might be the fumes from the glue used on the new carpet thats been laid in our classroom … myself and Seager now share a room that was previously a drama studio and as its such a large space it can be quite “echoey” so we (*read that as “HE”) asked if it would be possible to get carpet laid down and lo and behold it happened over half term. To be honest the space is so much better and I am hoping that tomorrow I won’t hear the jokes about having to take your shoes off to come in … it was funny the first time but after 6 lessons, not so much!
I like sharing ideas and thoughts on the blog but for the last three or four months I’ve not done it and I don’t know why I stopped. Actually, I do … I have slowly got a little overwhelmed by realising people read this shiz and became very very guarded about it all. In the early days of writing posts I used to write just for me … it helped me put my thoughts in order and also gave me time to reflect and think things through … it was something I did for me, no one else … just for me. It was my “thing”. I never thought about who would read it and it helped. I know its ironic that I would get self conscious and have doubts about sharing stuff … I’ve had this discussion with other people but also its an ongoing dialogue I have with myself!! It goes a little like this … How can you be self conscious? The only person you have to “blame” (wrong word! but gives a flavour of what I mean) is yourself … YOU put it out there! I know I do BUT its for me, I don’t write for anyone else I do it for me. Well, just write a diary then! Its not the same thing! … and anyway not all my posts are just random ramblings! …. Again, this is an ongoing cycle of discussion … it gets a little boring really and so it was easier just not to post any of my rambling style blog posts. Over the 7 years since I started doing this (my very first post was dated 14th November 2012) I’ve written 689 posts and have endless ones that are in draft status where I’ve started writing and then became conscious that maybe I shouldn’t say anything. The doubts start creeping and I experience a massive case of imposter syndrome and then the doubts about whether I have it right kick in and this spiral of doubts blah blah … you get the idea.
One of the things that have kept me in the classroom (trust me … there are times when I have just wanted to walk away!) is that we, as teachers, are genuinely making a difference to students lives! I came into teaching in my thirties and all I wanted to do was make a difference. Cynics out there will be rolling their eyeballs right now. I know I would be one of them!! I never came into teaching thinking that it was a higher calling and I always knew it would be tough because of the nature of the schools I wanted to work in but also because I’m not a maths purist. I do wonder if I really understand the “why” of some aspects of what I teach and I constantly feel guilty about that too but as a consequence I work really hard at this aspect of my teaching. I came into teaching through a circuitous route … in fact I had a place on a PGCE after university to teach what was then called “craft, design and technology” but I met my husband 6 weeks before the end of my degree at the pub I had a part time job in and my plans changed. I never took up the place and I never returned to Newport. Instead, we refurbished a town centre pub and spent several years in my early/mid twenties being self employed and then 21 years ago my mother was killed in a hit and run accident. One Saturday evening, after being out of the business for 5 weeks supporting my Dad and closing their corner shop that they had run together for 45 years, I sat and watched two and a half thousand (I know!) people come in and out of the pub (like one of those speeded up films, it was all a little surreal) and when we got home that evening I told my husband that I couldn’t do the pub thing anymore, I remember telling him that my mother did not work 13 hours a day to put me through university for me to be a glorified barmaid. I felt that I had let her down. Thereafter my ideal job as an area manager came up and so I ventured off into the corporate world for some time. There has only been one more time in my life when I have made a conscious decision to make some major changes in terms of my career and that’s when I came into teaching. My Mam never saw me in the days of my corporate job and has also never known me as a teacher. What she would have made of it I will never know.
She has been on my mind a lot since the anniversary of her accident and so when, a few weeks ago our year 11 students were involved in a drop down day around the theme of the dangers of driving/drugs/drink I didn’t feel that I could be involved in the “hard hitting” part of the day and after discussing this with one of our AHTs I found out that there was a section of the day that involved delivering some stuff about personal finance that would save me from having to get involved too much. As I walked into school that morning I made a decision. During tutor time I asked my group for some quiet and told them that I had originally decided not to say anything and I was telling them what I was about to tell them for a reason – I want them to realise that driving comes with some responsibility because when it goes wrong it may not just be their lives that are affected. I also made it clear that I wasn’t telling them for their sympathy … I was telling them this tale because I want them to think about the wider implications. Its not a made up tale and these are real peoples lives. It went something like this …
One Friday morning I was in bed and dreaming that I could hear a phone ringing. You know when you dream something and it turns out to be real? Well the next thing I know my husband is shaking me awake and passing me the phone and saying “Mel its for you”. The voice on the end of the line said “Mel, its Dad. There’s been an accident and Mams in intensive care”. Despite hearing the words I wasn’t thinking I just assumed that if there was an accident it would be my Dad that was involved and said “How is he?”. My Dad then said very calmly “No Mel its Mam. She was hit by a car last night” … the next thing I remember is saying “I’m on my way … I will be there in an hour and a half”. By now my husband was out of bed throwing clothes into a bag for me and he looked me in the face and said “Right. Now we don’t know what’s happened so just drive carefully. Be safe” as he literally put me in the car.
I did go on and tell them how after a week in intensive care we lost a mother and my dad lost his wife and the business. I told them how dangerous driving couldn’t be proven and how it felt to find out that the driver was disqualified at the time of the accident. I told them how my brother had turned his life around and my mother would have been so proud of him but also how devastating it was to have to be the one to tell him that he was too late arriving and so wasn’t there at the end. I told them how I still wake up with a picture of him getting off the train and standing in front of me saying “I’m too late aren’t I?” … he just knew by looking at my face. To this day, I struggle with this picture of him crumbling in front of me. I told them how I wish I had my mother with me, especially when life deals you a shitty hand but I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it hadn’t happened and if they did only one thing today it would be to deal with day in a mature way. Driving is not something to be taken lightly … yes its an exciting rites of passage but there are responsibilities that come with it.
Its very rare that I reveal stuff about myself like this to students but we are the product of our past experiences and it just felt right. It is not something I would advocate, in fact I’m not sure I would do it with a different group of students. Later that day one of the group came up to me and said two words: Thank you. He then smiled at me and walked off. As I sit here now, tired and still with a fuzzy head, these two words still ring in my ears and they are the reason that I can say tomorrow is another day. A fresh start. We get to do it all over again. I genuinely can’t wait!