English matters



Purpose is a difficult one for a teacher to write about. Teaching is all-consuming! We get up in the morning, filled with a sense of mission..the tsunami of students that roll into our classrooms day after day. We teach, we nurture, , we talk, admonish, chivvy , inspire, make mistakes, put them right again, fall in, fall out again from one end of the day to the next. And when the students have gone home we litter the corridors, propping up doorways in little huddles and tell our colleagues stories of what has happened in the day! We laugh, we cry, we share, we listen, we go to CPD, we do training, go to meetings, we ring parents, we ring more parents, we create records, we lesson plan.

Then we go home to our families. Exhausted. Worn out. Somehow we manage to hold together relationships, we cook meals, we go to yoga, we snatch half an hour of TV on a Friday night slumped on the sofa with our long-suffering partners. Knowing that we still have marking, planning, writing, reading to do over the weekend. And we do it all over again week after week. We barely have time for ourselves, to notice that we need the toilet, that we are worried about our own children.

The week before the shutdown, colleagues spoke to me about their worries; a child who had been just been diagnosed with autism, a grandmother who was in hospital (and later died), parents who needed support with shopping because the supermarkets were becoming impossible to navigate. I was very concerned about my son, who has recently been diagnosed with a rare and life threatening illness who is just learning to live with it and get his life together. The uncertainty of the CV had made him so anxious that he had been unable to sleep. I made the decision to take the day off to allow him the comfort of knowing someone was in the house and he slept all morning. I have never taken a day off work before.

Which brings me to the lockdown. I had assumed that having my purpose removed like this would make me feel bereft; that I would be stripped bare and unable to cope without my role to prop me up. I was wrong. I have joyfully discovered that my purpose is not limited to my classroom role (as much as I love it). I have rediscovered skills that I had forgotten. They had fallen into the shadows of my busy life, fallow, dormant, neglected! I realised I’m that I love teaching on line! I have phoned every one of my students. I have created lessons, marked work, made video lessons about poems using software that I have never used before. I have loomed, zoomed, tweeted, happily and successfully.

More importantly though, I have reconnected with myself and those that I love. I have realised that my children, all in their 20s, are awesome independent people. I have started writing poems again. I have started a healing process from a childhood trauma that has resulted in me feeling disconnected and I’ll at ease. I am gardening every day and learning to play the fiddle (a childhood dream that is driving my family crazy!)

My purpose? My purpose is to be happy! To help others to be happy. This is not a selfish kind of happiness. It is a responsible choice. Caring for myself means just that. Taking time to nurture my goals, to explore the calm happy place that I have inside, it means caring for my relationships with those that are close to me (and I want to be closer) and caring for my environment, looking after nature, reducing my footprint in this beautiful and precious world. I am really wondering if I will actually have time to go back to work as a teacher!