Reading last year’s Nurture post made me wonder if the point at which I now find myself was in some way pre-determined; a rehearsal for what was to come. The goals I set myself last year have partially been met (more than can be said for my performance management objectives), in that I’ve made those all-important decisions. This year, my Nurture post is going to focus mainly on what I am grateful for, rather than dwelling on circumstances beyond my control.
I was very lucky to have been given the opportunity to speak at three amazing events in 2015 and I am grateful to Mark Healy (@) for inviting me to do so. We presented at Northern Rocks and ResearchED Scotland together and I went solo at the ResearchED National Conference in September. I am grateful to all those who came and listened and to those who spoke so kindly about what they had taken from our talks.
Summer 2015 was incredible but things came crashing down as September ran into October. I have documented my experiences elsewhere and I shan’t repeat them here, suffice to day that it rapidly became clear that my psychological and physical self wasn’t coping so well with the rapid changes taking place in my professional life. Last year I wrote that I needed to stop worrying so much but now I have to concede that a failed in this. By November I had resigned from my job and worry had turned to chronic anxiety, lying awake at 3am and wondering what the future had in store, finally succumbing to pills that sent me to sleep but left me experiencing the daylight world through a dense fog.
It’s easy to feel alone in such circumstances and one Sunday morning I sat down and wrote about my experiences and why I had chosen to leave teaching. The reaction to my resulting blog post was astonishing (I believe I can ‘blame’ Nick Rose (@) for that). I am so grateful to all those who commented and Tweeted (far too many to mention – sorry) and those who sent personal messages of advice and support.
But Twitter can also be a terrifying place and at times I think we all need to escape it for a while. I spent a week away from Twitter in December, engaging in a bloody cull of those I followed. To be honest I can’t recall why or who but if you ended up being a victim of the massacre I can only apologise. I’ll no doubt end up following you again when I work out exactly who was culled.
When Twitter is supportive it’s an amazing place. I am particularly grateful to those who forced me to think more critically about what I was doing and why I was doing it: Alex Quigley (@), Ross McGill (@), Helene Galdin-O’Shea (@) and Bill Lord (@) to name just a few. I’m also grateful to the small number of colleagues at my (former) school who understood my decision and supported me in it.
I will always view my students as the main victims of my decision. I am grateful that they don’t (all) hate me for leaving them half way through the year and for the kind wishes (and alcohol) they bestowed upon me on that final day – I will miss them terribly. Also to ex-pupils Rachel and Tom who turned up on the morning of my last day and stayed with me until I went home.
Despite it all, I remain grateful to my former school, an amazingly warm and close community, having to cope in very difficult circumstances and with new management. There is no ill will (honestly) and I truly wish them the best for the future.
Most of all I am so grateful to Kieran (@) who always seems to know when I hit rock bottom. Whether it’s messages of support, Skype chats that last all afternoon or the phone call to ask if I’m OK, she has become a true friend. I hope I can remain worthy of her friendship.
Our lives are a work in progress, with many bumps and diversions on the way. My family is “little and broken but still good”* – things never quite work out the way we planned do they? I’m lucky to have an amazing son who, at just 14, has his head screwed on so much tighter than I do – his mum would have been so proud of him.
I declared last year that I would write more and I have done so, with articles in publications from the The Psychologist to the TES (with more scheduled for 2016). I’m also working on that book and contributing chapters to another.
I’m staying connected to education and I’ll be attending Northern Rocks in 2016 for what looks like a great line-up and ResearchED York at Huntington School in July should also be fantastic. These will probably be the only events I attend over the next year for many reasons. Other opportunities are knocking, but a little too quietly for my liking, so I’ll have to knock back louder or join the night shift at Morrisons.
Will I return to teaching? I’m still agonising over this question. I’m seeing so many people being destroyed by the profession that it makes a return less likely (a former student of mine left teaching on the same day as I did – we really can’t afford to keep losing these people). I hope to visit different types of schools over the next year to get a better idea of how differently things can be done and I’m also hoping to run some workshops and training sessions as part of a new venture with some amazing people.
No matter how harsh our lives can be, there is plenty of room to be grateful. So many of the people I am grateful to I hardly know – some I have never even met face-to-face! I think this says so much about teaching as a profession: that the confusion and pain felt by one is so often shared by and with many others.
Look after each other, be nice and have a wonderful 2016.
*Congratulations to those who can spot the reference.