I’m not one to share personal experiences, either on or off-line, but having read Mark Healy’s Nurture 1415 post (which in turn prompted me to read a few others) I have decided to break the habit and offer some reflections on the past year and hopes for 2015. It’s certainly been a year of ups and downs, questionings and pondering.
The Past 12 months.
1. I began teaching in 2004, so 2014 was a particular milestone. To be honest I never really thought I’d make it to 10 years – I did give up once, but it only lasted three months before I felt compelled to return. Like many teachers, I’m always on the verge of packing it in, but I suspect I will lose more than I gain if I did.
2. Milestones often lead to reflection and the resurfacing of memories (no matter how distorted and reconstructed). 2004 was also the year my partner of 15 years (and the mother of our son) was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour. She survived into 2005 so 2015 will also mark ten years since I became a single father to a 4-year-old child. My son is now thirteen and recalls his mother in fragmented images and isolated emotions. Now and again we look through photographs so that he can be reminded of the wonderful person she was, knowing that he will never be able to experience the warmth of her love and her absolute devotion to her son. I am thankful that he has grown into a warm and compassionate human being.
3. Many changes have taken place at work over the last few months, at times leading me to question my ability as a teacher. New management structures, new SLT and an interim Head have led to rapid change. While change itself is something a cope fairly well with, a constant emphasis on progress and the constant procession of ‘visitors’ to my classroom (SLT, line manager, governors and LEA ‘advisors’), many of whom inform me that my students aren’t making enough progress, ultimately leads to a general feeling that what I was once considered good at, is now simply not good enough.
4. In an attempt to escape (just for a while) I have become more and more dedicated to my PhD studies at York. I am incredibly lucky to have a supervisor who is supportive and appears to understand the pressures placed upon part-time postgraduate researchers. At times it feels like one step forward and two steps back but inch by inch I appear to be making progress.
The next 12 months.
1. I need to reduce worry. I am a classic ‘guilty teacher’, always with the nagging feeling that I ‘must’ be working. I spent Christmas Day and Boxing Day with family, only to wake up this morning with the feeling that I needed to get on with some work. I am sure that anxiety will eventually kill me if I don’t do something about it soon, and while I manage to keep the black dog at bay most of the time, the anxiety is ever-present.
2. I need to become a physical as well as on-line presence. I hide in cyberspace and rarely attend events that force me to converse in the real world. In 2014 I did attempt to change that – I attended the IEE Conference at York University and the ResearchED event at York. In 2015 I will be at Northern Rocks. However, I have also cancelled other events this year after ‘bottling it’!
3. I need to write. This is a compulsion I have had since childhood and it’s never really gone away. I have files filled with writings and I’m always working on ‘that’ book (or several of them). I can spend days staring at a blank page and then suddenly write non-stop for hours – unfortunately, this often means that I end up with lots of ‘bits of things’ – I think I might have it as my epitaph – ‘He wrote bits of things’.
4. I need to spend more time with my son before he begins to see me as an embarrassment. I bought him a camera for Christmas and we spent most of Boxing Day walking along isolated tracks and through woods so that he could take photographs. We were exhausted by the time we got home but it was certainly one of my happiest days of 2014.
5. I need to make decisions. I need to have a serious chat with myself about the future, while at the same time ensuring that I don’t make any decisions that I’ll regret. Teaching is the biggest question of all – in the words of The Clash – “Should I stay or should I go?” I know that I am the only one who can make that decision but I also know that if someone were to offer me a part-time lecturing job I’d be gone in a flash. Then again, aren’t we all waiting for someone to offer us that ‘dream job’? I also need to admit to myself that I would miss teaching deeply – or rather I would miss the interaction with my pupils, the banter and the delight at seeing them succeed and knowing that I had a part to play in their futures.
So this is a little part of my life and this was perhaps one of the most difficult blog posts I have ever written. I suppose a new year is a time for opportunity, for starting over and quiet reflection. Thank-you for reading.