Sunday, 13 April 2014

The Right School

"Wow, it's been four months since I first interviewed you... It's just flown by!" my boss (who isn't really my boss and it's complicated, but I still call him my boss because he's awesome) told me.

This was a staff night out on the last day of term. Quite sedate really, but the first staff night out I've been on since I lived in Dunstable (and those were merely after-school pub sessions or nights in the school hall), because I've never been counted as one of the staff before, no matter how long I've worked at a school.

In some ways, he's right. This term has flown by quickly, before I even realised it was happening. But, on the other hand, it feels like I've been at that school for years, like I'm as much part of the furniture as everyone else. I love it so much and it's been such an integral part of my healing process and personal journey.

Before starting at that place, I'd all but given up hope with teaching. I felt like I was useless, had nothing to offer, and like the detractors who blamed me for my experience of violence (and accused me of being unfit to work with young people) were probably right. I had no self-esteem, no confidence in my abilities.

Mr Boss Man once asked why I was so worried about a lesson observation, when I had been so chilled at interview... The truth was that I never expected to get a job. I couldn't for one second believe that anyone would actually want me, so I wasn't overly worried about rejection when I expected it anyway.

Being at this school has taught me so much. Firstly, that I do have the organisational skills to cope with this job, though it does take an awful lot more effort for me to keep on top of things than for some people! And that I'm not the messiest / most disorganised person in the school. It's a close run thing, but knowing that scatty people can get far in this profession keeps me sane!

It's taught me that I do have strengths in this job. I am good at languages and music (obviously), but my language work has given me a head start in teaching English. I've discovered that I adapt quickly, that I learn from training and work to meet my targets. I've also learnt where I can give extra to the school, in terms of clubs and things. I've found that I'm good at scaffolding and differentiation. It's not something I thought I was very good at, but it seems to come easily, as do pupil-led lessons.

I've learnt that I'm stronger than I think I am. With so many children from difficult backgrounds, I was bound to come into contact with stories similar to mine. I didn't think I'd cope with that, but I did, I am, I can. It's really empowering to know that my experience gives me perspective, strength and empathy, rather than the weakness and hindrance that I thought it would.

And, most importantly (possibly), is that I've found out how to love a job and commit to it - throw myself in entirely - without sacrificing myself and my emotions. Too often, in the past, the only time I would really work as hard as I could was to escape the pain and flashbacks. Now, I throw myself in because I want the children to learn and have fun, I want to do my best for them and for the school.

I've still got a long way to go. Observations seem to cause severe allergic reactions (well, nervous breakdowns) and I need to get the hang of this work-life balance thing... but I've discovered how much I can do with the support and input of the right school.

And, for the first time in forever, I feel truly happy.

This didn't really fit in anywhere above, but I wanted to say it anyway... the people I work with are amazing and supportive. The school is the wonderful, nurturing environment that it is because of the fantastic men and women working in there are so compassionate. I have wonderful TAs in my classroom, reassuring me constantly, a beautiful colleague in the other Year 3 class who has coped so well with a newbie, a brilliant senior leadership team and, just generally, the best colleagues a girl could ask for. The school wouldn't be what it is without them, and I wouldn't be who I am without them either!

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