Tuesday, 14 February 2012

About School

It is now an apt time amongst all these events to describe a little further detail about my teaching career. This is an important factor for me, because it was the decision to change the direction of my career, indeed a complete about turn in my aspirations, and the reasons that caused this decision, that were the beginning of the emotional roller coaster of events that I seemed to have climbed upon. My teaching career also started when Rose was in nursery, shortly after my first faint and therefore it had spanned the whole of my PH illness, although I had been unaware I was walking round with it at the time. No one can say if that early fainting was connected or not, but as PH is a deadly disease that creeps up on you unwittingly and unknown, then only manifests itself properly when it has done its untold damage, I have no doubt whatsoever that I have been living with this disease for at least sixteen years.

I had always wanted to be a teacher from being a little girl, and although I didn't take the chance offered to me after completing my A levels for various reasons, I always knew that that is what I would do one day. It never left me. I had thoroughly enjoyed a successful banking career up to Sarah and Rose being born, working in a wide range of jobs and and variety of different branches and head offices. When they were born, I had wanted children so much, I wanted to be a full time mum while they were little. During this time I started helping at the girl's school and nursery and started volunteering so much that I got a job as a teaching assistant helping  special needs children. The school supported me to go on a years course at Hertfordshire University to gain a Specialist Teacher's Certificate. By this time there was no stopping me and I searched out further courses to enable me to attain the much needed degree to teach. I  managed to attain a first class BA honours at the University of Luton in Educational Studies. I worked long and hard for this and was never deterred however tough it got and there were mountains to climb and hoops to jump over at times, not least managing a part time job in school and wanting to still be a perfect mother to Sarah and Rose. I was driven though, because I wanted to teach so much. I managed to achieve this in three years, and it was well worth waiting all that time for and the icing on the cake was achieving a first. It had been something I always knew I would do and I felt I had done it properly. Following this, the girls's school supported me to undertake a Graduate Training Programme and the Luton Teacher Training Partnership sponsored my place, although my school was in Hertfordshire. The following year I qualified as a teacher at last and then went on to another local school to complete my induction year and there I continued my teaching for nearly six years. My dream had come true.

This was a wonderful school to work in, very forward thinking, a positive and hard working staff and some wonderful pupils and parents. I became a Governor too at the school, was the Science Co-ordinator and in the last few years I was there got the chance to lead a project to develop the school grounds, which were already stunning and to lead the school to achieve the Eco school's Green Flag award. I was quite ambitious and always felt I would like to progress to at least Deputy Head Teacher level, and I was searching around for leadership posts in 2009, although I would be very reluctant to leave such a flourishing, successful school, which was in the country's top one hundred. I knew deep down I needed to leave to make some progress and I had the wonderful experiences I had been given to work with and take with me.

At the end of summer term 2009, the Head Teacher retired and it was a sad day for us all at school, yet we were delighted for him that he had decided to enjoy his well earned retirement. Come September, things were really not the same. I was running an INSET on the first day back of Autumn term and when I got to the school gates to set up early, I could not remember the code for the gate, although I had been using it for the last six years. These lapses were getting a bit too common for my liking, a visitor asked me what time play time was and I couldn't remember, although we had had the same play times all the time I had been at the school. I was feeling exhausted a lot and some days I was coming home and going to bed at eight o'clock, I might get my energy back for a day or two, then have to go to bed early again.

On reflection, it might have been prudent at this point to visit a doctor, but instead I put it down to the ever increasing workload that was being put upon us and the ever increasing changes that were being made under the new leadership. I began to think I didn't really want to continue like this for much longer and that going through the process of applying for a leadership role elsewhere was perhaps not the right path for me after all. At the same time my dad was very ill and lived a long way away in Lancashire and Rob had started a new demanding job travelling abroad.  With these changes in my personal life and what I felt were beginning to be my own shortcomings, I decided with encouragement from my family that it was time to cut my hours. This was a decision that probably saved  my life, but I did not have any idea of what problems I had back then.

Part time hours was not an option in my current role and really I thought it better to start afresh somewhere new. I kept feeling I had lost my spark, the fire I had inside that had always compelled me to do my best was going and I couldn't understand why. Looking back now that was very true and unbeknown to me, my heart was slowly failing and my lungs were being savagely overtaken by PH, no wonder my fire had blown out.  

With a very heavy heart and confusion about my feelings over what I was doing, I handed my notice in, before I had even got another job. My original plan was to take the summer term off, see lots of my dad and perhaps accompany Rob on his travels and see some new cities in Europe, where he was often travelling and above all try and build up my fitness, which I knew I had let go. That, on reflection again, would have been the best option. Everything is easy on hindsight, but I saw the perfect job advertised, part time, an eco school and in Year One, probably my favourite year group! I got the job much to my delight and excitement.

Leaving that school was a traumatic experience for me, I still wasn't one hundred per cent certain I'd done the right thing, I loved the children above all except my own family and I had many good friends I didn't want to lose touch with. Starting the new school job, I have already explained, was short lived and the real roller coaster started to roll.

Before I was admitted into hospital in February 2011, I received an invitation from one of my former pupils, a dear little girl I had a soft spot for, to attend the school's Sixtieth Year  celebrations. I really wanted to go to this, meet up with old colleagues and see my friends, but above all see my pupils, especially my last class, who I had left part way through the school year. I had been through a lot since I left them and it would be so good to see them again.      

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