'The anxiety that marred every birthday, every trip, every special moment – it has melted away, now I am not a teacher'

Yesterday I was not up late into the night marking essays, setting three different types of targets, fretting about the parent I failed to phone or the spreadsheet I failed to fill in, writes one former teacher

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Last night, I slept soundly.

I was not up late into the night, marking essays, setting three different types of targets.

I did not toss and turn, fretting about the parent I should have phoned, the spreadsheets I should have filled in.

I had no meetings to go over, no deadlines coming up.

There were no new specifications to memorise. The latest initiatives are not my concern.

My sleep was deep, dreamless, undisturbed.

I did not wake in the small hours, anxious about my value-added slipping, agonising over the angry child who I should have handled differently, sick with doubt and the weight of my accountability.

There is no Ofsted looming, making the mood murky, tense – like life is on hold until it is over.

I am not a teacher.

Putting my family first

Last week, my daughter had a fever.

When she woke in the night, soaked and trembling, my first thought was not the dread of missing Year 11. The idea that she must go to nursery regardless did not cross my mind.

My stomach did not tie in knots at the thought of leaving her. A voice on the phone did not say I could not miss school again, that I would "have to find alternative childcare", if nursery would not take her.

I did not sob, prising her arms from around my neck, as I said goodbye.

We stayed home, on the sofa, in our pyjamas. I stroked her hair, brought her juice. She napped on me, pale and peaceful, until she felt better.

And though I was sad to see her pain, anxious to make sure she was comforted, I was content, knowing that I was being her mother.

I am not a teacher.

This morning, I took my son to nursery – just like another morning, three years ago.

On that day, my lessons had been covered so that I could take him. I would only make it on time if everything went smoothly.

Agitated, distracted, I was thinking of the supply teacher I should be relieving, the exam class I had next – not the road. I could not explain to my head of department that I had let them down again.

I clipped the curb, upturned the car. As branches smashed the window, we were showered with glass, jagged shards missing his face by inches.

Kind strangers pulled him from the wreckage, grazed and bruised, screaming, while I waited for the fire service to get me out, my arms aching to hold him.

There can be no atonement for those events, no relief from that guilt. But I will not make the same mistake again.

I am not a teacher.

The beauty of words, the secrets of their magic – they are kept in my heart, not shared in a classroom.

The gratitude in a parent’s eyes when their child achieves beyond their hopes – I no longer know that privilege or have that responsibility.

This Christmas Eve, I was surrounded by piles of wrapping paper, not piles of exercise books.

The anxiety that marred every birthday, every trip, every special moment – it has melted away.

Those burdens were a straitjacket, a ceaseless pressure, all over my skin.

I did not know what life could be without that tightness, that sick sensation, deep in my gut. Only their absence has made me see clearly.

The jacket has been shrugged off, the pressure lifted.

Life can still be hard. But the texture of my days has changed, the fabric of reality is brighter, less subdued. I feel… lighter.

I am a friend. I am a wife. I am a mother.

I am not a teacher.

Danielle Duggins is an ex-English teacher living on the Gloucestershire/Worcestershire border. She blogs at Someone's Mum where this article was originally published.

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