What keeps me awake at night: guilt over abandoning my pupils is preventing me from breaking free of the unbearable stress of school life

28th February 2016 at 16:11
What keeps me awake

I decided to resign today.  I cried when I went to bed last night. My throat choked me with unshed tears in the car on the way to work this morning. I am surrounded by a rising swell, so I decided to resign. And then, decision made and peace found, I did a stupid thing: I spoke to one of my colleagues and told her my intention.

Like me, she is an experienced teacher. Like me, she works part time. Like me, she is placed outside, to the side of the classroom, a quiet observer of the way things are and a thinker in how they could be. We often talk, out in the car park in the wind and the rain, her with her trolley and me with my dangled car keys, telling the birds and each other how we would do it, if only we were allowed: if only we were asked.

But our experience is unwelcome. Our expertise exists on paper but, unlike the birds, our wings are clipped, our voices systematically silenced and sidelined. Solutions go unnoticed because we don’t have the right letters after our names, or are on the right point on the pay scale. Our careers, such as they are, are on the wrong trajectory. Like the king, the headteacher is a far distant figure, access to an audience closely guarded by skilful courtiers.

I told my colleague I was tired of seeing the pretty decisions, the ones that look good on paper, but that erect barriers to learning that we are supposed to break down. And how I was tired of being hamstrung by fearful prescription rather than set free by creative thinking; I made a terrible mistake, and now I will lie awake and wonder.

She asked me, “But what will the children do without you?

“Don’t you know,” she said, “that you are their Miss Honey?  If you go, who will answer their endless questions on life, the universe and everything?  Who will patiently explain that the lines on the globe aren’t real, or the difference between reality and stories, and that Queen Victoria is dead, but that that’s OK?”

But the thing is, even if it’s true, even if there is no one else to make that little bit of difference, Miss Honey had a Trunchbull, and unlike Miss Honey, I don’t have a Matilda.

The writer wishes to remain anonymous.

Tell us what keeps you awake at night by emailing chloe.darracott-cankovic@tesglobal.com

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