A case of no pain, no gain

3rd June 2005 at 01:00
I've had a few days off over the year; the usual colds and flu-like viruses that float around any primary school. Everyone told me that I'd build up my immune system in the first year and by the next I'd be more bug resistant.

I didn't like having time off but I wasn't unduly worried. All that changed on a Wednesday afternoon in April.

I was in the hall with my class and their salsa teacher. The children loved this lesson. We'd only been learning salsa for two weeks, but thanks to the enthusiasm of the teacher and the uninhibited nature of six and seven-year-olds they were making incredible progress and enjoying themselves. Could a teacher ask for more?

The pain struck suddenly, like a cramp in my abdomen. I felt dizzy, sweaty, and panicked. It went away and I resumed as normal, until it struck again, worse than before. By the evening the pain was unbearable and I called an ambulance. The following morning I was being operated on for a perforated ulcer. The last thing I remember was giving my mobile phone to a nurse and asking her to phone the school to let them know I wouldn't be in. My GP doesn't think I'll be back until mid-term.

What has surprised me, though, is that now I'm away I really miss school.

I'll probably have to extend my NQT year, but I really want to get back. I can't wait to see what my class has been up to. I must be becoming a teacher.

The cards from colleagues, the visits, the phone messages, the cards from the children; all these things have made me realise I'm an integral part of the place.

Thank you Julie, and thank you Richard Atkins primary school - you're a great place to work.

Declan Cooke teaches Year 1 at Richard Atkins school in the London borough of Lambeth

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