There's not a day goes by in my school when someone doesn't say: "Really, someone should write about this." This is when I go quiet and smile enigmatically. It's not generally known that for the past year I've been writing the Special Days column for Friday magazine. I've always wanted to write about the funny, interesting and sometimes annoying things that happen in special education because, after 20-odd years, I still find it fascinating - and I, too, have often thought "someone should write about this".
Special education is just over 30 years old, and over that period has undergone constant change; it means we're all pioneers and are learning and adapting as we grow. But change has never been so rapid as it is now, and I wanted to chronicle events in a typical, "very good" school for pupils with severe and profound and multiple learning difficulties before things change again. I've kept the column anonymous because I didn't want parents to worry about what I might write about their children; because I thought the staff might get self-conscious knowing I was logging events so publicly; and, last, because I'm sensitive about using the children, weird and wonderful though they are, as entertainment. I hope my writing demonstrates the respect I have for them. I still find my job immensely enjoyable and can't imagine doing such work without that satisfaction.
I was going through the application forms for a teaching post we'd advertised last week when a sentence caught my eye: "I really like working with children." Hooray! You'd think that anyone who does such a hard job as teaching would have to enjoy it, but I've been surprised over the years to meet teachers who don't like schools, don't like teaching and don't like children. I've heard them groan about facing their class, as if it were punishment, and moan about individual pupils, parents and members of staff.
It rarely happens at my school. We all find the children we teach so interesting and amazing that we love being with them.
Overheard talk in the staffroom is not always about The Archers, the holidays or the menopause, but tends to be along the lines of: "Amy put two signs together for the first time today - she signed 'big bottom' to the chair of governors!"; or, "Do you think we've overdone the self-esteem building with Leo? He's just posted his photo on the headteacher's newsletter page of the website."
We spend so much time at work, you might as well choose a job you like doing. So I find it hard to understand the people I've met who clearly don't: cleaners who don't like cleaning - "they've been using glitter again, I'm not putting up with it"; caretakers who don't like taking care - "so a ball's gone on the roof... I'm not allowed to climb ladders... against the rules that is"; and dinner ladies who don't like serving dinner - Splat!Splat! "There's your mash!"
We all moan about our jobs from time to time. I'm no exception, but I would hate to get up each morning and dread the day ahead. I've had days like that working in Woolies, which is why I decided to teach. My sister is about to start her teaching career and wanted some suggestions on managing her first class. "Kids can tell if you don't want to be there," was my best tip. "And if you're enjoying being with them and are enthusiastic about your subject, you're halfway there." I hope she's lucky enough to work in a school that "someone ought to write about". I'm confident the year ahead will give me more magic moments that I'll want to record.
Maria Corby is deputy head of a special school for pupils with severe and multiple learning difficulties. She writes under a pseudonym