Gemma My new year's resolution is to get a new job. Why? After 25 years in special education I'm beginning to get a bit special myself.
I've started to sing instead of speak ("Maria Corby's got new shoes, hallelujah"). I can't leave the house without a visual timetable (well, a list. Couldn't manage without it. I found one from last week when I was on holiday that read "8am: get up. 8.05: clean teeth." Really, things are getting that bad). And I constantly annoy my own children by saying, "Good eating!", "Good walking!", "Good job!" The trouble is they're adults now and the last straw came when I shouted, "Good going to work!" to my son as he drove off down the road.
I quite fancy a normal job. You know, one where you wear a suit and carry a mobile phone. The only mobiles I carry are ones with dangly clouds on them that I'm going to fix to the ceiling of the sensory room. I sometimes imagine walking down the corridor of a large corporation, nodding to my colleagues, stopping for the gossip at the water cooler and dreaming of promotion. As I walk down our school corridor, dressed in boots and long sleeves, hair tied back and no earrings (I'm teaching the little ones today), I try not to laugh as our speech and language therapist staggers by with a parrot on her shoulder and a watering can under each arm - I don't ask, I've learned it's best not to - and dream of a job where I can go for a drink after work and not smell of antiseptic soap and play-dough.
If I worked in a shop, I muse, I would get a dinner hour. A whole hour during which I could leave my place of work, eat my dinner and look round other shops instead of munching my food one-handed while I feed Sunny before having meetings with my colleagues about Easter teas, music for assembly and how we can fit the Duke of Edinburgh scheme into the school day. Or maybe a bank. I could leave at five and then go home and do something else; not worry about tomorrow's assembly or stop off for five currant buns from the baker's shop because that's what we'll be doing in singing the next day. (That's an easy option, by the way. I had a colleague who tried to bring in five little speckled frogs for the song he was doing, and I'm afraid the song had a sad ending that day.) I've got lots of transferable skills. I think. Well, I know all the words to the sausage song, I can position a child using gaiters and physiotherapy wedges, and I can teach anybody anything, from using their hand to grasp an object to catching a bus on their own. Maybe that's not so transferable, but I can manage and motivate teams of people.
Perhaps I should go into human resources. I can see myself now, briefcase at my feet, desk between me and the human resource conducting a "return to work after sickness" interview or a "we're going to let you go" meeting... No, actually, I can't see me doing that at all.
I'm good at paper shuffling. I could be a civil servant. That would be great. If I stayed at work until nine one night, it would count as flexi-time and I could come in late the next morning. Although now I think about it, what makes my paperwork bearable is that I try to focus on things that will make things better for the children. What makes all the frustrating things abut my job bearable is the time I spend teaching, the funny things the children say ("If I put your glasses on, would I see me?"), the surprising progress they make, the faith they have in you and, well, just being with them. So I suspect my resolution to look for a new job will last as long as the one about losing weight and going to a gym.
Maria Corby is deputy head of a special school for pupils with severe and multiple learning difficulties. She writes under a pseudonym