Thank God it's Friday

2nd June 2000 at 01:00

My last day. There are no comments on the tidiness of my office nor on the piles of paper I put out for recycling after the five hours I spent sorting yesterday. The spring flu epidemic continues and classes are combined. Fortunately Year 8 are absorbed all morning in a workshop performance of Macbeth by the English Shakespeare Company. Flu has hit them too; it should be Twelfth Night, and some pupils are disappointed. After lunch, which I don't eat, I teach what may be my last lesson and the buzz of classroom activity carries me to home time. Then the chair and vice-chair of governors are in my office with a local education authority officer. They tell the senior staff I have to have time off and the LEA will pay for an acting head. My secretary gives me a hug and it's over.


I lie awake worrying about what will happen. The clock moves to 6.30. No reason to get up. 8.30am. The news is being given at staff briefing. How has this happened? I don't cause problems, I solve them. I thrive on stress and challenge. I love my job... bu how long since I really felt or functioned like that? I ring the head of our neighbouring school. Within minutes, he's round to see me. Another hug. "I don't think you've been well for a long time. Don't feel guilty." I know that I have limits. I have become unfit to do my job. Relief makes me light-headed. 7.30pm. I've not eaten all day. Or opened the newspaper.


It says exhaustion on my certificate, but that doesn't seem right. I've been awake and ready to work from 4am for weeks. 6pm: time for my weekly fix of the ideal leader and manager Jean-Luc Picard. How I envy his paperless office on the Starship Enterprise. Still not eating.


My first appointment with a counsellor. Our session ends after 40 minutes when I fall asleep.


I see a friend - the first time I've seen anyone outside school for seven weeks. What have I been doing? What has happened to me? Perhaps it's a sign of recovery that I'm asking these questions.

The writer has applied for early retirement on grounds of ill health

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