Wednesday, 23 November 2011

The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

“I don’t know how you do it?”, said some; “I don’t know how you cope”, said the others. Well, truth be told, it transpired that I could do neither and so, after much soul searching and wringing of hands, my teaching career has come to, for the second time in a few months, a rather abrupt end.
Scores of bulging ring binders now litter the house like little tombstones and I feel inclined to inscribe upon them in my much used highlighter pen, R.I.P ‘Miss’. A library of hugely expensive teaching texts book gathers dust in my bedroom and my computer is a constant reminder of what might have been with its memory almost full with the assignments, resources and homework that I have written, researched and marked.
A debacle at a placement school back in March was undoubtedly the writing on the wall. Entirely at fault, but entirely without intent to injure or hurt, I erroneously wrote a few lines about one of my students. A delightful student who had made me laugh, I repeated what he’d said to the public at large. It was a grave mistake and one that cost me dearly. I was out on my ear. And suspended from my university college forthwith.
The shock was immense. My children were at once anxious, outraged and no doubt, although they spared telling me, embarrassed. My dad was so very, very sad about it. He knows his daughter is no villain and has looked after the hearts and minds of more children than Maria Von Trapp and Mary Poppins combined. He knows where my heart lies and it almost broke his to see me lost and suspended. Suspended it such a perfect term. I liken it to hanging in mid air. A floating sensation that leaves one confused and nauseated. In those first few days, when I suddenly had nowhere to go in the morning and no students to prepare and knowing that I was being discussed by tutors, teachers college lecturers, it was hard not to lose my mind.
Hubby poor soul, hoping that soon I would be in a well remunerated job with career prospects, a rising pay scale and a pension, looked terrified. Assuaged for one brief moment of his pecuniary angst by hoping that his burden of being the main bread winner would be shared. His dreams of one day ‘pottering’ were dashed. He didn’t blame me once. He may have wanted to, but not once did he articulate his inner demons which might have gone along the lines of “What have you done? For God’s sake Alice, what have you done to us?” I will be eternally grateful to him for biting his tongue.
My uncle, a head-teacher in another part of the country drove down to see me. He saw my predicament in a less emotional light than those directly attached to me. He read the notorious words I’d written and scratched his head, before saying “Oh Alice”.
“But it was meant to be funny”, I refrained, “I was quoting such a lovely anecdote. I made a mistake…”.
My friends, each and every one of them, from those I see regularly, to those who now can only communicate remotely via Facebook, remained devoted and loyal, reminded me who I was and kept me going and chivvied me along.
My university, who, after agonising months of uncertainty, finally met me for a disciplinary hearing in June. The ignominy of such a phrase. A disciplinary hearing. Cheats, thieves, liars and bullies get disciplined and now here I was: one of them. I survived it and they allowed me to continue my course, but that I would be ‘at risk’.
I’m sitting here, searching the thesaurus of my brain, but I genuinely cannot find a suitable word to describe how disgusting that little phrase sounds in my ear. At risk. To whom exactly? The most notorious child killers and murderers have been at risk to all of us. Whatever anyone may say, I cannot subscribe to the point of view that, a well meaning if hopelessly misjudged sentence, computes with any of the above.
And so, metaphorically battered and bruised, I returned to my teacher training in September. But my natural ebullience and chutzpah has gone. I feel like Winston Smith. I had committed the crime of committing my thoughts to paper, leaving all those in power to scrutinise me. It was untenable to work under the pressure of such surveillance. No matter how hard I tried, I had a nagging feeling in the back of my mind that my lecturers would never tick all the boxes and pass me. It was an overwhelming ask. I think perhaps they knew that. And to be honest, at the great age of 46, the last thing I need is to hate myself, to think myself a despicable character. I have had to constantly remind myself that I am not. I am good old sort, far from perfect but a good and could have been, a great teacher.
The colleagues, with whom I have worked, especially most recently, have been an excellent bunch of people. I can only thank them for their advice, guidance, inspiration and support and of course to the children, too many to mention for being fabulous by their patience when I faltered and their excellence when my teaching produced from them work which made my peacock feathers splay out and shiver with pride and anticipation of the endless possibilities of what lies ahead for them.
I have taken a job in a supermarket. I start on Monday. Filling shelves will pay the bills, essays will not have to written, maths worked out on a till but the need to share my passion for my literary heroes and my resolve for correct grammar and spelling prevails, ergo, for those who need a little boost of confidence and oh boy, can I empathise with that, I am availing myself for private tuition..

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good. That child in that class trusted you as his teacher. When you took his words and put them in a newspaper, and laughed, you betrayed him and let him down. I wouldn't want you to do the same to mine.