A nice surprise

Last year wasn’t that great, things went wrong, I was ill, I was off work and then embarked on some low-level wrangling to be released from my contract so I could make a fresh start. The frustration and anxiety caused by not being able to walk away from the thing that is making you ill is indescribable. The support of my wife and children has been immense – which I guess is why I love them so much!

As January loomed and I was finally poised to be free of my contract I was faced with the awful truth that I would also be free of my income. Not that I hadn’t realised this would be the case, but knowing something is going to happen is different to it actually happening.

Numerous job applications, some speculative – but most well within my ability and skill set, had only resulted in a few interviews and a pile of rejection letters. If you are not currently looking for work I can tell you there is very little out there. Okay, correction – there are plenty of minimum wage, zero hours contracts with no prospects, benefits or opportunity to use my 25 years of expertise and knowledge. But not many real jobs for grown ups with mortgages and other commitments.

With few other options, I signed up with a supply teaching agency that had contacted me after seeing my CV online. The plan was/is to see if I get enough work for us to get by and find out if my constitution is strong enough for me to manage (that sounds more melodramatic than I intended, like some poor Victorian dandy with a touch of the vapours.)

So at the start of January I set off, knees trembling and heart pounding, to my first assignment. It was fun. I’m not quite sure that’s the exact words I want, it was in a special unit for young pupils who are disengaged from the mainstream because of their behaviour. It was busy – no breaks, some restraint, lots of swearing and kicking, a little spitting and some lovely quiet moments when boys (yes, all boys) engaged, worked, laughed and joked. It was very hard work, especially after a year of choosing my own pace, but fun!

Since then I have spent more time with that unit, as well as working in several other schools around the county. All of it has been rewarding and enjoyable, early morning phone calls, meeting new people, working with age groups that I used to teach previously and have not worked with for several years. This has all been good so far and my delicate disposition is holding up.

Anyway, the nice surprise. Yesterday I was asked to spend the afternoon in a local school where I used to work part-time. It was over 8 years ago and I was pretty sure most of the small number of people I had worked with would have moved on or would not remember me that well.

As I settled into the class a member of staff who I remembered (I used to teach her daughter) came into the room, she recognised me, came over and gave me a hug and said hello. Then she left the room. Unknown to me she started to circulate the school finding people who knew me and telling them I was there. As the afternoon went on people kept popping into the room to say hello, much to the bemusement of the students I was teaching.

For someone with a poor self-image, which has been hammered over the last 12 months, it was both flattering and humbling that so many people had remembered me, and most of them had an anecdote to share, things that I had forgotten or been blissfully unaware of. They all assured me that they had been talking about me only recently. It was really good to see them again, and knowing you touched other peoples lives in some positive way is a good feeling – I left on a high.

For now I will carry on supply teaching and see how it goes, but if it is all as good as yesterday afternoon why would I stop?


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