What have I become?


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I was talking to a colleague at the end of the last academic year, before I began my experiment of coming back to teaching full time, about the importance of work-life balance. I mentioned that what I had learnt in India had changed me fundamentally, as a person, that I was no longer that person defined by her job. I had decided that I am not solely a teacher. I am me and I write and I read and I am something other than my job.

Well, half a term in to my job, seven weeks, to be precise and I have almost found myself drowned and washed up on the shore of disenchantment and disembodiment. I almost lost myself in my job and not in a good way. I certainly wasn’t thriving! I was dreaming about school, only to wake up at 3am worrying about all the things I still had left to do. I would then toss and turn and finally fall back asleep at around 5, only to have to wake up again 45 minutes later with the alarm.

Because of the early starts, I would go to bed early too, between 9 and 10pm, and this impacted on my time with my husband because after dinner we didn’t sit and chat about our days or life or plans, or even watch TV together. No, I would be sitting with my laptop open, prepping the following day’s lessons.

I had no space to write, to create.

I need to get away from that now. I haven’t read a book that’s not work related in over 2 months and it’s impinging on my existence. I haven’t written anything mildly creative, although I’ve tried and failed and I feel disembodied because if it.

Sounds a little dramatic, I admit but you know that feeling of dullness and hopelessness you can sometimes get when everything seems wrong? I was carrying that around with me all day, every day.

Things have moved on in teaching in the last three years and that’s thrown me. I feel like an ancient dinosaur when confronted with NC Rising Stars assessment levels (wtf, by the way!) But the pace as well, is almost breakneck. I’ve got to fit in Handwriting, Grammar and Spelling in an hour straight after Maths and just before break, all with proper teaching and planning and LQ stickers and stuff. Literacy has become so prescriptive with children having to demonstrate a number of sentence types, with or without their sentences actually making any sense, just so we can tick them off on a table. Although, at the school I work in, wants stories to be at the centre, we are constricted to how we tell those stories and what each child must extract from them.

I don’t get the chance to get to know my children any more, not in the way I would like. The afternoons are for extra maths and, although it’s not really on the timetable, it’s for catch up!

Art and the humanities and even Science is blocked so, in theory we can teach them really well and make them ‘dazzle’. But this half term, we didn’t dazzle. We were still catching up with the other bits.

I feel like a failure sometimes. This used to be a job I loved and I was good at. Once, I wasn’t upset about this job defining me. But more and more, I feel like if I fall comfortably into the routine and rigour of teaching once again, it’ll be much worse than before, because this time around, I feel I will be giving much less back to the children I am responsible for.

 

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The beaches in Bali have black sands


The beaches in Bali can have black sands;
Hot volcanic ash glitters and gleams as galaxies float underfoot.

Rattan basket offerings litter the views where small gods eat and run.
They might stay a little longer and linger
In the temples where tourists can only defile.

Masticating macaques, mildly curious.
They seem unconcerned.
As we walk around and through.

Gede, Made, Budi, never spent,
They look skywards, seawards, and to the paddy,
Never failing to bow, eyes front,
Ever smiling.

To deliver them from the day,
Dancing for the tourists, fishing to forget,
Walking through fire night after night, as if to prove a point.

Dressed in white, going about their business
In the countless perfect sunsets over restless horizons.

But is it because they know no better?
But it is because they know better.
I know, because he told me,

“In Jakarta there is work but it is a dangerous place.
From Jakarta, they come here and fight and sometimes kill.
Singaradja, my home town, is a paradise,
Rolling rivers and streams and dolphins, quite close.

Do you want to see?
A hundred dollars but I’ll give you discount.

We all need to make a living here.
With our baskets, our smiles and our galaxies
Trampled underfoot.”

 

 

Settling back into it


The night we arrived, we were too tired to think about what we had done. We were too relieved to worry about the cold. We collapsed into our beds in my mother’s house and slept as if we had truly been laid to rest.

Then, at 4am, the sun started to rise and our eyes opened in confusion. It was surely around nine, wasn’t it? When I checked the time on my phone against the summer sunrise, I knew my brain had duped me. I was jetlagged and try as I might, I could not go back to sleep.

About an hour later, my daughter and son woke up too, eventually we were all awake and my mother, bleary eyed, but excited to have her grandchildren close by woke too. Breakfast, coffees, showers, it was all arranged and all that was left to do was to let it sink in and then get moving.

Saturday morning meant a number of things; getting the keys to the house we had arranged to rent, looking for a car, for the family, renewing my driving licence at the post office and then, if there was time and all was well, actually moving in to the house.

It turns out, there wasn’t enough time and all was not well. My son became ill. Nothing serious, diarrhoea and fever, possibly caused by dehydration and fatigue and a change of climate. We had travelled thousands of miles, sitting upright on an aeroplane to a land where we shivered constantly, from a land where sun held us hostage indoors. Of course it would take a toll.

Sunday morning, armed with Diaralyte, (oral rehydration solution) and an urgency to move on with our lives, we attempted to move in.

We bought duvets and food and cleaning products and everything else we thought we might have needed and by the evening we had moved in. We had our meals in my mother’s house and we slept that night in our rental.

The following morning, I was due to meet with a head teacher at a Coventry school, where there was a job opening.

I got ready, with butterflies and other things, fluttering about inside, and I took a taxi. I arrived ten minutes early, almost choking at the fare. I resolved to start taking the bus as soon as I could.

As I walked around the school and spoke to the head teacher, relieved, again that I was somewhere familiar. I knew schools. I knew what this headteacher was talking about, I knew these classrooms and I knew I could fit in here. Walking through wardrobes into Narnia like lands, was something I had grown quite accustomed to, and this is what they did at this school on a daily basis.

I’m happy to say, I applied for the job, had a lesson observation and an interview and was selected. I start in September.

In the meantime, I do supply work. I wake each morning and catch the bus. On my days off and in the holiday, we visit the park. The weather is changeable, but bearable. We run and play and my children are beginning to climb trees. We feed the ducks and we enjoy the stretching out of days, long peaceful summer days which melt into nights.

Once we went to Foleshill Road, for Indian groceries; things like chapatti flour and curry leaves and all at once, we were Indian again. We gasped at the prices. We were shocked beyond words. This was daylight robbery. Occasionally we shivered, dismayed at the grey thick clouds. At times like these I miss India. But alternatives can be found. We discovered Coventry Market again, for cheaper vegetables and we are grateful to the library. The luxury of buying books, when we don’t have any bookshelves in this house is not an option. Instead, my husband takes the children to a place where they can borrow books every week, if they would like and then their appetite is sated.

I love the green of this place in the summer. I love how everyone is prepared to chat. I like how the social class is not so obvious. We all have the basics and I think that is fair. But sometimes I don’t like the suspicion.

On our first weekend back, I heard that the EDL were going to march in Coventry. This is my hometown. This is where I grew up. I will not accept hatred and racism here. I felt sick to the pit of stomach. Did we make a mistake in coming back? Well, we are back and we have made a decision to give it our best shot. We would fight for fairness and equality, because this was really, really important!

We headed into the city centre and found the UAF counter march, under the statue of Lady Godiva. Tears welled up in my eyes as leaders shouted slogans in defence of ‘our kind’. I was annoyed that more of ‘our kind’ were not visible. Hiding indoors in fear or apathy, I was not sure, but they should have been here, with us and the ‘white people’ who cared, who really cared for the state of society. But we stood, holding banners and waving placards and shouting slogans and dancing to tune of the live band who were playing at the time. For a few brief hours, this was our town again.

And then it was time to move on. We had lunch and headed home and somewhere between then and now, we made it back, still settling back into things but more secure in the knowledge that we can.