We’ve been together such a long time; I hardly know where I end and you begin.
My body beats to the rhythm of terms and bells – the long, cold slog to the end of the winter and the inevitable Christmas cold, the summer term that should be easier, but somehow never is, with its sweaty classrooms and echoes of frantic scribblings in in stifling gyms and halls – they are deep in my bones.
I have written a thousand dates on black boards and white boards and Smart boards. I have made resources on projector acetates and PowerPoint presentations and on YouTube videos. The first children that I taught are on the cusp of their thirties and may have children of their own.
I have grown up, fallen in love, got married, borne children, become who I am. All with you there, by my side. I hardly know who to be without you.
Lately, there have been some very rocky years. The old cliché might be to say that it is me, not you. The truth is, it’s both of us. We’ve grown apart, become different people. You have an ideal of me in your mind that is impossible to live up to. I no longer have the time or will to try.
I thought that if we saw less of each other, it would help. And it has, a little. But during the time we are apart, in every perfect moment with tiny hands and feet, in every joyful call for mummy – I am held hostage by you.
I’m still in love. The musty smells of books and paper, the bright young faces, the camaraderie of the staff room and warm tea on frost-bitten mornings. I depend on you for my sense of worth and so I have clung on far past the point when this was mutually beneficial– not in bravery or selflessness – but out of fear. Even when I know that staying is wrong, even when I know it hurts those I love the most, and you, I have not been able to let go.
There is much I will regret. I wish we were parting on better terms. I wish I weren’t leaving students I admire and care for – half way through a gruelling and rigorous new GCSE. I wish I didn’t feel like this is a failure.
But there is also an overwhelming sense of relief; I don’t have to pretend any more. I don’t have to choose. Is there someone else?
Yes. My quality of life. My children.
I know I am lucky. You have given me so much. I wish I could be better for you – I always danced along a precipice –at my best, my highest point, there was constantly that sheer drop, centimetres away. My stomach always lurched at the threat of the fall. I could live with that, before. I could live with that constant sense that my mind was full to the brim. I could live with the work, the pressure, the marking. And now I can’t.
Because my mind is filled with cries in the night, and grazes to kiss, and curls to brush, and lunches to make, and adventures to have, and autism to face, and little hands seeking mine in the darkness.
And I cannot, will not, let those things spill out when my mind is overflowing, when I stumble at that precipice. There are some lines that cannot be crossed. Some sacrifices that should not be made.
I will support my son for every second of every appointment, every therapy that he needs – and I will not feel one jot of guilt for being there with him, nowehere else. I will hold my daughter all day when she is poorly, stroke her hair, and I will not think for one second of a pile of books that I should be marking. I will not miss out on more than two and a half hours of my children’s laughs, sighs and cuddles, every day, while I queue on a dreary motorway.
But I will miss you. I will miss being a teacher. I will miss belonging to the club and wearing my thirteen years like a badge of honour. I will miss my pupils.
But that is not enough.
Maybe one day, it might work again. I hope it might. Until then, take care – fight against those who want to change you for the worse, those who would seek to divide you from the joy you should inspire. If I can return one day, I want to greet you like an old friend, not an unwelcome necessity. I hope you can understand.
All my love,
Soon-no-longer-to-be Someone’s Teacher.
For other posts about teaching, you may wish to read:
Teaching: a family unfriendly profession