Bristol 24.11.18

Yesterday traipsed around some of the North Bristol arts trail with Gwen-da-friend (as she has now become). She’s probably the person I get on best with (apart from Hank) in this city. Over 3 years and still only a handful of people that I could call my friends and all the others spread about – a sprinkling in Somerset and London and the hardcore base in Suffolk – the ever present pull back to the homeland. Yet I resist. What else is there for me APART from friends and family? I remember waking up in Suffolk on the first day of the Summer holidays when I was at uni in Nottingham and looking at the sun make shapes on the walls and dream of going West. Still now I find there is something limiting about the bump of East Anglia, like a big belly on the side of England, hemmed in by the belt of London below and cut off by the North Sea at the top and the East and then to the West…Bedfordshire. Need I say more? With my itchy feet whenever I’m there I run out of ideas of places to go to whereas Bristol always feels like a gateway to me: to the South West but also to Wales and then for the draw of the urban, Oxford and London an hour and 2 hours to the East.

So, sorry for my absence. My life has taken a new turn. It has been an interesting ride so far. It started with me excited at the idea of every day being a new adventure without any of the baggage that one carries around in a normal teaching job – planning and marking, planning and marking. This takes up 80 percent of a teacher’s life, especially with English. As bro put it, it’s a bit like being an ‘asset’ in a Jason Bourne movie – you get the call and you go in, do the job and get out again, with – hopefully – less bloodshed. I started a whole month after the start of the term so financially it was starting to be important that I get some work. October 1st. Cotham School. As I knew it would be, supply was always going to be a challenge for obvious reasons. I don’t know them and they don’t know me. Their first reaction is normally excitement amongst those who don’t want to work – ‘great, our teacher’s away – we can just piss about’ or disappointment among those who want to work: ‘shit, our teacher’s away and we’ve got some guy who has to interpret as best he can the instructions left by sir / miss and everyone else will probably try and take the piss’. OK, I get it. I empathise with them thinking like that but the struggle to try to steer a lesson roughly on the course it’s supposed to take can be and most often is wearing especially when you don’t know the school. To start with everywhere is a surpise. ‘Supplies!!’ What will the classes be like (behaviourwise)? What IS the behaviour policy? What subjects will I be covering. Will there be supply work set?!! Will I understand it??!! GCSE Maths? “Er..right, who’s the best person at Maths here? Let’s have you up at the front at the end answering everyone’s questions.” In fact that’s a good fun way to give them a reward and to cut me some slack at the end of lessons (hot seating).

I had two really bad days the week before last and suddenly I’d lost my enthusiasm for it. I felt like the buzzard ducking and veering as the crows dive at it over and over. That feeling of being ganged up on by the mob. What did my mentor say to me during my training? “They’re only children.” Yes, and I know we have to maintain a professional distance but all of us get wound up at times: I’ve seen it happen to the very best teachers, however thick they claim their skin has become. And this is what makes me wonder if I’m the right person for this job: I have a short temper, although fortunately my fury is almost always self aiming but I’m also sensitive (need to be more thick skinned!). Small incidents can just niggle. I thought a girl had her phone out at one of the schools I was at (I’d already had to ask two other girls to put theirs’ away). She said she didn’t have one and instinctively I leaned my head slightly to see if it was on her lap – as they often are in my experience. The girl next to her saw her opportunity: “Are you looking up her skirt?” The girl in question became really upset. Had she been thinking the same. I doubt it. 2 days later my agency phoned me to tell me that there had been a parental complaint and that I’d need to write a statement to explain what happened. The teacher in charge of safeguarding at the school eventually revealed that they were happy nothing untoward had happened but not until 3 days after I’d been told (to be fair it was a weekend). Still, these mini psychodramas get inside your subconscious and start screwing with the system.

I’m not going to write more about insomnia –  I sound like a broken record – but on Friday I was supposed to be working at Brislington (a school I like) and I had to cancel at about 5am, getting to sleep sometime after 7.

A first.

The fizzing started on Thursday but before then I’d been fine for 6 weeks. As a friend said to me yesterday: “do you feel like it’s out of the frying pan and into the fire?” I hope not.

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