Today I woke up crying that I wasn’t a teacher. It always surprises me when this happens. When I was first ill, I would regularly think about my former job, and pine for the life I’d lost. But then over time, I slowly accepted it, and moved on, and found happiness again in my new different version of living. Nowadays I rarely think about my old job, think about my old hobbies, think about my old world. So it always catches me out when I dream about it. Like my subconscious wants to reminisce for a while.
I only dream about it a couple of times each year; mainly at my previous favourite points in the school calendar. The first day back after summer, the lead up to Christmas, sports days. In the land of nod I’m a teacher again, “Mrs Marshall” again. I stand at the front of the classroom with thirty pairs of eyes looking and listening, waiting for me to unveil the day’s activities. I’ll try and recall the daily timetable, the lessons I taught, the topics we covered. I’ll walk around my old classroom, plan the displays, decide what to put on the theme table. Sometimes I dream that I’m about to have a lesson observation; I’ll be manically planning what to teach, how to make it active and fun, how to differentiate it. I’ll be running through the strategies to keep them focused on the carpet, the rhymes I invented to help them remember maths. And then suddenly… the me in the dream realises I’m not a teacher anymore, and never will be again. And it shocks me, and it saddens me, and it makes me cry. And so I wake up with tears, and an ache of sadness inside. I go through the motions of that day with a grey cloud over me. But then I move on, and don’t think about teaching again… until it wakes me up six months later.
I loved teaching. I adored teaching. I enjoyed the independence and responsibility of my own class. I felt blessed that for a few hours I was the centre of these youngsters’ world. I was happy that I was doing something worthwhile and of benefit to society. I thrived on the juxtaposition of needing to use both the logical and creative sides of my brain. And I absolutely adored that moment when a child suddenly understands something… the excitement and happiness in their eyes! My favourite year group were Year One: five-going-on-six year olds. Young enough to be excited by everything I showed them, yet old enough to take their first steps towards writing and maths. It was wonderful to watch them burst into the classroom each morning, buzzing with life, eager to learn. It was amazing to see how much they progressed and grew over the school year. For eight years, teaching was my life. I spent hundreds of pounds buying bits and bobs for my classroom. I spent thousands of hours making educational games and resources to make learning fun (my friends became used to cutting out laminates over a cuppa 😛 ). I spent most of my free time planning the next lessons, decorating the classroom, writing reports. I spent most of my life in teacher mode. Every time I went shopping or on a day trip or to the park… half my head was looking for ideas to inspire the children, props to help teach them, craft items to make together. Teaching was a true vocation for me. There was never a rest from it. And so to have it taken away so suddenly, so abruptly, was hard. Deeply sad. And it still is.
There were obviously things that I hated about teaching. The over-whelming paperwork, the frequent observations, the pressure to always be at my best. Taking a step away, I can now see that it had taken over my life; I spent far too much of my weekends and holidays working. It was exhausting and tiring and stressful. I’m not sure I could have carried on for another 30 years. But at this stage, I never would have left if it hadn’t been forced upon me.
I can’t go back to teaching. With Pulmonary Hypertension I am never going to improve enough to be able to return to a classroom. I’ve been officially retired due to ill health, receiving my pension monthly! If I am lucky enough to get a transplant, then in theory I will be fit and active enough to be a teacher again…. BUT I still won’t be able to. I’ve been advised to never work with children again as they harbour too many germs; my weakened immune system would not be able to cope. But despite knowing this, I still have my classroom in storage in my garage. Yep, I still have eight years worth of homemade resources, books, games and classroom decorations sitting in boxes taking up an enormous space in my home. And even though I know in my head that I can’t be a teacher again, my heart finds it hard to take that final step and completely accept that. I’m not quite ready to clear out everything to do with that treasured part of my old life.
It’s been five years since I last set foot in a classroom… 63 months since I last stood in front of thirty little ones… 277 weeks since I last took the register… 1942 days since I last was a teacher. Yet I still miss it: some days faintly, some days deeply. But I have to move on. As with everything else in my life that has changed since my diagnosis, I do my best to accept it and move forward, to look to the future and not the past. I just hope that if I eventually receive a transplant, I’ll have an epiphany at the same time, and know what my next career should be! Teaching will just have to be limited to my occasional dreams.