It’s been of a bit of a draggy sort of a week. I haven’t been feeling well. I’m rubbish at feeling unwell, as those who know me know far too well. Unlike my cliche-defying husband, who will shake off the most hideous of bugs in a matter of hours and get on with it, barely mentioning it, the germs make themselves constantly known and I’m filled with self-pity and irritation.
I also sat down, with an almighty sense of purpose, to Actually Start Writing My Book yesterday. From my thesis days, I should have known better and recognised sooner that it was all a bit of a write-off. The thing is that my basic premise is to Stay Positive. And so much of the data I’ve collected and the material I’ve read is startling and worrying. There are statistics around mental health that make the mind boggle. And I’m reading account after account of being undermined, overlooked, belittled and driven to the edge of breakdown (and beyond). And hearing people say, ‘it’s not going to get better any time soon’ and ‘ooh, I can’t wait to retire’. A bit like the germs, I find these things a bit hard to ignore and they get under my skin. So I sat, with phenomenal idiocy, a) trying to start my book at the beginning and b) trying to write something that would please everyone and c) trying to immediately provide an honest and balanced representation of the 4000 voices who’ve contributed. And by the end of the day, I’d achieved precisely nothing.
I even attempted the housework to feel that I’d actually achieved something on my day off.
I hauled myself and my tissues to work this morning. I’m trying not to think too much about the fact that I’m leaving another cohort of students in a couple of weeks, but it’s nagging at me too, and if I think about it too much, I feel a bit like crying.
The one of my tutor group, a confident, cheeky young lady who has recently discovered the sex scenes in Malorie Blackman and insists repeatedly on reading them aloud to the rest of the group (I worry slightly for the reaction of her strict parents) sidled up to me with a totally unexpected card which told me what a difference I’d made and that she loves all the books I’ve recommended (cynics, be still). And I gave her a hug and told her I’d better get her autograph now and that she’ll never be [sic] ‘just an ordinary teenager’ to me.
And then, after making the merest dint in a pile of marking, a usually quiet student on their way into my library lesson said, ‘I’m SO looking forward to this! I LOVE reading’ And then my starter on the Chilcot inquiry with Year 7 (non-fiction module) turned into a whole-lesson discussion on the rights and wrongs of war and revealed some of the most amazing political awareness from some of my previously reticent students. And then I stopped to comment on the really amazing vocal tone of another quiet student who reads so beautifully and discovered than when he lived in Japan he went to drama school and we wondered at the fact that he speaks Japanese, Urdu, Russian AND a bit of Spanish and how special that made him and how maybe he should think about working as an international reporter and I was so glad not to have rushed straight to my meeting.
And then I realised I’m ready to start writing. Consider this the beginning.
With the best of wishes to all and a big hoorah for the best job in the world.
Very nearly Dr Kell, very nearly author of How to Survive and Thrive in Teaching for Bloomsbury.