the school trip

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Heads counted as we climb aboard the coach

That already faintly smells of vomit,

Carpet seats, stained with Ribena

And windows smeared with sticky fingerprints.

Tommy feels sick before we reach the motorway

And Miss decides we should have a sing-a-long

To help us pass the time, and when we arrive

We queue for the museum, craning necks

To see the dino bones, soaring overhead.

We press our noses to the cases made of glass,

Looking at the model dodo, the giant fossils

And the rock that came from space, incongruous

In its London home. And homeward bound

We sing again, cradling gift shop buys;

Pencil sharpeners stamped with logos and

Someone bought a starfish, dried and crispy,

Every person wants to touch, excited at

The thought of home, of crispy pancakes

And safety in our rooms while teachers drink

The wine they saved, knowing that this day

Would warrant just a glass or two!

Because I trained to be a teacher while we were going through COVID lockdowns and restrictions, I have still not had the opportunity to go on a school trip. And I am dying to go on one.

I have already decided that I will be going on the trip to New York and at least one skiing trip. It appears that teaching is going to be my key to a bunch of free holidays. It’s just a pity that I will need to take 200 kids with me!

Much Love

Rachel xx

the birds and the bees

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I’ve never been one for talking out loud

About sex and anatomy and bodily functions

But now I am faced with thirty young people

Looking to me with a clicker in hand

And a power point slideshow not written by me.

I find myself squirming and wishing away

This half hour of words that make me blush.

I have a tutor group of Year 8 students and we are supposed to do PSHE lessons with them. It’s such a vital part of our education system, but OMG, it’s scary to deliver these lessons about the birds and the bees to a bunch of 13 year olds.

The big problem is that teachers don’t really get any training to deliver these lessons. I remember my first one I did covered every kind of sex you could have and I was cringing almost as much as they class were sniggering.

What makes it worse is that we don’t know what our students are going through outside of school and I am always desperately worried that I’m going to offend or upset someone.

It’s an absolute minefield and I wish that I could get out of it, but there is no wriggling out of it. I’m just going to have to get over myself and give it my best shot. I worry that actually my botched efforts may be better than anything some of them are getting at home….

Much Love

Rachel xx

a bad day at the office

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Bashing on the keyboard with

Those agitated fingers,

Realising money’s slipping

Through my fingers faster than

The grains of sand that mark the time,

We wish we could hold back,

Anything at all to stop

This day that feels like end of days.

With Facebook going down yesterday I can only assume that it was a bad day at the office for Mark Zuckerberg. I heard on the news this morning that he lost $4 billion in an afternoon!

It just reminded me of those days when you realise you’ve really screwed up and you want nothing more than to either turn back the clocks or cover up exactly what you’ve done.

I heard a story once where a guy at the company I worked for did something wrong and he tried to cover it up. When he got asked into the office to explain he said he was going to the toilet and then did a runner.

I wonder if Mark felt like doing that yesterday (or maybe the engineer who took down all those sites)? $4 billion is one really big mistake, after all.

Much Love

Rachel xx

i am justified

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Did I come down way too hard?

Did I nit-pick?

Did I strike unfairly or

Was I justified?

Sometimes all it takes is one

Person to confirm your thoughts,

That it was wrong the way

That person acted in your class.

You’re justified,

So take a breath

And never fear that you are bad.

I sometimes worry that I am picking on a student. Sometimes we get off on the wrong foot and it can be easy to think that person is bad for the rest of their lives. So it really is relieving to hear someone say that you were justified in your actions.

I have one student who is really disruptive and I sent her to another room because I just couldn’t teach with her in my own. She made out that I was rude and picking on her and I questioned myself for a moment.

However, when the other teacher brought her back for a restorative conversation she was pretty shocked about this student’s attitude.

It was really helpful to hear this other teacher talk to the student, and also to know that I was justified in my actions. Sometimes it just takes one person to tell you that you are doing things right and you stop feeling like you are horrible or that you are doing things wrong.

I guess this is applicable in so many areas in life. To hear that you are doing OK is all that is needed to push you onwards.

Much Love

Rachel xx

teaching an old dog new tricks

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Her patchy fur and the leg that doesn’t want to work,

It means that we all cast her out,

She cannot change, she’ll always smell a bit,

It’s hardly worth the time to wash,

To brush her coat and bandage up her paw.

Let’s just let her sit so quiet,

If she snaps we can always put her down

Because we know that change will never come,

Not now she’s old, too old to be reborn.

I’m watching a programme about kids with poor behaviour and how teachers are helping them to turn a corner. These kids are in primary school so the attempts to change them can be seen as a little bit easier than when you are dealing with 11-16 year olds.

It has made me think about the question: how old is too old? I have been to therapy in my thirties and used it to change my behaviours, so I know that it’s do-able. But can you persuade a 15 year old who hates life and doesn’t want to change?

We are all in a bit of a mess after everything we have been through over the last year and a half and fixing the behaviour problems is one of our toughest challenges. I think that the process is the same for everyone though. We just need to give our young humans a safe place where they know the rules and they know the consequences. This is what makes them feel safe and it is what they are lacking at home.

Much Love

Rachel xx

watching other people struggle

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The tears are just as painful as my own,

Knowing how that sinking feeling drags

At the heart, the soul, the physical.

You know that you will lose your grip

And drop so very soon, while all around

Are seeming to be sailing smoothly

Out across a sky so blue,

A different sky to that known by so few.

The lady that started in the English Department at the same time as me really seems to be struggling and I’m starting to think that she might not carry on much longer.

She has some horrible classes and their behaviour just seems to be grinding her down. It’s really hard to watch someone struggle so much – because it’s normally me who is there.

I remember when I attempted to become a recruitment consultant when I was still drinking and it went horribly wrong. I recall the feeling of sitting in the office and watching everyone else thrive while I was slowly sinking.

I think that having experienced it before makes it worse to watch from the outside, because then you know just how much it hurts. I hope this lady is just having a bad week and that she gets through this. And I’m also really grateful that I’m bobbing along nicely. I never thought I’d be so grateful to be so normal!

Much Love

Rachel xx

calling home to parents

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The ring tone sounds and bile

Begins to rise within my throat,

The hope the I will just go through

To voicemail, an easy ride,

The chance to quash the worry of

Those blundered words and even worse,

Them shouting at me for my cheek

At daring to confront their cherubs,

The children with the sunshine

Pouring out of their behinds.

I have put off phoning parents all through my training year and now the first three weeks of my actual career. It’s ridiculous, but my anxiety about it just meant that I dodged it whenever I could. As far as I was concerned, they would not be on my side and they would just shout at me.

So today, I reached that point where I had no choice but to do it. And you know what? It wasn’t bad at all.

It went so well that I actually found myself pathetically having a little cry in the car on the way home. Just five years ago I didn’t think I was worthy of anything more than the retail jobs that I had been doing. I couldn’t imagine myself talking to important people or having difficult conversations.

I look at that version of myself and it’s hard to marry her up with who I am now. I’m not doing anything special, I’m just doing normal things that I never thought possible for me. It makes all that pain feel worthwhile knowing that now I can do anything if I just train myself to get through it.

Much Love

Rachel xx

too much admin

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The paper waves are slowly closing over

A gaping mouth that gasps for air

But only manages a desperate breath

That sucks in numbers mixed with emails for

The heads of house and senior ones

Who seem to have it all together

At all times they steer a ship

Successfully through OFSTED watch

And other things that surely kill

The drowning ones like you and me.

Bloody hell, the paperwork and the planning that goes alongside teaching is somewhat scary. It comes in waves and I sometimes find myself wondering why I have nothing to do and then the next day I am so snowed under, I don’t know where to start.

It doesn’t help when twenty out of thirty members of a class decide that completing their homework is something they can do if they feel like it. It feels like rounding up sheep while also juggling with my feet as I stand on my head.

I will not let this beat me, but I feel like I am going to run out of air very, VERY soon. Anyone else feel like this? Because it doesn’t help when everyone around me is experienced and has this all under control!

Much Love

Rachel xx

i hope i dealt with that OK?

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What’s the best way to deal

With a broken heart

Or a friendship that’s died?

How do you help kids

You’ve known for two weeks?

And how do you stop worrying

That you did it all wrong?

I had an interesting situation today, and I really hope that I dealt with it effectively. I’ve written about my worries about opening up when things are going wrong. I’ve had a bad experience and so I’m loathe to tell anyone when I’m having a wobble. But, on the other hand, I really hope that I’m the kind of person people feel comfortable to come to when they are having a wobble.

Today, I had a fifteen year old girl who was playing up for the whole lesson and did absolutely nothing. She is normally a bit sparky but on the whole she is a great kid so I didn’t want to come down hard on her.

I kind of sat and observed quietly, trying to give a gentle push every now and then. By the time we were clearing away she was starting to well up with tears and I suddenly felt a bit uncomfortable. I just had this horrible feeling that it was something to do with me and the way I had spoken to her.

Normally, in this situation, the kid gets so irate that they just storm out and you don’t see them again until the next lesson. However, this girl came up to me at the end (obviously distressed) and she apologised, said she would take her book away and do the work in her own time and said that she just didn’t know what was wrong with herself.

I do think that there was more going on underneath and I really hope that she went and found her head of house who she knows well and can trust. But it just took me by surprise that a Year 10 could show such maturity. Most would storm out and make me feel horrible for the weekend and like I hadn’t done my job well.

I hope that there are many more kids out there that have the fortitude to say they’re wobbling. The aggressive, angry stomping that I get from most is becoming quite tiring so well done that girl.

Much Love

Rachel xx

graduation day

The rustle of gowns

And the tilt of the mortar boards

As we stare at the front

Where the dean stands proud,

Handing out scrolls,

Wrapped in red ribbon

And curled around work

That brought the young audience

To their bare knees.

I graduated today! Although I passed my teaching qualification back in July, we couldn’t have a celebration because of COVID. Now that the restrictions have eased we had our little ceremony and it felt really special, given everything we had to go through to get there.

We were lucky enough to have the celebration at the Bombay Sapphire Factory and we had some lovely drinks (mocktails for me, of course). We had a little tour of the factory and then we were presented with our scrolls, before being fed.

They had hired a posh food truck that gave us lush Greek flatbreads filled with salad and halloumi and aubergine. We all sat by the river while we ate and drank and talked about what the future holds.

We may never see each other again, as we go our separate ways, but it’s been a blast getting to know those wonderful people. Good luck to all the new teachers who are going out into the world this September. You’ll smash it!

Much Love

Rachel xx