seeing your teacher in the supermarket frozen aisle

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She glides past the frozen pizzas

In her tracksuit pants and a messy bun,

No makeup to hide those darkened rings

Under her eyes, that I may have caused.

I never thought of her as human before,

That she may feel sad or have a boyfriend,

Or need to shop for food and brush her teeth,

All those things that we all do – she does too.

And as her Ugg boots swish-swished away,

I wished that I could say – ‘Miss!

You’re my favourite teacher, and now I realise

You’re a person too.

I did my first lunch time duty today. Having completed my first term, I now feel confident enough to add a few things to my week. I had been told that it’s important to take part in extra curricular activities so that you can build positive relationships with the students.

So today, I shut down my computer and joined the students outside on the playground. And it was a really nice experience because I got to see the students outside of an English class.

There was one boy who told me about a bereavement that he had been through recently and then at the other end of the spectrum there was one girl who wanted to show me her ukelele.

It reminded me of experiencing the sighting of a teacher in the supermarket when you were a kid. You would stare because this person was totally out of context. How could a teacher need to buy frozen chips and Pot Noodles? It was such a novel idea that it was almost ridiculous.

I hope that none of my students see me in sweats and Ugg boots, but it’s still nice to see them in their natural habitat.

Much Love

Rachel xx

the first and the last page

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Opening the book and cracking the spine,

The excitement of diving in through the words,

Those black and white portals

Where new people live, never before

Met by another, and dancing through pages

They’re waiting for you. You bring them to life

For just a few days you exist together,

Loving and hating til death do you part,

And when the last page is turned and they leave

They take a small piece of your bright bursting heart.

I can’t be the only person who feels like a little part of me has died whenever I finish a book. Especially when you adore the characters – how difficult it is to move on and leave them behind? Or are they moving on and leaving you behind?

I sometimes feel like the best characters do carry on with their lives at the end of a book, in some parallel universe that I will never be a part of.

It’s heartbreaking when you close a book and find yourself having to say goodbye and I wish you luck with the rest of your life. I wonder if those book characters ever sit on the other side of the story and think about me?

Much Love

Rachel xx

stupid english language

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Those words that twist and turn,

Tricking us delightfully,

With there tomatoes over their

And always wondering

Wear I’d possibly where that dress.

The English language is a fucking mess.

I had a few classic comments from the students today and they tickled me so much so that I felt I had to share. They were unusual errors too; a little outside the normal wear and where confusion.

The first was in a conversation about what the Labour Party stood for. I was hoping for some comments about socialism but instead I got ‘Oh Miss, isn’t that the people who look after pregnant ladies.’ I had to take a deep breath and count to three.

My other one was when we were talking about the feud between the Montagues and Capulets in Romeo and Juliet. We were looking at the connotations that come from the word ‘feud’ and we had spent five minutes talking about arguments and violence.

It was then that a student put up his hand and said ‘we could talk about eating.’ I asked him to elaborate as I wasn’t quite following and it soon became evident that he was talking about ‘food.’ I don’t know where he head must have been for all the time that we were talking about fighting?!

I thought that while I’m pulling my hair out and crying in the stationery cupboard, that might bring a smile to your face.

Much Love

Rachel xx

seeing my myself on screen

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It’s like an awful mirror,

Reflecting back the dreaded truth,

Exactly what I looked like

On that day when earth cracked open

And flames of hell were lapping at

My feet, burning soles

And warning me to change.

I just watched a scene on TV that made my toes curl. It depicted a woman being spoken to in a room, and she is alone with a HR person. It becomes apparent pretty quickly that she is an alcoholic and she is in the room because she has done something wrong.

While I was drinking I kept finding myself in that room and wondering why I was there again. I genuinely thought that the world was conspiring against me and it had nothing to do with my behaviour.

And the funny thing is, since I stopped drinking five years ago, I’ve not found myself in one of those situations. Sure, things have gone wrong at work, but they have not spiraled in the way that they used to.

The thing that pushed me to write this wasn’t to talk about how horrible that time was, but to bring up how uncomfortable it is to watch it played back on screen. It was horrible to see it in all its cringey detail.

I think that sometimes we need to be reminded of our errors and feel all that discomfort as a way to remind us not to go back. However, that was a scarily accurate representation of what happened in that final meeting that nearly killed me… and reliving your most shameful moment is never a pleasant experience.

Much Love

Rachel xx

i’m super clever

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I’ve read the books that you wished you had

And I raced through a degree

With a full time job.

I write poetry and books

And have critical thoughts on important themes.

But deep down we know that I’ve lied a lot,

I’m a little bit lazy and I skim those books,

I was drunk when I studied

And depressed when I passed

And I only found freedom

When I let down that mask.

I’m an English teacher but I sometimes feel way too dumb to do the job. I feel like a fraud and one of my darkest secrets is that I know zilch about Shakespeare.

When I did my degree in Literature, I had one free choice module and I did one on European politics. I hadn’t really read the timetables for the other courses, and it was only once I started the module that I realised I would not be able to do the Shakespeare module. And so, now I know nothing.

And then I did a postgraduate law conversion course while working full time and taking a foundation course at work. The law textbooks were huge and there was no way I was going to have time to read them. So I just used Wiki to write my essays.

During my Literature degree I never figured out how to access the freaking library so I never read an academic book.

I still haven’t got round to finishing Harry Potter.

The list goes on.

I’m just writing all this because we all cheat and make do, and we all puff up our achievements to make ourselves sound better. But really we’re all just scared little children too scared to ask someone how I’m supposed to borrow a book.

You’re not alone.

Much Love

Rachel xx

was shakespeare in love?

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What was the love that pushed his quill

Across pages of parchment, churning out words

That swim through the ages, touching us here

In ways that we struggle to formulate now.

Was he a human with feelings like us,

How did those lines spout from a man?

Perhaps he was alien, from a planet afar,

Just watching people like animals in zoos,

Learning our manners in a way we refuse.

I remember when I was in Year 10 and studying for my GCSEs and I have a vivid memory of acting out a scene from Romeo and Juliet and thinking about Shakespeare writing those words.

It was a strange thought and it may have stemmed from the fact that Shakespeare in Love had just come out. But, I remember wondering if he could have fathomed that 400 years later a bunch of kids would still be reading out his words in school.

That must be mind blowing for a writer, to know that you have had that effect on the world. But it does beg the question: what the hell was his life like?

He must have had such a passionate and exciting life – to be able to come up with all those stories that still ring true in our hearts and minds. It makes me think that perhaps he wasn’t even human.

It just goes to show that being one of us stirs up the same feeling regardless of the time or place. The internet or world wide travel makes no difference when it comes to heartbreak and love and power and conflict. It never changes.

Much Love

Rachel xx

I need to see the world through their eyes

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I need to remember that feeling

When nobody understands

And everyone asks

Yet you cannot say

Because you don’t even know.

I get so frustrated with my 15 year old students because I always think that they are rude and unreasonable. They don’t behave and then when they do badly in an assessment they blame me. Quite frankly, they are insufferable.

However, I just watched a programme that followed a girl in high school and I was reminded that teenagers have really complicated lives these days. There was so much texting in this show that even I couldn’t follow it, so how teenagers keep up with all those messages, I’ll never know.

And then I need to remember that their little brains are processing all these crazy feelings for the first time. As an adult, I spent a decade of my life drinking copious amounts of vodka to get rid of those feelings so I can’t really get angry at them.

Kids have a bloody difficult time now and perhaps it’s me, the grown up, that needs to hold onto that thought.

Much Love

Rachel xx

always carry a notebook

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She was the type of woman to always have

A notebook tucked away in her inside pocket,

Yellow fabric covered, printed with bumble bees

Because that would make her feel good

When the weather was crap and work was hell.

She’d write little things in there, not all nice,

But things that made her stop and think, or smile,

Or even seethe inside, just things that made her feel.

She called this book her almanac, her treasure chest

And when she read the pages back (out loud, of course)

Her friends would sit in silence, taking it all in,

Wishing they’d articulate the world the way she could.

I don’t do resolutions that are hard and easy to break. I think they are totally pointless and they crush our dreams in the process. I do like to use this time of year to set little challenges though.

This year I’m definitely going to become one of those people who walk around with a notebook on them. I am really curious to see what could be written down if I were to have the opportunity to write at any time.

I’m sure there would be pages of pure crap, but you never know, there could be a few little gems.

Much Love

Rachel xx

how do therapists do it?

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The heaviest weight

That squashes and squeezes

Til the air can’t be held

In these lungs any more,

That is the weight

Of their problems just dropped

Onto her lap, not wrapped with a bow,

Tell me, where does that pain go?

I have just started listening to the audiobook version of Maybe You Should Talk To Someone by Lori Gottlieb and it just made me think about how hard it must be to shoulder the weight of all those problems coming into your office each day.

I struggle to deal with the teenage problems that come into my room and I’m not even meant to be dealing with their issues. I have sometimes gone home feeling drained and sad for the kids in my class, taking on some of the pain they float my way.

I take my hat off to those people who listen to horrible stories of pain each and every day. It must be a real skill to keep yourself walled off so that you don’t make yourself sick.

I’m looking forward to listening to the rest of the book on my long runs this holiday. I’m sure I’ll laugh and I’ll cry throughout. I guess that’s how they do deal with the job; cling onto the successes and the funny stories that they are let in on.

Much Love

Rachel xx

who are you calling in the dark times?

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Who are you calling when the clouds hang low

And the sunlight fails to come through?

When you’re fumbling for phones and your face is aglow

With the light from the screen, blinking so blankly,

Growing our hope when there really is none.

There will be a time when you need that saved number

And a hand in the dark to pull towards light,

When you’re sure that there’s nothing left worth the fight.

I trained alongside a girl who was teaching in England for two years having come over from Australia. When I was over in South Africa I was unbelievably homesick so I could only imagine how she felt in the middle of a pandemic.

However, that was some sixteen years ago and so I had forgotten those feelings and how painful they could be. I was only reminded when we were teaching the Year 7s A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness.

We had just reached the bit that breaks everyone’s hearts and we were all in our staff room talking about our thoughts and how the Year 7s didn’t seem to ‘get it’.

It was then that this Australian girl said that when she had finished with the class that day, she had immediately pulled out her phone and messaged all her family on the other side of the world telling them how much she loved them.

I felt my heart give a little twinge when I heard her say that. My mum had just moved away to I don’t know where and I was wondering if anyone actually loved me. I realised that I had one less person that I could reach out to when life got tough.

Hold onto those people with all of your might; it’s sad when you lose them.

Much Love

Rachel xx