Following the Christmas holidays I was dreading the New Year. It meant going back to teaching. I didn’t mind the teaching so much – I had successes and failures, good points and bad points; but there were certain things that caused me no end of dread. I recall returning the house in Keele around the same time as Emlyn. Neither of us relished going back. In January, we were doing all five days in a school (whereas we started doing two days at Keele, three days at school) and with the timetable being added to the pressure soon mounted. January also marked the end of my first placement.
The stand-out event of February was getting my first ever car: a Rover 45 2.0TD Spirit S. It was spotted by Andy, a friend from school and relayed to me by Weiran. I immediately warmed to it and after a brief test drive I bought it. I also started my second placement. I was heartened by a lighter timetable compared to others and enjoyed the classes I was working with.
The timetable was starting to increase and it was becoming clear that things weren’t right. I wasn’t as closely monitored as other people, which I took to be a vote of confidence. I did enough to keep on top of what I had to do; I avoided extra work to try to preserve my sanity. Weekends were most welcome and the purpose of the week. When I wasn’t going back to watch the football, I was staying in Keele with Emlyn and Jack in particular. A notable weekend at the end of the month started my foray into golf, a Chinese food buffet and winning a bottle of gin.
Someone turned the thumbscrews in April. Early in the month came in the Easter holidays and it was painfully difficult to go back to the PGCE. I was expecting to go back to be told I was failing. My car was hit whilst parked at the student house in Keele, leaving a large dent (which remains to this day). I took the car to have a puncture caused by a screw sorted and ended up having to pay a small fortune for an MOT and service in addition. Teaching was particularly horrible as my confidence was slowly chipped away and eroded. My sleeping pattern was terrible as I took painstaking lengths to make enticing lessons for them to be ripped apart the next day. Weekends were devoted to catching up with sleep, more work, and more drinking. My eating habits were poor as I ate scraps that required little effort or eating out. Gin, limes, tonic and ice cubes were afforded pride of position at the top of the shopping list; closely followed by cereal bars and cookies.
The word I dreaded reared its ugly head in the middle of May: remediation. I was given a list of things I needed to do in order salvage a year’s work. It was immediately clear in my head that I would not be able to overcome those issues. My confidence was in tatters; I was tired and clearly stressed. My only escape was football: seeing Newcastle United win the Championship was the clear highlight for the year until that point, but even then I was ever-troubled by the lingering dread of having deep, cutting criticisms and close scrutiny of my ability to teach.
I had wanted to quit but I couldn’t describe myself as a quitter. I tried. It came as a relief in some regard that I was told that I had failed the placement though the fact I had made it to within three weeks of the end was not lost on me. Yet I stayed until the end. I had every right to go home at that point but I did not. I wasn’t teaching, but helping out where I could.
It was heart-wrenching, not least when participating in the final week in Keele. My last act was to rewrite the lyrics to YMCA (which we performed for year’s cohort of PGCE students and uploaded to YouTube (with some naughty words) which provided some light relief! The final session – a “farewell” gathering – was particularly bittersweet seeing some people for the last time and knowing that if I wanted a share of their success, I would need to do another 16 weeks the following year.
Mum and Dad celebrated their 50th birthdays in July. I went to Wiltshire to celebrate with Dad for his birthday and at the end of the month I went to Barcelona with Mum to celebrate hers. Both provided escape from the torment in my mind and I enjoyed myself. It was great to see family I hadn’t seen in a long time and to see Mum have her first flight.
August was a void. I was unaware of my situation at Keele having gone home. I started applying for jobs almost indiscriminately. The football season started – with defeat, naturally – but soon picked up with a comprehensive defeat of Aston Villa at home.
Matt came and visited. It was most welcome. We talked, drank, ate and visited Hexham.
I was summoned back to Keele for talks of my future on the PGCE course. The meeting lasted about 15 minutes, having driven for four hours to get there. I had been looking over the summer for somewhere to live with little success (and no help from the accommodation office) so I was not in a position to agree to do my placement starting in October. The other option was February, but money was an issue too.
Pure chance led me to find an opportunity for paid PhD study at Loughborough University and I applied in a heartbeat. I was offered an interview and thought I have completely screwed up. I wasn’t offered the place but thankfully one was made for me. I felt truly wanted and of value professionally and gladly accepted. I hadn’t thought too much about the practicalities, but the apparent belief in me warranted some effort to overcome them.
The notable event of October occurred on the last day… a 5-1 win over Sunderland. It certainly wasn’t expected but was most welcome. For me, I was looking at places to live in Loughborough without any success. It was also a time of a minor health scare. It’s something I have to just live with now and get on with.
My car took a battering from a falling fascia board and aerials. Another bit of damage that no-one will take responsibility for. I got quotes for both pieces and it comes to around £800. With additional damage to the windscreen, a broken headlight, and a broken tail light the damage mounts up quickly. I have repaired the lights (cheaply and easily).
In November I eventually got my accommodation sorted and moved in.
I started in the Mathematics Education Centre at Loughborough University and settled in very quickly. The snow caused some problems over the month, but I was generally high in spirits (not necessarily the alcohol stuff, either!) and the snow was easily overcome. Emlyn came to stay, which was generally good (but we don’t talk about the cloakroom staff incident) and it was great to see the old crew in Kent.
2010 got better as it went along. I’m very optimistic for 2011 and looking forward to it! Happy New Year everyone!