A year has passed since my last blog post. It wasn’t that I planned not to write anything all year. It’s just what happened. Instead I spent the year pretty much doing everything I could to avoid people both face to face and online – partly due to the ongoing Covid situation and partly because in my house decorating or reading or growing vegetables I felt cocooned from the world and nothing could hurt me if I kept to myself. Getting through days at school seemed enough of a mountain to climb as I found myself questioning everything I was doing and sometimes getting through a single day seemed impossible. I wrote a post in October 2018 about finding my voice and recognizing what it was that I wanted out of life – well 2021 turned that all completely on its head!
Looking back at what I wrote last year as my hopes for 2021, I have loved making my dream house my home, I have read a little more than in 2020 but still nowhere near as much as I used to read and I have taken on the challenge of walking further including raising money for RNID in September by walking 100km. In this sense, 2021 has been a success! I did what I set out to achieve.
But this only gives part of the picture as this year has overwhelmingly been about readjusting to the fact that I am deaf and I can’t hide it any longer – I wear hearing aids now in both ears (fancy pants ones that can act like air pods and no one will ever know!). The balance issues that started in 2020 (although looking back they probably started in 2015/2016) haven’t gone away and now mean daily medication as I try to get it under control. Some days just walking down the corridor at school feels impossible – the muffled sounds of teenagers talking behind facemasks makes it feel like the walls and floor are rocking. I know this has made me lose confidence at work as I’ve questioned if I can manage to continue teaching if the classroom is spinning around me.
Back in October 2018 and again in early 2020, I wrote in the middle of my life vision board that I wanted a bigger seat at the table in education. I wanted to strive for Headship. I’d taken a Senior Leader role at a very different type of secondary school to widen my leadership experience in September 2019 and the next step would be Deputy Head then Head. That was the plan…until my balance went funny and the global pandemic whacked out any hope of work-life balance for Senior Leaders in schools. I know the pandemic is unusual and we’ve learnt a lot from it about how to do (and not to do) things and I’ve never been in any doubt about the level of responsibility to others you have as a Head but I’ve realized I don’t want to do that on my own. I know I overthink things. I know I find it hard to switch off. And I know I don’t have others at home to force me to think of something else – I don’t want the only thing in my life to be work.
My drive to be a Head was to support more students to overcome barriers to their success but I’ve always been more interested in teaching those who haven’t had the best starts in life or for whom people have tried to say they couldn’t achieve. My parents paid for me to be privately educated because the state system could only see my deafness for what it meant I couldn’t do and not what I was capable of doing. I’ve always said I didn’t want anyone else put in that position. I was lucky my parents could give me that opportunity but not everyone’s are able to.
So I’ve taken advantage of an opportunity to move back into leading on teaching and learning at school from January and I’ve started my NASENCO as part of a PGDip in Special Educational Needs. What drives me in teaching has not changed in 15 years but I’ve reset my goal on really focusing on working with young people with additional needs. What this will look like I’m not 100% sure yet but I do know I’ve started enjoying reading and discussing about issues in education and teaching and learning again and I’ve got a few half-written blog posts in the pipeline – I think I’m finding my voice and confidence again. I’ve just got a new ‘What do I want?’ in the middle of my vision page going into 2022.
Fantastic post – very honest and vulnerable, thank you. I’ve felt similar things as you throughout this year. I’ve always worn my Tourette’s, ADHD and OCD as a badge of honour, like a superpower or male bravado-y ‘look what I’ve managed to do despite all this neurotrash stuff’, but the pandemic response and specifically the mandatory mask-wearing induced nuclear grade tics and mental health so shaky it’d make seismograph needles shiver. It’s made me realise that I cannot continue to ignore my TS and ADHD and to admit that they’re both rubbish and have been a huge barrier all my life, and especially in a time when I’ve had to fit in a full-time job around homeschooling two EYFS/KS1 kids. I’m not a senior leader and have no desire to be, but I do want balance in my life, and maybe being kinder to myself about my shortcomings is the way forward. Yes, TS and ADHD do give me benefits, but I’m never going to be the ‘full package’ (as a HT once demanded I be) and I need to be honest with myself and others about this so no one is left disappointed.
Good luck on your journey – the NASENCO idea is a wonderful one that I’m sure will help in your journey to be a head. And thanks again for being so honest and vulnerable – your colleagues and children are very lucky to have such a strong role model.