The day has arrived!
Today is the start of a new life. My new life. A time to live and be alive again.
It’s a new dawn.
It’s a new day.
It’s a new life for me.
I’m feeling good.
I’m starting my new role with Teach First.
They say good things happen for those who wait. How right they are. It’s just under a year since I made the decision to reassess the direction I wanted my life to take. I know I shared this with you at your bedside whilst you were in hospital. I have always known I would not retire as a head teacher and upon making that life changing decision I have been patient. May the first last year saw a new journey begin. A journey into the unknown but nevertheless a journey that has enabled me to breathe, have space, ponder, potter about, write and start living rather than existing.
It hasn’t been an easy journey over the past year but it has certainly been a varied one. This past year has afforded me quality time with Mum keeping my promise to you to look after her. We even managed a couple of nights away visiting Geoff, Annabel and the boys as well as watching two Gilbert and Sullivan operettas in Harrogate from our own private box. Mum and I sneaked in some fizz with champagne flutes and quaffed it during the overture – and that was after my handbag hadn’t been searched!
God has been working his purpose out for me. He gave me the time and space to be me and rebuild a life; a new life; a life with you still in my heart even though not physically present. A love that never dies.
During the autumn and spring terms of this current academic year I have enjoyed teaching music and singing in a local school in a highly deprived area – not that dissimilar to Shotton. It’s never easy saying goodbye to the children especially when you see some fighting to hold back their tears. That’s when you know you have really made a difference in their lives no matter how small. I’ll never forget the day I first started at Shotton and Anne, the head teacher, said to me, ‘You’ve got to love these kids to want to work here.’ Mum still says I talk about my years at Shotton more than any other role I have had. I cut my teeth on being a champion for the vulnerable child at Shotton and that never leaves you.
I’ve had the privilege of delivering training on mental health, differentiation and improving writing with staff from over twenty schools across the country.
The mental health training day was very well received. I hadn’t really appreciated how much of myself would come out whilst training others. I have learned a lot about myself through grief and it has empowered me. It really tested me. My own mental health has been affected strongly by grief. I did not think I would end up sharing my own mental health matters during the training but it made it real for those staff who attended. It wasn’t a text book exercise. As well as the head of the school being present there were heads from visiting schools in attendance too. It was lovely to hear them say how inspirational the day had been and in particular because I had shared of my own personal challenges. Another head said those who know what it means to experience challenges in mental health are far better equipped to deliver training to others. I now know what that means. I’m living, not just surviving. I can do it. I am doing it. I have learned a lot more about myself and in particular the things that make me uncomfortable; things that make me withdraw, retreat and turn in on myself; things that make me want to scream and things that make me physically recoil, shiver and shudder because they are not for me. I know what I am comfortable with and very much so what I am not comfortable with. I have learned I like my own personal space very much and how uncomfortable I am when it is invaded. I get irritated, frustrated and annoyed when my space is invaded. Sometimes it feels like a violation and that makes anxiety levels rise.
Recognising how grief affects you is part of your journey and your recovery towards rebuilding your wellbeing. And as Terry Waite said when I had the privilege of meeting him, you live one day at a time and you know you will survive.
This is why I like my time alone as I am not lonely.
I love the peace. It’s cathartic. I love the quiet. It’s restful. I love the space. It’s liberating. I love the time. It’s soothing. I love being. Just being.
I’m taking control. My life. My thoughts.
Greta Garbo got it right that sometimes you just want to be let alone and there isn’t anything wrong about that.
It’s never easy writing my letters to you as I always have tears. However, there are times when simply saying what you think and how you feel makes you feel good. So good.
I’m off to Essex in May to work with a school. We have a Science morning developing a science learning challenge curriculum and an afternoon exploring creative ideas in writing. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed planning it. I take Pie Corbett everywhere I go when it comes to sharing writing with children and adults. He saw first hand at Shotton what it was like when he made three ORRsome visits to our school. He knows that every child got the best because they deserved the best no matter their background.
It is, therefore, so apt I should continue my education journey with Teach First who champion the vulnerable child and aim to give them the best.
Some journeys will come to an end. Some end with great sadness but equally knowing a difference has been made.
I’ve enjoyed working with 7 children individually through home tuition. It’s been a mixture of maths and English and some of their parents have said they don’t see it as ‘school type work’ which is lovely to hear. I have been blessed to have worked with such lovely families. After May (SATs! Urghhhhh!) home tuition will come to an end.
Bloomsbury have offered me another book contract and I will be spending time over the next ten months writing a bit each day.
When I qualified as a teacher in 1991 I knew back then I wanted to work within teacher training.
I now have over 26 years of teaching, learning, leadership and fifty years of living to share with the next generation of teachers who are going to make a difference.
I look forward to simply getting on with it because I love what I do and am doing what I love.
Today is the day!
Today is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
I shall rejoice for I have every reason to be glad.
I am what I am, Dad. You enabled me to be just that – ME.
What I do, what I think, what I say, what I feel comes from me. I don’t need affirmation or confirmation from anyone else. It’s not necessary. (It’s something I’d stick in room 101 if I had one.) It’s always about being yourself. You taught me that.
Thank you for making me ORRiginal and affording me extraORRinary oppORRtunities in my life.
By the time you get to the end of this letter, Dad, I shall be on the train to Newcastle and I shall be listening to Classic FM on a MORR Mozart Monday.
All my love,