This was the week when it very nearly all became too much. When I felt like giving up, even though I knew what a huge mistake it would be to do that. It’s not the answer. The answer is to make the job I have both productive and manageable, and to accept what a challenge that is.
On Tuesday evening, just before I went to bed, my husband took a look at the mole on my back, which had been bothering me for a while. He confirmed what I’d begun to suspect and we decided it needed checking out.
Tuesday had been an utterly awful day. I’d woken at 5.30 and, unable to get back to sleep, dragged myself to the gym before work. I’d then gone in, taken two classes, dealt with an IT upgrade, grabbed 10 minutes for a sandwich while children were knocking at the door arriving early for a lunchtime library club. The club turned out (a) to be for twice as many children as I’d been expecting and (b) minus a work colleague who couldn’t make it because she was covering for sickness elsewhere.
I am still struggling to find my feet with this KS2 group and although they seemed to enjoy themselves, I felt the session was muddled and chaotic. I also realised that all my fond hopes of following the Chatterbox guidelines were undermined by the fact that none of them were reading the books they had borrowed. The session lasted half an hour and I hadn’t managed to get them out of the room, let alone tidy up, when a Y1 class were waiting to come in. I hadn’t cleared up after them when the next class arrived, then two more – over 100 children in two hours. And then a KS1 group after school.
I went home, collapsed and foolishly opened my work email, which I hadn’t had time to look at. One message was a polite but nevertheless ill-timed complaint from a parent at another school that the library hadn’t been staffed when she’d arrived at 16.20 the day before to change her child’s book.
I’m responsible for three schools and I don’t think many people realise that I’ve had no professional training whatsoever. Officially I work 16.5 hours a week, in reality it’s 35 at least, plus planning and prep at home. So technically for at least half the week, I’m one of those increasingly sought-after people, the multi-site volunteer. Much of my stress is self-inflicted. Nobody asks me to do as much as I do, nobody quite realises how much it is. And, knowing I’m surrounded by equally pressurised people, I don’t like to mention it when I feel I’m going under. Yet I know I am.
By 3.00 next morning I was lying awake again, convincing myself that dying of skin cancer would at least save me experiencing the nuclear Armageddon that Trump was about to unleash. And worrying that I couldn’t sleep. By 8.00 I was back in work, meeting with a literacy co-ordinator who was so busy we could only meet in her classroom while she carried on sticking work in exercise books. I think it’s fair to say that neither of us really felt we could admit how much were were secretly dreading World Book Day.
I eventually made an appointment to have the mole checked out, but in my exhaustion I muddled up the time and when I got to the Medical Centre nobody would see me because I was 10 minutes late. Mea culpa.
Yes, it’s my fault I screwed up. My fault I’m stressed out. But it’s hard to see what alternative I have. I like my job. I’m surrounded by really great, supportive people. I find it incredibly hard to say no, because I know I make a difference. But I’m 57, and I’m beginning to feel that this is a young person’s game.
I subscribe to about 200 Twitter feeds, divided between current affairs (go to a demo, the world is ending, Be VERY AFRAID) and children’s lit/librarianship (Read this amazing book NOW, look at our wonderful reading wall, check out this school library that we made over to look like Hogwarts). I need to go cold turkey on both types for a while, and probably stop listening to the news as well. Then at least I’ll be able to see the funny side when a child says, “Miss, this book’s got a swear word in it,” and it turns out to be a Dick King Smith, and the word he thinks he’s so clever to have spotted is actually Dick.
Meanwhile, my daughter is applying for a PGCE course. Good luck to her. She’ll need it.