I've just completed my first year working in a secondary school. I can honestly say it's the most intense, relentless environment I have ever worked in - and I worked in mental health for nine years! I don't teach (I bow down in awe to those of you that do) but there's something about the pace and unpredictability of a school; the sheer size, the amount of students and staff, that makes it so, well, exhausting!
Oh yes, I know, I was one of those scoffing onlookers too. What on earth were these people, with their six week summer holiday and endless half term's moaning about? Yet here I am, having clawed my way to the end of term, half crazed and delirious. My goal most days has been to turn up and stay awake – anything else was a bonus.
And yes, the holidays do appear attractive (apart from the scandalous cost of actually having one!) There's some comfort knowing you're never more than 6 weeks away from a break.
But the demons in our mind don't book in their visits according to when we can accommodate them. They pay no attention to availability. They pounce, unannounced, without warning, at entirely inopportune moments. And always uninvited. Sounds remarkably similar to Ofsted actually.
In every other job I've had, where I (not the government) determine when I have my holidays, I've been able to take a day or two off if this happens. If I've felt my mood start to dip, I took a short break, applied some TLC; just took action before things deteriorated.
I can't do that now - and it's unsettling. If I'm struggling, other than ringing in sick, which isn't always necessary (or indeed helpful when you want to at least try to carry on) there's no options. These are the dates I work from and till, and basically "all mini meltdowns must be saved for the designated holiday time please"
I jest of course, and this isn't a pitch to feel sorry for staff working in schools (honestly!) We're each responsible for our own choices and currently I choose to stay. Just as if I feel it's not working for me, I can choose to leave. BUT... my experience has reminded me that what one person sees as a help, another could see as a hindrance. We shouldn't judge or begrudge. That old adage about walking in someone else's shoes is as relevant now as it's always been. Even school shoes.
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