My end-of-year post has become something of a tradition now…I believe this is my fourth year?? Despite struggling to find the time to blog these days, I knew I couldn’t miss out on this one. Especially as this year has been a particularly huge one for me in many ways.
Whilst this blog generally centres around my profession, other things in my life this year have hugely contributed to and affected it. I can hand on heart say it has been the most difficult year of my life so far. It is the one where I’ve had the most struggles, self-doubt, change, anxiety, stress. And yet, reflecting on it now it’s the year I’ve seen the most personal growth, development and ambition.
For many, it’s the time of “new year, new me.” At this point, I didn’t really know what the old me was, let alone where I wanted to be heading. I was very confused about situations in my life and was finding it tough to cope with. Despite the stress, the saving grace was my job – going back after the Christmas holidays was a welcome return to routine and the chance to throw myself back into something which inspired me. I can remember teaching Dragons as a topic and doing a topic launch where a dragon breaks into the school hall and wreaks havoc! Despite everything going on in my life, I feel like I came back after Christmas feeling noticeably more at home in the classroom and ready for the year ahead. We also had World Book Day (which I seriously enjoyed dressed as Mary Poppins) and a variety of other events at school. My children were making noticeable progress, academically, but also just growing up before my eyes!
The end of February/beginning of March brought the toughest decision of my life thus far, resulting in the end of an engagement and moving home with my parents. It had been a long time coming and a complicated situation with many contributing factors. There’s no other way to describe it other than extremely difficult. Looking back now it all feels a bit of a blur but I can remember how I felt at that time and it wasn’t great (to say the least). Again, I think the consistency of teaching kept me going, alongside having to be OK for my class everyday. Work-wise things were going well – I’d had a slightly under-par book look but it was all things I knew I could work on and improve. It was just finding the mental strength to do so!
It was in March that things got a little too much and I confided in my SLT. They were very supportive and whilst I knew I was nowhere near getting better, I knew I’d made the first step in the right direction.
My mental health became a priority at this time because I knew something had to change. I couldn’t continue like I was. I can remember the Easter holidays being an incredibly tough time. Arguably the toughest I’ve ever experienced. My family had gone away on a pre-booked holiday to New York and being alone in the house for a week was incredibly tough. I can remember waking up, and just wishing it to be night again so I could go back to sleep. I don’t know if it’s because I wasn’t at work but I also had a blip with teaching too. I can remember ringing my colleague and friend and crying down the phone, insisting I couldn’t do it anymore, that I’d fallen out of love with it and I didn’t want to go back. I struggled to find the motivation to do any work and felt totally unprepared. However, I can remember going back with a renewed sense of drive and positivity and while this only lasted about a week, it was a glimmer of light in what had been a dark few months.
May and June brought better weather and all the things a summer term at school has to offer. It actually made me feel quite nostalgic; the smell of the cut grass, the girl’s summer dresses and all the fun sports. June in particular was a tough month for teaching as it was SO HOT. I can remember bringing in fans from home and blasting them all round the classroom. The children were hot, I was sweating and there were numerous wasps visiting the classroom (carnage). We enjoyed some awesome topics though, including mini beasts which involved a day pond-fishing at our school pond and examining and classifying our findings. I can remember feeling super happy in these days because the children were being hands-on and active and they were genuinely excited to try something different. We also visited the Eden Project to coincide with the start of our Amazon Rainforest topic. This was the first trip where I actually felt like I was knew what I was doing on a trip, how to manage the children and the expectations which was a huge step forward.
Mentally, I was still struggling but another trip to the doctor hoped to rectify that.
July brought the end of the school year and it was insane that it had arrived so quickly. I will never forget the feeling when I walked back into my classroom after dismissing my first class for the last time. It wasn’t happiness or sadness really – it was indescribable. I think the overwhelming emotion was complete exhaustion. I felt immensely proud of myself though, although it’s not really until now that I look back and think how strong I was to get through. I can remember seeing my fellow NQTs and just sharing this complete feeling of relief. I also picked up my new little car on the last day of term: my treat to myself after a difficult year.
Of course, August is stereotypically a teacher’s favourite month but I entered it with a sense of dread. How was I going to fill my time!? I’d had to move classrooms so that took a few days but generally I was panicking about how I was going to occupy myself for six long weeks. I bought a monthly planner and started to pack it out with different things and I ended up having an amazing summer. I can remember still feeling low and finding certain days difficult but looking back I am so glad I filled my time so productively. It certainly wasn’t a wasted time! I bought a National Trust membership and revived my love of history, visiting old houses and gardens. I caught up with so many friends. I celebrated my 24th birthday and set goals. It was great and I’m so glad I kept going, despite some days not wanting to get out my bed!
I spent some time prepping for the new school year but I had my first taste of something amazing – experience! I was able to reflect on the previous year and use this to set up my classroom more efficiently, save time on things which would likely go to waste and re-use planning as inspiration. I think it was this that kick-started something within me.
The start of the new school year was so welcomed. It was great to be back with everyone again and ready for a fresh challenge. The first few weeks were tricky, sussing out a new class (and having eight extra children than the year before!) but I felt a renewed sense of ambition. I was no longer an NQT, I was head of computing and e-safety and I had big plans!
October, November December
This brings us up to the final quarter of the year. It got darker and colder but, at some indeterminable point, I started to get brighter. I wish I could define how I felt and why I started to feel better but I can’t; it wasn’t a case of just waking up one day and thinking “I feel better”. It was a general shift in mindset which I think could only have occurred after time. But I started to feel a lot more positive. At work, I felt like I had a handle on things and wasn’t just keeping my head above water, but actually seeking out new initiatives and offering ideas I hadn’t before. I was managing my workload a lot better and not working fourteen hour days followed by both weekend days. I was making time for other things. I discovered a passion for sketching which I enjoyed as it was completed un-work related. I started to realise that I could be fully committed to and adore my job whilst also living my life outside of work and allow myself other passions. I threw myself out of my comfort zone and found happiness there and have set myself up for a brand new adventure, of which I am very excited for.
Overall, it’s been a huge year of change, soul searching and adaptation. I’m not sure I can say I’d like to go through it again but it has most definitely changed me and made me more resilient. I think the biggest achievement this year is learning that I must put myself first. That it’s not selfish or self-centred, just wise! Lots of people have left my life this year for various reasons but many have entered it too and for that I am grateful, excited and blessed.
I hope your 2017 has been one of learning and growth and that you have also managed to make some happy memories. Despite it being a difficult year there are still many happy memories I can take from it and I don’t regret anything I have done. I’m not going to make solid New Year’s resolutions for 2018 because I’ve learned that even the best laid plans do not always come to fruition. In fact, I’m starting to think it’s the unplanned ones I like the most!
Very best wishes and love for a happy and prosperous 2018!