“You call it grey hair… I call it stress highlights!”

In the run up to my wedding last year I found my first grey hair, and was filled with many feelings – mainly of the ‘Oh no! I’m so old’ variety. Of course, I am actually only 27 and, despite the thoughts of some children in my class, I am not old. This academic year, though, has seen even more of these grey blighters popping up all over my head. Although this year has been stressful beyond compare, and even beyond what I had imagined, I thought this would be a good time to reflect on some of the highlights of my NQT year so far, with only 58 school days left before the summer holidays.

 

1) I survived my first residential!

Despite sleeping very little, and cooking for 64 fussy 21st Century eaters, I had the most amazing time away with the lovely Year 3 and 4 children: exploring Birdoswald and Hadrian’s Wall; playing Hide and Seek in the dark; and dressing up as a Roman soldier. Another plus for this trip was spending time with colleagues in a less formal setting, allowing friendships to form.

 

2) “I think Sweden has the largest population because it has less mountains and lakes than Norway and Finland.”

This is just one example of a repeating highlight which makes the days brighter: when a child understands what you wanted them to understand. In this instance, we had spent the afternoon looking at physical features of Scandinavian countries. We started solely with maps, thinking about what we would see if we were stood on certain points of the map. We then moved on to pictures, with the children making educated guesses about where each photo was taken. The children seemed on the ball and interested, so I threw them a curveball: “Which country do you think has the largest population, and why?” And they blew me away with their answers – one of which is the above quote. On days like that, it’s easy to be a teacher.

 

3) My first class assembly – WOW!

There are no words, just pride and joy. My children did themselves proud, and me proud, especially when they sang Goodall’s The Lord is my Shepherd so beautifully.

 

The truth is I have been blessed with a lovely class, supportive managers, and hilarious colleagues. Every time the job gets hard, there is yet another moment which reminds me why I’m doing this job: children come to me with their triumphs and tribulations; someone tells me I’ve done a good job; a child suddenly grasps a tricky concept; all of it, so worthwhile. So, you may call them grey hairs, but to me they’re stress highlights. Highlights in a stressful year, but highlights none the same. And I will cherish them.

“Tell me, what is it that you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

This beautiful line, taken from a poem on today’s Daily Post, is the pressing question in my life; the theme over the last 18 months, haunting me in the triumphs and failures of both my final year at university, and my NQT year so far.

 

At first, it was so important to answer because I fell into the belief that God has one single plan and final destination for my life, and that I needed to make sure I made the ‘right’ decisions so as not to put off this plan. This led to me deciding early on that I wasn’t going to do my NQT year, as I knew I didn’t want a career in classroom teaching. But… then my questioning mind started to wonder, “What if…?”

 

What if… I am just running scared?

What if… I am wasting my training and investment of time?

What if… I am meant to be a teacher?

What if… I have heard God wrong?

 

Out of curiosity, I visited the Local Authority’s Teaching Vacancy page, and saw an advert for a school that I had driven past many times, but knew very little about. So, I went to look around, after much persuasion from my dad. And I loved it. So, I applied and waited, and was invited to my first teaching interview. I was terrified, even more so after the interview when I thought I had put in the worst possible performance. I left the school, deflated, and cried all the way home, knowing that I’d be absolutely devastated to receive that disappointing call later on that day. It was only once I thought I’d messed it up, that I realised how much I wanted the job. After a stressful afternoon, I was offered a position teaching Year 4. I couldn’t believe it!! Once again, my questioning mind started to wonder…

 

What if… I was just running scared?

What if… I was to invest my own learning in children?

What if… I was meant to be a teacher?

What if… I had heard God wrong?

 

I realised then, probably not for the final time, that there is a possibility that God has a plan that includes flexibility and deviation from the original route. I remembered then, that God promises his people a plan for prosperity and hope, and not for harm. So, you may be thinking, why have I continued to question what my plans are for this wild and precious life?

 

Because teaching is hard. Because I have never done anything, in my whole life, that is so all-consuming and exhausting. Of course, it is not even that simple; nothing ever is. The truth is: I love my class; I love the variety; I love my workplace; I feel supported; I LOVE teaching. Yet, this is not everything to me. This may be dangerous to admit, but I have dreams outside the classroom. I have dreamed for 5 years of teaching in Sierra Leone; I have dreamed for 7 years of writing a book (though the subject often changes); I have dreamed for 3 years of studying a Masters at Harvard University. Yet more recently, I have dreamed of reading for a Masters in Global Development and Education, at Leeds University. And this, this is what has caused me to question what I will do with my life. The few people I have talked to about the programme in Leeds have all asked, why? What would you do with it? To be honest, I don’t know. I really do not know what I want to do, not even in the slightest. Right now, I want to teach. I want to invest everything I can in the children in my life, so that they may grow up to have questioning minds. I do not know what the future holds, and it unnerves me… because I no longer even know what I want my life to look like ‘when I grow up’.

 

Life is precious. We get one shot at living it… and I don’t want to waste one moment. That is why the question has been, and will continue to be, so pressing. But right now, in this moment, I know I need to focus on giving my children all they need, and all they deserve.