10 Years Strong

Published on 10 March 2023 at 20:29

Twitter this week has had lots of people sharing photos of themselves 10 years ago and present day. I don’t have photos from 10 years ago but this week does mark 10 years since I started to rebuild both my life and my career after a complete breakdown, losing my job and having to return to the UK.

2011 had been a really tough year for me, not only had I suffered a complete breakdown [emotional, mental and physical] which required a short hospital stay, I had lost my job and was living in a country where I didn’t speak the language or have any familial support. I had friends there but due to the dismissal from my job, many were told by the school to stay away from me. By the end of 2011, I had been unemployed for 6 months, I had started court proceedings for unfair dismissal and I had sent out over 250 job applications. 

I was getting desperate for a job as I knew I had to return to the UK in January 2012 and although my best friend said I could stay with her, I needed a job. It was in November of 2011 that I applied for a Psychology and Sociology position at Wymondham College in Norfolk. I wasn’t successful. I couldn’t blame them or any other school really. I had to put on the application that I had been dismissed from my previous job [couldn’t say it was unfair at the time] and explaining that I had been unemployed due to recovering from a breakdown didn’t exactly make me a first draft pick. I was almost certain my teaching career had come to an end after just 5 years.

I may not have been successful in getting the full-time position that I applied for at the College, but the Head of Department [an amazing women who is now one of my best friends] was impressed with me, so when a 6-week cover position came up, covering for one of the psychology teachers, the College reached out and asked if I would be interested and that the position provided accommodation on site. I of course jumped at the opportunity. 6 weeks of work, where I could continue to apply for permanent positions and start to rebuild my confidence as a teacher.

So, on January 3rd 2012, I arrived at Wymondham College in Norfolk, somewhere I had never been before [other than my interview], with just a suitcase and a rucksack. I had to immediately go to Sainsbury’s to collect bedding as I didn’t have any, and I didn’t realise quite how remote the school was and as I couldn’t drive, I got to know the local taxi company quite well. Those first few weeks were tough, my confidence was extremely low, and I constantly questioned my ability to teach. I was very worried that I wouldn’t be able to find another job after this and that this was my teaching career was coming to an end.

However, it was coming towards the end of the 6 weeks, and I was called in to talk to the HOD and a member of SLT. I immediately panicked and thought I had done something wrong or that I was in trouble, both an anxiety reaction and what I know now to be a PTSD reaction. I wasn’t in trouble and hadn’t done anything wrong. It turned out that the Psychology teacher I was covering was going to be on a phased return and the sociology teacher was retiring at the end of the year, so they wanted to ask if I would consider staying on for the summer term, helping the boarding houses and working with the psychology teacher as she returned, and then take a permanent sociology position starting in September 2012. Of course, I said yes, my only question was if I could continue to live in the house on site.

So, the 6 week cover position turned into a permanent position that I have been in for the last 10 years.

I can’t say that it has been an easy 10 years though.

My confidence in my teaching ability is taking a long time to rebuild after the toxic school, I still don’t see myself as an outstanding teacher most days, adequate, hard-working and reflective but not outstanding. I struggle with observations despite the culture of support that we have in the College. I get panicky and over-anxious before and during and then afterwards I will catastrophize the smallest things and my brain will tell me I will be sacked again and that I have to leave as I am crap. I know these are PSTD reactions and I am working on them. I have also had to drop to 80% contract in order to manage my mental health, which I am very aware that I am only able to do because I live on site. My mental health has been up and down as I still deal with the trauma of 2011 and events that happened before this and there was a time when I needed some time off school to deal with it and although I catastrophized and thought I would be sacked again, I wasn’t, I was supported and adjustments were made to support me so I can manage.

It took 4 years for the unfair dismissal case to go through the courts, I was able to get a judgement of unfair dismissal which I can now put on any applications I fill in. Throughout that time it hung over me as I wasn’t able to move on, as I would wonder if I had done something wrong and they were in the right to dismiss me. Once I had that judgement I was really able to start rebuilding my career.

Looking back now as we start into 2022 and as I look to turning 40, I can l see the achievements I have had both professionally and personally:

  • I have built the Hectic Teacher brand from a single book of teaching ideas to, a series of physical books, Online and in person workshops and CPD, and a website sharing ideas and resources.
  • Sociology has gone from strength to strength in the College with higher numbers of students opting for it each year at both GCSE and A-Level.
  • I created a year 9 pre-GCSE course and wrote a textbook to go with it.
  • Created a PSHE program that is used by 100’s of schools [I think].
  • Developed a study skills program to support students.
  • Created and developed the Genius Hour Projects for year 7 and 8 into a highlight of the school year.
  • I learnt to drive.
  • Became pescatarian and worked on my issues with eating [work in progress]
  • Accepted and acknowledge being asexual and how my normal is normal.
  • Co-ordinating the TM Sociology Icons events [with an amazing team with me]
  • Created a range A Level sociology resources that [appear to] help both teachers and students alike.
  • Rebuilt bridges with my parents that had broken down.
  • Made friends with fabulous people who support and encourage me both personally and professionally, both in person and online and I hope I do the same for them.

The last two years of the pandemic have not been easy either, for anyone really, but I am in a much better place to cope and deal with it than I would have been in 2012. I have learnt a lot about myself during the pandemic and I have also been forced to develop new skills in remote teaching and e-learning as well as new ways of teaching generally.

I still have a lot to work on with my confidence, mental health, PTSD reactions and perfectionism, as well as difficulties I have with some relationships but I am getting there. I have lots of ideas that I want to develop further [when I get time] as part of Hectic Teacher. I never thought 10 years ago that I would be where I am today but the best thing of the last 10 years has been these boys coming into my life

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