Headspace #22

I’m delighted to be sharing another piece of creative writing with you this week. After a couple of recent posts about mental health in teaching. This week an anonymous writer, who is an English teacher, shares three poems they have written in response to how being a teacher has affected their mental health. After a week that has seen several headlines around the impact of bullying by newspapers and the tragedy this can cause, it is perhaps important to reflect on our own actions, and remember to be constantly kind and compassionate to the humans we meet in this strange adventure we call life.

Now I know my ABCs

Assessments you photocopy-count-mark-moderate-remark-report-summarise on loop,
Book scrutiny leading to the realisation of an underperforming class,
Call-over meeting, “could try harder, his inference is not up to scratch”,
Demonstrating progress is a slogan engraved in your brain,
E-mail from parent listing your shortcomings when you tried to
Fix and patch minor playground spats
Guaranteed to make you question your sense of justice.
How can I reach out to that particular child?
Interest you try to spark, keep aflame and sustain,
Justifying actions, words and grades whilst persistently
Kicking yourself because you forgot to announce-explain-evaluate,
Leaving on a Friday with shoulders a little less slumped
Monday comes round though and the muscular and mental tension returns
Not giving you respite until the following weekend.
Obtaining the absolute best from 22 when worrying you, as one, have conveyed your worst.
Pressure from all sides to deliver-stretch-challenge even when
Questions are pitched to all levels, scaffolded, repeated and stimulated only to be met by silence.
Relaxation is a sense mixed and blended with guilt;
So much more I should be doing, you think, and yet
Too little time, always.
Until every full stop is correctly placed I will relentlessly repeat myself
Vehemently though unconsciously adopting catchphrases from your own childhood like
“Walk, children, how many more times do I need to say it?”
X-country races you witness and quell meltdowns in
You eventually train yourself to praise and reprimand using only your eyes
Zipping mouths shut as your own has to be when asked once more to change what you do.
 
Well, now I know my ABCs
I wished I had been warned school would entail all this for me.
Parents Evening Jousting
You gather your books as darkness descends
Teacher’s markbook as your noble steed
Compliments and anecdotes as your shining armour
Advice, steps forwards and targets strengthen your shield.
 
The hall is crowded as you take your place
Facing your opponents
Who have chosen a five-minute slot via the School Office
For the privilege of this jousting.
 
You have steeled yourself for these duels
You step back and charge
Replies like jabs to your head and chest
You retreat, rephrase, repeat.
 
The Parents Evening Jousting
A popular yet risky event
As it produces several wounds
Occasionally patched by the plaster of a ‘thank you’.
 
 
Never Enough
Sometimes I sing the song from ‘The Greatest Showman’
And change the words to adhere
To my feelings.
All the praise from a thousand lessons
All the hours that I spend marking books will
Never be enough, never be enough
Towers of plans are still too little
This brain could differentiate the world but it’ll
Never be enough, never be enough.
It is a minority, of that I am aware
Who complain, nag, insist and insidiously judge
But it is enough to demean, crush, and overturn my work.
Hot-embered emails sent with vehemence
Brusque words uttered before the chance to begin or end my day
Misinterpretations of a written mark or spoken reprimand
Are enough to make me feel I
Will never be enough.

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