Or, keeping calm and carrying on

I have been fairly resilient for a long time. Setback after setback has tried to stop me living my dream, but here I am, the end of my NQT year a hair’s breadth from my grasp.

I had rather hoped that my crusade of forced resilience might come to an end this summer, but the universe has had other ideas. The end of a fixed-term contract might not have felt like such a disaster, were we not in the midst of a global pandemic that has upended the world as we knew it, not least in the realms of teacher recruitment!

For those lucky enough not to be job searching this summer, I’ll try and paint you a picture. There are not many jobs out there – I would imagine because lots of staff who had thought about handing in their notice have changed their mind since this pandemic set in! It’s a year when I had hoped that my single year’s experience might give me a bit of an edge over soon-to-be NQT candidates (sorry!) but a couple of big confidence-knocks have put paid to any belief I had in that.

But this post is one of resolve, not a huge pity party for an exhausted NQT! Resolve is what I do – in a weird way it’s come from my anxiety in the first place that I hate the thought of people seeing me give up, therefore I keep trying. I suppose this has the potential to turn toxic, if I’m trying too hard for something I really don’t need. But for the most part, it has lead me to persevere and keep going against the odds.

I never imagined that I would look outside my hometown, for only my second teaching post. But if this pandemic has taught me anything, it’s that nothing is certain. I am young, single, and have no commitments to speak of, therefore I’m in a perfect position to take advice my GCSE history teacher wrote in my yearbook: See the world! So I’ve cast my net a little wider – I’ve submitted applications to schools in four countries so far, and am actively looking for an adventure in a new place.

It would be easy to give up now, if I’m honest. The application process is exhausting and can be demoralising: each application can feel so personal it’s as though a piece of me is ripped away with it, and each one expends a lot of mental energy (I’ve found myself referring to my old favourite The Spoon Theory a lot lately!) When nothing comes back from a weekend’s worth of applications, it’s so tempting to throw in the towel. Surely it would be easier to apply my skills to something else, I find myself thinking far too often.

The single upside to the pandemic situation is that it probably wouldn’t be any easier in any other sector at the moment. I might as well stay where I am – especially when my bubble of 14 children remind me daily what I’d miss if I ever walked away from the profession. Even when it’s been a difficult behaviour day, or a rubbish reading day, or maths hasn’t sunk in, or three children have cried and social distancing says I can’t give them a quick hug, there are reasons to love this job. A proud smile after a correct answer. A ‘thank you.’ A remark that takes me by surprise and makes me laugh until my sides ache. A piece of descriptive writing that surely hasn’t come from a Year 1. Except, it has, she’s a wonderful writer, and I had a part to play in making that happen.

So my resolve is not entirely spent. I am as yet unbroken, despite how fragile I may feel. The next round of applications is upon me and I will give them exactly the same care and energy and the first ones I filled in, because every school and every child deserves my best. If I like a school enough to apply, they deserve my best try at applying, whether they’re my first or my fiftieth.

The search goes on for a new adventure. But I won’t give up yet.

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