All the things I didn’t say

Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to write. Of course, I have also had a long-entrenched need to be a teacher, but as soon as I realised that one could have a job writing books, I really wanted that. I spent so much of my childhood writing stories, or bits of stories, or half-hearted attempts at keeping a journal (a habit that I couldn’t make stick until I was about 16 or 17.) So to share that I do finally have my name in print, is incredibly special to me.

The day my copies arrived. A day that I will not forget in a hurry.

It’s “only” a single chapter, a few pages in a collection of hundreds, but I have a chapter published in a real book, and I am enormously proud of that.

Tiny Voices Talk is a collection of articles/essays, all written by educators from across the educational landscape. There are early years professionals, primary and secondary teachers, educators from higher and further education and teacher trainers. We all have a tiny voice on our own, but we have been raised up and shared as a collective by the incredible Toria Bono, a primary teacher passionate about empowering others and letting voices be heard.

The path to publication has been a long one – when I wrote my chapter, it was late in the spring of 2021. ‘Teacher’ was an intrinsic part of my identity, although at that time I was nearly a whole school year out of the classroom, and preparing to finally return to a full-time teaching position in the September. Now, I’m in my second year at the same school (staying in the same place for more than a year was an absolute revelation, let me tell you!) taking on a little extra responsibility and working every day on being ‘that teacher’ that I always wanted to be.

The book launch was today – virtual as a result of various circumstances out of our control. I had thought that Zoom would make it easier, less sensory input, less social pressure. I merrily signed up for a slot discussing my chapter with Toria, and then? From my own perception at least, it all fell apart. (I add the caveat of ‘from my own perception’ because multiple people have told me things were not as bad as I perceived…) The words stuck in my throat, caught between my brain and my mouth. My heart sped up, my mind went blank, I was clutching at straws to remember what I’d said a few seconds before, to make my next utterance flow on and make any kind of sense. Despite the fabulous sense of community created by being one of the 30+ contributors, despite having spoken to Toria multiple times before, despite seeing a very supportive face in the ‘audience’, the pressure of the Zoom gallery got to me and it felt so much harder than it ‘should’ have done.

I’ve always written honestly on this blog, so I have redacted little of the above paragraph. It’s important to me that authentic experiences of mental health and neurodivergence are not concealed from those who haven’t had the feelings themselves.

There’s so much I would have liked to say when it was my turn to speak today. Like many times, I didn’t feel like I’d quite done myself justice.

  • I am a Year 1 teacher. This is what gets me out of bed in the morning and makes me tick, guiding my little people on their learning journey. To me, it’s a privilege to be part of ‘my’ children’s formative years and I wouldn’t have things any other way, despite the long days, germy winters and occasional sensory overload in an excited classroom.
  • I’m an MFL specialist, thanks to some very special teachers – both of whom are mentioned in my chapter of Tiny Voices Talk. I talked about them too in my episode of the Tiny Voice Talks podcast, and wrote about one them in this blog post, last May. Now, I teach French in KS2 once a week, and it’s become one of my very favourite parts of the week.
  • I am a quiet teacher, and happily so. My presence may not be like yours (another blog post link) and that’s okay.
  • My hope for my chapter is that someone out there will read it and recognise that their ‘damage’ does shape them. There’s no avoiding that your damage is part of who you are, but we can view that fact in light of the Japanese tradition of kintsugi, where broken pottery is repaired with gold so that the old cracks remain visible but become part of the beauty of the functioning piece in the future. It is not always easy to keep this view on life, I have to admit, even having put my name to a chapter on it!

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