See, ever since I could talk and read and write, I wanted to be a teacher. Everything I did revolved around teaching, and from what little my parents recall about me, I was a bilingual, fluent chatterbox with an overflowing imagination. What better way to channel it all than to teach?
My cousins still remember all the crazy arts and crafts projects I would lead, especially the time I was really into paper mache and decided we’d all paper mache a life-sized statue starting with the skull (it was an epic fail because it was the dead of winter so the glue never dried and we had to bin it). And I’m pretty sure the uncle at the Post Office thought it weird seeing a Matilda-esque 9-year-old come in every other Saturday, counting her 2p coins and handing over excerpts of Lady of Shallot to be photocopied for her imaginary class of 5. I can’t even make this stuff up, it’s the truth. A child’s ingenuity knows no bounds; I’d found ways of creating my own make-shift whiteboards and no person, object or place was safe from being the subject of my sketches.
I always thought I’d be a primary school teacher until I decided to visit my old primary school as part of my Y10 work experience. It was the biggest disappointment of my life. I hated it. I apologise to all the primary teachers out there, I rate you for what you do but I couldn’t do it. There are only so many times I can watch someone pluck bogeys and pop them into their mouth and talking in a sing-songy voice makes me physically ill. I don’t recall it as I’ve probably surpressed the memory but my mum tells me I had a huge meltdown about halfway through the first week of work experience. I was so devastated because this was what I had wanted to do since forever, so how could I have been so wrong? I told her I couldn’t possibly consider teaching at secondary school because, and I quote the exact reason: ‘Secondary children are so big and I’m so small.’ Clearly, hanging out with 28 five years old for a few days had induced a massive brain fart.
For a while, I stopped thinking about teaching altogether. My science teacher had high hopes I’d pursue medicine, my history teacher wanted me to continue with humanities, and my French teacher was happy when I told her I intended to study languages at university and travel to France for a gap year. Being a good all-rounder is a gift and a curse, it’s awful having to narrow down your choices to just one. But then I found my way again; it was my A level Literature teachers who really nurtured my love for English and inspired me to be just like them. From studying Oscar Wilde with David, and Carol Ann Duffy with Rhiannon to my final year with Janine who was the spitting image of Naomi Watts, I really had the best teachers ever. Even after all these years, I can clearly remember being in their classes and feeling euphoric.
The journey to becoming a qualified teacher was harrowing. PGCE in the UK is no walk in the park and there were times when giving up seemed like the only option. The only thing that kept me going was the thought of wanting to do right by ‘my kids’. People laugh at you when you say things like that but only a teacher understands that the students you get to know and teach will always be ‘your kids’ and no-one else can understand the bond you have with them. At the end of the day, it’s about them and nothing else should matter.
Life has a funny knack of coming around full circle. This time last year consisted of saying goodbye to colleagues and friends and at the time it felt so emotional but boy oh boy, I obviously didn’t know what was waiting for me this year. As I write this, I’m sitting here up to my neck in heartfelt letters, drawings, flowers, chocolates, and trying hard not to bawl my eyes out.
Today I feel like, maybe, just maybe, I have done a small amount of justice to that little girl with her makeshift teaching tools and big dreams to inspire others…