No purpose, probably not even an audience – so why bother writing?

It’s almost half a year since my last blog post. It wasn’t intentional that I left my blog silent, it just sort of happened. In the first few weeks of my new job, I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to write about what I was doing. It took me a little while to muster the courage to ask my boss if it was OK. I think he was amused by my question – perhaps asking something like that makes me unusual. Luckily writing is allowed! But then I started working hard on finishing up writing my latest book (it’s called On Teaching and right this minute the manuscript is being reviewed, scary!) and I found that with it as an outlet for my writing demon, I didn’t need this space. Well, evidently I’m back now that my book is (almost) to bed.

In my last post, I lamented my decision to leave my youngest son to fend for himself at my school. I was worried about how he would cope without Mum there each day, but he has done remarkably well. I couldn’t be more proud of him. Some days he comes home so full of news and things to talk about that I can’t shut him up for almost an hour straight. When he mentions some teachers, I don’t know their names and it’s very weird knowing that these new faces and personalities exist in my school and yet we are strangers to each other. The first half of term I felt adrift and uncemented to my new role and colleagues. When I dropped Balin to school, it felt weird driving off, like something was pulling me inside. I was sad that my colleagues weren’t contacting me every day telling me they missed me or that the students missed me. They never told me the school or faculty was falling apart without me. In fact, I barely heard from my school at all… proving the point that schools march on without you, as much as you think they can’t or won’t. They do.

I’ve found a new rhythm this term, especially with Balin. I drop him to school each morning, and apart from sometimes catching the eye of a student who remembers or knows me (but to year 7 and other new students I am no one), I no longer feel that invisible pull into the school – the building or the community. A few weeks ago I went back into school for Balin’s parent-teacher interviews, and I was just a mum. I mean, I was a mum who knew the names of the teachers, but no one treated me differently. I had a couple of side smiles from some colleagues and an excited greeting from a few English colleagues, but mostly there was nothing. It’s not like I expected a chorus of angels to sing when I walked in, but I guess I thought people would be delighted I was back amongst them. That a student would be puppy-like in their hellos and say they missed me. Nope. Just Baz’s mum there to get an update on how he’s travelling in year 11. I feel silly for thinking there would be some big feelings that night, but I also feel a little sad. It’s like when I left my old school – no one begged me to come back. In fact, I’ve never been invited back – not once after having worked there for 10 years. It’s just like once you leave, you’re gone. Door closed.

I’m not saying it’s door closed for my school – it certainly isn’t, that is my substantive position. All my things are still in my office; all my posters still up on the walls in my classroom. I guess… I don’t know what I’m saying or why I’m writing this when I should just go to sleep. Teaching is a funny thing, where you think the mark you’re making is bigger than what it is… or maybe not bigger, just more profound and permanent. The truth is, it’s temporary. The impact is with the students and the relationships you form with them – that lasts at most 5 years in a school after you leave. I’m heading back into school next Wednesday to catch up with my boss and DP, which will be lovely and I see it as more of a social thing than anything else. I don’t even know what the school improvement plan has in it – although from what my son reports it has more about uniform than I would expect – which is weird because that’s a big part of a school. How strange that not even two terms have passed and I feel so disconnected from it.

When it comes to my current job, I couldn’t be happier. Each week I am learning new things – mostly about writing, but also about leadership, adult education, and also about myself as a person. I find that I am comfortable being on my own for long stretches of time, and that the slower pace of the role (compared to teaching) has allowed me to step back and reflect on how I respond to situations. Over the last week I’ve really started reflecting on my time as HT T&L and all the things I should have done differently, and how important strong leadership is in helping nurture middle leaders. I can’t speak highly enough of my boss right now – every week I look forward to learning something new, and not just writing stuff (although, my word, I have learnt so much that would improve my teaching 100 fold) but also about navigating relationships and the complexities of high-stakes work with all its fluidity and uncertainties yet expectations. Every week I just allow myself to keep open to being wrong, to having misconceptions identified and righted, and it’s a really cool feeling. I’ve never been one to claim I know everything, but this role has shown me that such an attitude isn’t just a pose, I genuinely am eagerly embracing the unknown and trusting my boss to be the type of guide I’ve probably wanted and needed for a decade without even knowing it.

Well, this post is rambling and if I had to identify it’s school genre, I know I would struggle. I mean, what even is my purpose? As a writer, I really should know… but maybe that’s part of the joy of writing? I guess I’m firmly in the territory of hybridity.

2 thoughts on “No purpose, probably not even an audience – so why bother writing?

  1. It’s funny how we think this way. I went to a birthday celebration last year where I knew some ex students would be there from my old school in Sydney (Now in Coffs Harbour).
    Nothing… nothing at all. I think I expected a nice conversation where we reminisced. Then again, on which memory did I expect to comment? Haha.
    “Remember that time I set you homework?

    Yeah, that was a blast!”

  2. Hi Bianca. Lovely to read another post from you and one which I think is important to how we view ourselves and monitor our workloads. I am trying so much harder these days to clarify and put my work (and impact) into a more realistic perspective. I think we often over-emphasise and overthink our relevance and importance in our students’ lives and this leads to overwork and unrealistic demands placed upon ourselves. I do my job well and I try to make every student’s time in my classroom meaningful and enjoyable. I have stopped expecting to be a guiding light in their lives – that is up to them to identify and signify – my role is to support and teach them as best I can in the time that we have allocated to us. Then move on to the next group. I have stopped regarding my “legacy” in the school; I have seen too much to believe that this is even a “thing”. As you said, the institution moves on and you are lucky to be remembered by your close colleagues. It just is what it is, I guess.

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