Experiences of 2020

Anon - Depute Headteacher

I am going back to school tomorrow.

In some senses, of course, I never really left. As a Depute Headteacher with a focus on pastoral care, your work must continue throughout a lockdown, albeit in a very different way. The words flexible, agile, and responsive all feel somewhat over-used. Most of my colleagues have worked flat out. A few have not. It was ever thus.

It is uncomfortable to admit that, despite the many challenges of the last few months, I have been able to breathe out for the first time in years. It took this enforced stop for me to recognise the chronic stress that has been part of my life for several years.

Since starting to work from home, my heart rate has gone down by five beats per minute. Despite gin and tonic becoming an almost daily punctuation point, I have lost weight. My hair is too long but it is ridiculously healthy.

I have worked 9-5 and then stopped. I have spent evenings and weekends with my husband and children, and gone on long walks with the dog. I have taken time to read, to write, to think- and to have lunch.

I work in a supportive school with a team I genuinely love being part of. And yet the relentlessness of school life has, it seems, been detrimental to my mental and physical health. It took a global pandemic for me to see this.

There have been moments in recent weeks where I’ve wondered if I can keep it going in education, given my realisation that that COVID tragedy has actually made my own life easier. That, it turns out, is how hard working in a Scottish secondary school is.

So why stay?

Perhaps I am addicted to being needed; to feeling like I’m making a difference, to having that moral purpose. Being a teacher is such a massive part of my identity that I’m not sure where I am without it any more.

But when I hear people talk about getting back to normal, I don’t want to. I don’t want to be close to breaking point at the end of each term. I don’t want to spend all my time dealing with other people’s families instead of being with my own. I don’t want to feel as though everything I say in every interaction is being noted and judged, whether implicitly or otherwise.

And yet tomorrow morning, with 2 metre stick and antibacterial wipes in hand, I will be the positive, encouraging face my staff need. Because the last thing they need is the person who is supposed to be a source of strength having a wobble.