Picture the scene: a chilly December afternoon in southern Italy. The sun is beginning its slow descent over the snow-capped peak of Mount Etna. The school is a mere five hours from closing for the Christmas holidays. I am writing this blog post while sitting on the floor of our school computer room, invigilating as a final handful of students finish off their mid-course exams.
Today is the first day in a very, very long time that I am not going to go home to my boyfriend and start deconstructing, in unnecessarily minute detail, every little thing that happened in my classroom. I’m not going to tell him about the funny things my students said, or the annoying changes to school policy that have been implemented, or the stupid mistakes I made and how I should have known better. I do not have the mental or emotional capacity left to do any of these things.
I am very, very tired.
My boyfriend tells me that I work too much. He says I need to learn how to switch off when I come home from school. He says that in a way, I’m always working, and there are very few moments in a day, term or year when I am not thinking about school.
These things are all true. Here’s the problem: I don’t care.
I love my job. My students are everything to me. When I’m in a classroom, and I can see learning happening around me, I know that there’s nothing else I’d rather spend my life doing. I work double the time I get paid for under the conviction that the impact we have as teachers, however slow or small, is significant for our students. And then I go home and obsess about it, because that is how I show that I care.
Don’t get me wrong; my deconstruction of the day’s events is never empty criticism. It is true that I didn’t focus enough on writing micro-skills with my advanced students this year, it is true that our teacher development programme doesn’t cater for the needs of all of our teachers, and it is true that we should be paid proportionally for the extra time we spend marking exams and writing reports. However, I am not capable of pretending that I am OK with the current state of all of these things. I want to be better. I want my school to be better. One day, I want to look back on the work I have done here, and the changes I have made here, and the overall impact of my being here, and say, “Yes, this was all worth it.”
So, I am very, very tired, but that’s OK. Here’s to the relaxing, rejuvenating Christmas we’ve all been working so hard for since September.