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What’s it like being a teacher?

Like Alice in Wonderland, it feels as though I’ve fallen down a rabbit hole, had an adventure, and just dizzily surfaced for air. An air laden with déjà vu: I left an autumnal Paris reeling from terrorist attacks and returned to a spring racked by strikes of every possible kind — train, petrol, lightning and flood strikes — all severe enough to hit international headlines.

Today, however, feels different. The flood waters are receding and I saw the sun this morning. Just a shy, silvery glow peeping through the woolly-white fog… but it was enough.

An auspicious moment following the news that I had passed my teacher training course; my disappearance into the depths of the planet was worth it.

I embarked on a Postgraduate Certificate in Education “PGCE” last September. A course where former students gleefully say: “See you in eight months!”

I’ve never been so busy; nothing was sacred — neither Friday nights, nor Sunday afternoons. Sleep-deprived and panda-eyed most of the time, I juggled teaching, assignment deadlines, a house purchase, four kids and an absent husband (lost to London on weekdays).

I dropped several balls, like losing my iPhone during a speedy lunchtime shop at Picard. It was last seen dangling precariously over a chest freezer full of 5-minute microwave meals that I was busily emptying.

Once conversations about petrol queues, train cancellations and the extraordinary river levels come to an end, I am often asked the question:

“What’s it like being a teacher?”

I reply along the lines of: “It’s great! The right decision! I truly love it!”…The children; their rich curiosity; that good learning starts with good questions; that I’m constantly learning new things in the process…

Then I’ll share my new found love of:

― Laminating machines: The world just looks better with a layer of glossy plastic. I bought my very own laminator after my mentor accused me of hogging his for beautifying whatever crossed my path; Marvellous Minions’ golden rule cards to germinating bean sprout diagrams. The fetish has reached home ― I caught my son laminating his homework the other night.

― Glue guns: Although hardly a new passion — the “felted turtle pomander-making ladies” from my kids’ school in New York will vouch for this.

― Late night bin raids: It's amazing what masterpieces can be made from egg cartons, Weetabix boxes and yoghurt pots.

― Singing: And I’m no singer — despite my Welsh genes — but give me a topic and I’ll sing you a song! Part of a teacher’s job is to entertain.

― Daring to try the impossible: I have always been in awe of parents who try messy kitchen-chemistry experiments with their kids. You can imagine my delight when my class’s vinegar and soda powered rockets experiment actually worked. P.S. The secret is in the cork size.

Then — often to an audience of glazed eyes — I’ll finish with “I knew I’d finally become a teacher, when…”

― Wine-time with the hubby turned into a scene straight out of the Blue Peter TV show — the egg blowing session around Easter was particularly memorable.

― Clicks on Pinterest’s craft pages overtook my Facebook visits.

― My kids told me to stop talking to them like their teacher.

― I gave the evil-teacher eye to the hubby.

― I came home covered in glitter.

― I adopted a weird language peppered with the acronyms VAK, IEPs, AfL, G&T (no longer the welcome preserve of Gin &Tonic, but that of the Gifted & Talented too).

― Phrases like wonder walls, flipped classrooms, differentiation, metacognition and lessons' stickability formed part of “normal” conversations.

― I had spent a small fortune on Amazon — pipe cleaners, plastic eyes, feathers, heaps of reward stickers etc.

― You know your pupils so well, you can tell who is who by their “smell” (or so I’ve read; I guess this is but a matter of time, hopefully a long time).

Just as in Alice’s adventures, time stood still for me these past months. Literally. My watch stopped in late December showing quarter-to-midnight ever since.

I’d better sort a replacement battery ready for my first class this September. For there’s no room for any White Rabbit antics in the teaching world: I can’t be late for a very important date!

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