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A difficult dawn of the decade for dad

I think milestones like the start of a new decade or even a new year, become less significant to me as time goes by. I was almost unaware of 2020 being the start of a new decade, so the title is kind of a reminder. I felt 2019 finished quite well, I finally got my teaching qualification confirmed and finished a period of medium-term cover at a lovely placement school. I had an interview for a teaching job, which didn't go particularly well, but it was a still a positive step after a gap of 6 months without one whilst I finished my training. Then there were a few other jobs for which I had put my hat into the ring, my health was as good as it has been in forever and I was looking forward to the new year.

So, the new year came with the news that my DBS was delayed. It took an age to come through and supply work was disturbingly sparse for such an in-demand teaching profession. In the meanwhile I had several interviews both teaching and non-teaching, improving each time and coming agonisingly close to being hired without quite getting there each and every damn time! Anybody who has spent periods like this will know how relentless demoralising it can be. Between seeking jobs, applying for others, preparing for interviews, tutoring and working any days of cover I could at different schools throughout the local area, I struggled to maintain momentum with several other things as January progressed. I still managed to spend time with my family, although not as much as I had been. My fitness activities reduced markedly, including the simple things such as walking the dogs.

The one thing I was grateful for was that I had managed to keep using my Herbalife products. I was having my shakes in the morning and for lunch, or a bar as equivalent. It meant I didn't have to think about what to take for lunch and I didn't eat junk food. I had enough energy to keep going despite all of the disappointments. Instead of spiralling into depression and over eating, I was able to keep something reliable and stable in my routine. My weight has held steady and my applications were still good enough to get me some more interviews. It gave me the will to keep plugging away, then making progress with the students I was tutoring made me positive I was going to be a good teacher.

After chasing my tail for long-term cover and having a couple possibilities, an opportunity come back that I thought had gone. After a teacher went off sick and just as my DBS came through, it seemed like it was meant to be. I stood in for a day, then a week, then two. After that I was told I would be there until Easter and later until May half-term. I have really enjoyed my time there so far, the department are welcoming and the senior leadership seem really supportive. The kids are great, as always there is a mix of absolute stars and incredibly challenging characters, but the culture at the school really suits me.

I have just been getting into my timetable and getting to know my classes. The students asking me how long I was going to be around and convinced they are the reason their teachers have left. I of course try to reassure them that's not the case and I'll be there as long as I can be. I am starting to feel I am settling in and becoming an actual teacher, being in the same class and having a chance to impact a group over a decent period of time. Classes starved of practicals and anything other than copying from a book are grateful for my efforts, if a little out practice in having more active learning. I am learning plenty myself, lesson by lesson, week by week, beginning to strengthen my practice. We all know what comes next...

There's very little that can prepare you for something like this, inside school or out. It's a Altsituation like nothing I have experienced in my life. People are scared to the point of paranoia, yet at the same time nonchalant in their actions due to the way it was initially played down. This is only amplified to extremes in a school environment, with the only comfort seemingly the premise that the life-threatening aspect applies only to a limited group of the more vulnerable in society. Although most of us know it is infinitely more complicated than that.

We go into uncharted territory and I carry on grinding on into the unknown. After a week or so of the country slowly going into hibernation, the call eventually came to shut the schools down. I will be forever indebted that the school have kept me on as I now work from home mostly, with a few days in school every couple of weeks in school. On continuous standby as I conduct my work from home and look after my own kids. Trying to venture out only to get essential supplies and maintain a modicum of sanity with the illusion of temporary freedom... briefly walking the dogs.

I exaggerate for amusement of course, it's frustrating to have to conduct life within such restrictions but it is what we must do to protect ourselves and each other. My little girl wants to play with her friend next door and pleads with me that her germs are all gone in the sweetest of ways. My family and I are like most, finding ways to keep ourselves entertained and trying to make the most of our time together. We try to be productive around the house and enjoy the weather in the back garden. Keeping in contact with our friends and family where we can, thankful we live in such a technologically advanced age of communication.

I have always tried to be a positive person and to find the slither of hope in times of darkness. I have already been able to contribute at school significantly enough to be invited into the department Whatsapp group and many kids have asked how long I am going to be around, in a tone of voice that suggests it's something that would like to happen. As for the bigger picture I think there are also some positives. The extra time with loved ones is a precious thing, however difficult a dynamic it may be in the current situation. The government has reacted with more support than I ever thought they would, leaving the politics and details of it aside this does give me some hope for the future in this country.

The thing I look to more than anything, which perhaps indicates the teacher in me, is the lessons we learn from this. We were not and are not prepared for this scale of pandemic, that is something we need to address. The essential jobs provide services in health, food, utilities and infrastructure. We need to reflect the importance of these in how we invest in and support these industries and the individuals who work within them. I don't know about everybody else, but the dawn of this decade has been the most difficult I have ever experienced.

The toughest times show us a sobering reflection our reality, with us now facing an image of a divided world ill-prepared for what came. However, the reaction has been one mostly of determination and great humanity. If there is to be a legacy to come from this and for all those souls lost, it should be that togetherness and community is the greatest strength we have...

Take care, stay inside, look after one another and I'll catch you on the flipside!

Greg x

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