Just over a year ago I lived in a lovely mezzanine flat with a balcony. I had a graduate job. A boyfriend. I didn’t have many friends. I lived in Bath. A year ago things began to change and now my life is unrecognisable from that life that I had before. It wasn’t a bad life but it was missing an awful lot, and the year from then has been quite a journey.
The first thing to go was the boyfriend. At 20 months, this had been my longest relationship. But we were upset with each other more than we weren’t, and at the stage where we should have been discussing moving in together and beginning adult life we were at a stasis where I was ready and he was not. All around us couples lived together, were planning trips to Australia together, some were even (and I have no idea how) beginning to buy houses together. But we weren’t there yet, and it began to be clear that we never would be. So he told me he didn’t see a future with me, and we split up. At first I was gutted, but only at very first. As time moved on and the initial grief began to clear I found that I missed him less and less. I got used to living an independent life again, which was ironically the sort of life he’d wanted me to lead whilst in the relationship. I made friends and so began one of the better summers I’ve ever had.
Before we split up, we’d started going to a board games group in a local pub, where we met a couple we vaguely knew from political gatherings. After the break up I continued going to the board games group, and this is how I met my best friend. The group was so supportive and lovely and we quickly began meeting up outside of Tuesday nights. A trip to VegFest, a highly spirited birthday party and then just the usual hanging out sort of friendship ensued, and soon I began to feel like part of the furniture, something I hadn’t felt since university. This is when I really started settling into Bath, 18 months or so too late, and I began to love my city with a deep passion. I went for bike rides, cycling as far as Bristol and Frome, I spent time in summer parks and summer pubs. Little did I know that the next thing to go would be Bath.
I hated my job. Everybody knew I hated my job. It was a pretty boring subject by about May. I worked for a water company doing a sort of combined map-making and data entry job and I was bored out of my nut. I didn’t like my colleagues, or the journey to work, or the cold building, or the pressure to learn to drive in order to progress. I started looking for other jobs as I was put on an informal disciplinary due to the sloppy nature of my work. The truth was, I could do the work very well, I was just too bored to want to do so. Initially I looked for work in the environmental field, but this is notoriously tricky. And one day, during my searches, I spotted a job at a college which would train you up to be a lecturer.
I’d had wonderful experiences working with people with learning disabilities in the past, and I’d often said that if I hadn’t gone into Geography I would have become a special needs teacher. And so here, all of a sudden was my chance. I was so excited at the prospect of the job that I applied straight away, and then panicked immediately afterwards that I hadn’t done a good enough job on my application. Thankfully I must have been wrong.
My workplace was a signal blackhole, and on a fresh air/phone signal break at work I received a voicemail inviting me for an interview at the college. I quite literally jumped up and down with delight and booked a day’s holiday for the interview straight away. It was finally here, my chance to leave the drudgery of the job I hated so passionately. I had to do well.
First came the assessment day, then a formal interview, and then I got the job. I am still semi-convinced that my experience of working in a library got me the job more than my passion for teaching, but whatever the reasoning, life was about to change an awful lot.
I had 6 weeks to arrange somewhere new to live in a town I didn’t particularly want to move to. Weston-Super-Mare does not have the best of reputations, and Bath was going to be a particularly hard act to follow. A landlady on SpareRoom invited me to look at a bedsit she was renting, and although I was swapping a kitchen for a kitchenette, the Best Sofa Ever for solitary armchair, a balcony for no outside space and a double bed for a single, it was cheap and so I agreed to move in.
I bid a cheerful farewell to the water company in August. There was no love lost there and working there feels like a lifetime ago now. I commuted from Weston for a week before leaving and whilst paddling in the sea on the back from the train station one day I felt like maybe I had made the right decision.
So now I teach Personal and Social Development in the mainstream, Computing and Leisure Pursuits to students with SEN and work in the library, all the while completing the hardest teaching qualification ever to exist. Usually you do the Level 5 Diploma in Education and Training over two years, but we were to do it in just the one. There are 16 assignments, 5 reflective pieces and 8 teaching observations. All to be completed whilst working full time. The 8 of us on the graduate team have cried together more than I care to admit, but we get each other through, sharing knowledge from our specialisms and bemoaning having to stay until 9pm on a Tuesday night.
Life looks so very different now. Many of my weekends are taken up with assignment writing, and I am 40 miles from my friends. It’s a little bit lonely, but my life often has been. Having the love and support of the friends I made in Bath has made all the difference, however. I see them a lot more than I expected, and we drink gin and play with rats and have barbeques and play boardgames. Sometimes it feels like leisure time is sparse, but what I do get is certainly well-spent.
Doing a teaching qualification is an absolute rollercoaster of emotions. A bad lesson can ruin your week, whereas a good one can make everything feel worthwhile. Sometimes it’s the smallest wins, like an autistic student asking you for help, or a PSD class where everyone engages, which get you through the week. Observations, where an assessor watches you teach, are brutal. You get told what you did well, but also what didn’t go well, and sometimes it’s not easy to hear. I never considered myself a perfectionist before starting this job, but when I don’t get the grade I wanted for an observation I feel like I have failed. At the time of writing I’ve only got two more observations to pass which need to be graded as “good”. This is not impossible.
As we near the summer term, thoughts move to the future, life beyond the graduate internship. I have found the confidence to apply for an MEd in Special and Inclusive Education at a Russell Group university, and I am waiting to hear if I’ve got in. Regardless of whether I am successful, my future is very clearly in Further Education, and I am determined to carry on working with students with additional needs. I care so much about my students, and I find it hard to believe I was ever in a job where I did not care so very deeply. Pipelines are difficult to care about.
I hope to move to Bristol in the late summer to once again be in close proximity to my friends and finally living in the place I set out to move to all those years ago. I’ve survived all that life has thrown at me so far, so I feel prepared for everything that will come.
My relationship status changed, but it was me who changed my career. This has probably been the least settled year of my life, but it’s been an adventure. Having good friends and a vocation has made my life so much the better. I can’t wait to see what comes next.