I like my fellow staff. Let me just make that clear. For the most part, they are kind. They are open-minded. They are interesting.
However, they are all also mainly over the age of forty.
Don’t get me wrong, I have had many a fascinating and scintillating conversation with people twice my age. However, I find that at times my ability to empathise with what are the main interests in their lives is limited. For example, I have not undergone labour. I do not know what it is like to go through an eighteen hour birth. I am still not entirely sure what it means to have your water break. The idea of a placenta makes me feel slightly nauseous. And let’s not even go into how I feel thinking about pushing out a squirming purple mini-person from my holiest of holies.
I do not know what it is then like to raise said squirming, purple, mini-person. I’m sure that everyone becomes very fond of these mini-people. But when I hear stories about how one mini-man kicked his au-pair in the shin to demonstrate his rights as an eight year old, I find it hard to empathise. When I see a parent happily accept their toddler’s offering of a gnawed-on, soggy rice cake, I find it hard to hide my shudder.
And I know that this will change when I have my own mini-person, and I too will think they are the Second Coming and God’s Gift to Humankind. But for now, I have very little to say on the matter.
The same goes for mortgages. I am still not entirely sure why the ‘t’ is silent. I am also not entirely sure as to how the work (the same goes for mini-persons). All in all, I have very little to say on the matter. And don’t even get me started on in-laws.
And yet I find myself nodding along in conversations. Empathically nodding, might I add. Every now and again I even comment.
‘God, mortgages are such a bitch, ammiright?’
‘Little Pandora sounds like such a delight. And you’re right. One must consider the benefits of breastfeeding up til the age of five’
‘In-laws! Don’t even get me started on in-laws!’
And if I’m being honest, I look forward to the days when I find these things interesting. But for now, I have very little to contribute. I may lightly mock these subjects, but I of course understand how serious they all are. Money worries. Family worries. And heaven-forbid, child worries. All very serious stuff. And I am only too aware of how naïve and unlearned I may seem. And I seem that way because I am that way. My main worries are my friends. My parents. How I will make rent next month. How I can best plan my lessons to make sure that my ten-year-old foreign language student can really get into English and start loving school. And, of course, which perfume to buy that truly reflects both my inner and outer-beauty. Undertone of vanilla, or a dash of orchid?
It can be lonely, being at a different stage and in a differnet place. Whilst their worries are raising a family, making a home, or furthering their careers, mine are set right at the starting line. I’m not looking for a promotion, I’m looking to survive my first term.
And the thing is, all my friends are also at different stages or in different places. They are either not working, or they are working in universities or fancy consultancy firms. And that’s great.
But it also means that it can be a bit lonely, being the only one in the school who has had no training whatsoever. Or being the only friend in my social circle who has experience in teaching beyond going to school or volunteering.
It means that I don’t really have anyone to talk to about how hard teaching can be. I have no one who really understands how much it hurts when a student doesn’t like you, or dismisses the book you suggested as ‘stupid and boring’ when you suggested that book because it was your favourite when you were their age. I know that as time goes on, my baby-soft new teacher skin will harden and I will realise that the students I struggle with don’t dislike me, they dislike school, or my subject, or just don’t want to be there that day. But for now it hurts. And I really, really want someone to talk to who is going through the same thing.
But those are just the blue days. On brighter days, things are different. On the days when I get a standing ovation from a class of eleven year olds for my impersonation of Scrooge. Or when I realise that some of my fellow teachers are starting to morph from Work Friends to just Friends. On those days, I remember that the teacher blues are but a brief phase. And those days outnumber the blue days a hundred to one.