It's September 2014 and I am at an assessment day for a grown up job. The first grown up job I've had since 2010. The brilliantly animated MD of the company is standing at the front warning us of what we might be taking on if we are successful and choose to accept the position.
"You are going to take this work home with you. You are going to wake up in the middle of the night concerned about whether or not you made the right decision about Little Jamie's national curriculum levels. You will think about work on your days off, and have a lot to get done during the week."
Fast forward thirteen months.
It's my weekend and I feel compelled to write a blog post about my job.
My parents, brothers, and boyfriend know the ins and outs of my job as though they do it themselves, so much do I feel the need to talk about it. My dad and boyfriend, in particular, probably feel that listening to me go on about my job is an extra full time job that they took on the day that I accepted it.
I work with children, ladies and gents, and I work in education, and with that comes huge responsibility and a lot of laughter.
Over the past few weeks I have seen several plays related to working with children and in education, and both gave me a lot to think about.
The first was Matilda. If you haven't seen it, go. It's wonderful. (Disclaimer: if you seriously love the movie or the book of Matilda, still consider going, but cautiously. It's not the same, and hearts may break.)
Matilda explores the importance of education, and the importance of those who work in the field, in a bright, colourful and fun musical with a catchy soundtrack and outrageously talented children.
It's beautiful, and there were a few times that the lyrics well and truly got me (mainly during the song 'When I Grow Up' which I'm sure I will use in a future blog.)
It left me with that distinct, 'children are wonderful and I am so lucky I get to work with them every day' feeling, and made me count the ways that my job is so magical....
1) The children make me laugh. So much.
I quite regularly ask the children if they have any questions. Obviously I mean about their work. This week I did get plenty of questions about maths and English but to my absolute delight I was also asked...
a) Are you a vegetarian or a meat eater?
b) What's your favourite colour?
c) Rebecca, which of Spiderman's powers do you think are most impressive?
2) Every day contains at least one surreal sentence. I know that I have mentioned this regarding previous jobs with children, but my favourites from my current job are below. All of the sentences below were said by an adult to a child, but please imagine, as you read this, that I don't work with children, that all of these were said in an office job involving other adults:
a) 'Please stop eating the chairs.'
b) 'We do not do drum rolls on other people's heads.'
c) 'Where's Gary? Oh he's...he's under the table.'
d) 'My name's not Tracey. It's Jasmine. Stop calling me Tracey.'
e) 'I'm sorry I said that I think the Wonder Gecko is the best lizard. You're right, now that I have read up on it I agree that it is actually quite a disgusting creature.'
f) ''I know that the story is going to be about detectives because Rebecca told me' is not a good enough answer to your comprehension, Gary.'
g) 'You didn't go abroad? Just to Spain? Oh right.'
(You'll notice I used the name Gary. I'm sure you've heard the big news lately that there have been no new Garys since 1999, so you can be assured I'm keeping everyone totally anonymous.)
3) I always know where I stand.
I was once explaining to a child why his behaviour was not acceptable. He tipped his head to the side and replied 'your hair looks stupid like that.' That evening Dale and I went out for dinner. As we walked into the restaurant I caught myself in the mirror. He had been right. My hair looked ridiculous like that.
A couple of weeks ago a child said to my manager: 'I really, really like you.'
When was the last time someone said that to your face within five minutes of meeting you?
4) I know I make a difference.
I know I make a difference because I work with people, and everyone who works with people makes a difference. But I also know I make a difference because the children tell me every day. See point number three again.
5) I really, really care about every aspect of my job.
Which brings me to the second play that I saw that revolves around education and children.
Future Conditional is Rob Brydon's latest project and it's wonderful.
I thought that the name Future Conditional was particularly brilliant. I feel the need to say this because I heard a pompous theatre snob saying he didn't feel it was strong enough for the play. I think the reason he didn't feel it was strong enough is that he didn't understand it. It wasn't aimed at pompous theatre snobs, it was aimed at people in education. I therefore did the very British thing of explaining it particularly loudly to Dale as we walked past him. Future conditional is a tense in English (I'll not explain it now. Partly because I did just write it all out and realise it would be quite boring to read, partly because a teeny part of me is terrified I'll explain it wrong. Still, it's a key part of the English language and something that children learn at school, that's all you need to know). It also refers to the fact that children are permanently told that their future depends on their learning and behaviour now- it will be positive under the conditions that they work hard, and negative if they don't. It also refers to how our future, the future of our country, rides on current pupils in our schools. Genius title.
It actually wasn't particularly easy watching for me. During the interval Dale asked whether I would be recommending it to colleagues, and I told him no. It was too stressful. Too close to home. Then at one point when the rest of the audience (clearly not people with my job) were laughing, Dale leant over and told me I looked like I was going to burst into tears. I was watching discussions that I have every day play out in front of me. I was listening to debates that I'm asked my opinion on every week, and was having to bite my tongue to not shout out from the audience. (It was a very intimate theatre. It felt possible.)
It was hard to watch and stirred emotions in me as no other play ever has.
At the end I watched potentially the most emotive scene I've ever watched.
It was about a teacher- which I am not- but I related to it. As a Nanny, an Activity Instructor, a Beaver leader, even a babysitter, and as part of my current job. He explained how much he cares about every child. Every single one. And that he doesn't forget them easily, and never stops rooting for them. He is always on their side.
People do not work with children for the money. As my MD said back on that day in September 2014, working with children- and particularly in education- involves waking up in the night worrying about them, thinking about it at all hours, calling work on your day off because you've just remembered something and want to check up on it, worrying all the time that you're not there.
A few weeks ago my manager saw a child that she used to work with. The child's mother was absolutely flabbergasted that she remembered the child. Of course she did! It was a year ago but they spent a lot of time together. Chances are my manager woke up in the night worrying about that child, and spent her weekends thinking about how she could help her.
Parents regularly call up and say 'hello, my name is Kristen, my son Gary comes to you.' I know! I know that your name is Kristen, I know your husband's name is Fred, I know that you have just got two puppies called Pickle and Sausage, and that Sausage is a bit of a nightmare. I know that Gary does karate on a Wednesday and basketball on a Friday, that his favourite dinosaur is a triceratops, and that he is left handed and so finds using a mouse tricky. I know all of this and have spent my weekend thinking about how we could get triceratops stickers to motivate him, and that I must order a pencil grip for him, and I woke up last night thinking maybe we could put a red dot on the side of the mouse that he should click to remind him and help him get into the habit.
But of course Kristen isn't to know that.
To her I'm just a (hopefully) nice lady that is there when he is dropped off and picked up at one of the many places that he goes to, and that he occasionally talks about on the way home.
But I genuinely care. I build his confidence and I listen to his stories, I ask him questions and I answer his brilliant ones to the best of my ability. I laugh out loud at his jokes, celebrate his achievements and spend time reassuring him over the disappointments. I watch out for his safety and well being, and occasionally (very occasionally in my current job, thank goodness, but more often in previous jobs) clear up his sick and his pee. And that's before I've taught him anything even remotely related to the national curriculum.
And through it all- through every second of it- I have his best interests at heart, and know that the decision to take the job thirteen months ago was an absolutely brilliant one- constant worry and all.
This is my future- unconditional- the one that I worked hard through my entire school life for- and I am loving every second of being a part of shaping the conditional futures of these children.
Of course my future continues to be conditional and always will be.
But for the moment, what a happy ending to my first grown up adventure :)