It’s been a funny old half term. I decided a while ago that, as the children were off school and, for as long as they can remember, I have always been off too, to book some annual leave. I have never done this before; the idea that I now have the ability to decide when I want to take a holiday is mind blowing. I don’t quite understand it.
We had all sorts of plans. I was going to take them to all sorts of places, do all sorts of things together, hardly any of which have happened. The daughter has been poorly, and, instead of museums and long walks admiring the spleandours of autumn, instead we have had doctors and hospitals and scans. Thanksfully, me and the kids are used to things not going to plan. Rolling with it has been the plan for a while round here.
It’s been a challenge though,partly because there hasn’t been time to get organised. We got things wrong and ended up stuck in waiting rooms and wards with nothing to do (not even any trashy magazines), except for the trusty smart phone. It has come into its own this week. The final of the Great Bristish Bake Off was a fine distraction from chewing our nails while waiting for results, Facebook saved me from shouting at hapless pharmacists while we waited for new meds that are taking their own sweet time to work and Twitter gave me something else to think about. And while we hung around, I thought.
I thought what a distinct thing it is, to be a teacher. Unlike the doctor, we work with the workings of the mind, not the problems of the body. We are dealers in hope, not trained to be dispensers of despair. The worst news we ever have to give, perhaps, is that someone might not make the grade. We rarely have to wait while grown adults compose themselves and rapidly readjust to a new reality.
It is strange, for a teacher, to find herself in the position of not knowing the answers. Answering the constant questions of our charges is what we do, after all. We are the purveyors of knowledge and it is disconcerting when we don’t have it. It makes you realise what a privileged thing it is; knowledge. And, when it comes to people, how it is nuanced and unpredictable, slippery and subject to individual circumstance.
You might think, in terms of the profession, how dedicated, overworked, clever and decisive we are, that we might be similar, alike. But, after this week, after a continuing brush with people confident in who they are, who hold power and responsibility gently, not just towards the child, but the parent too, I am struck by difference.
Oh, doctors get it wrong. The day they stood at the end of my bed and effectively told me my baby was a monster, a mistake, was not a good one. But please don’t tell me that we, the layers of foundations, the backstage boys, the holders of hands and the takers of no credit are like them. We might romanticise and tell the tale that we build the future, we hold it in our hands, that without us there would be no doctors, no lawyers, no pilots, no anything or anyone, but we do not hold life in our hands. We do not deal with death.
I do wonder sometimes, if we haven’t got it all a bit out of proportion.