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When life tells you to slow down

We all know teaching is a bloody difficult job. The workload, hours, emotional rollercoaster and guilt, often take over from the sense of pride, achievement and the smiles and laughs the kids and colleagues give us.

Posted on Thursday 11th July 2019

This post contains details of a road accident and accompanied images.

Sometimes life tells you to close down

This time two years ago I was off on my usual weekly commute from Grantham to Bourne, four year old in tow as he went to nursery near the school I worked in as Head of English, tackling the delights of the beastly A1.  I loved my job, most of the time.  I loved the kids, I loved my subject, and I loved the people I worked with (which was good considering I spent more time with them in a week than I did my own family).  Working a 60 hour teaching week was normal after 14 years and somehow I also managed to fit in being a mum, a wife and a friend – sometimes.

My job was, and is, such a huge part of who I am – which from my experience is pretty standard for those in teaching.  It’s in our bones; that need to do our best no matter what so our students can achieve everything they’re capable of.  It’s near impossible to turn off and I think it’s true to say that I often put my teaching before my own child in an attempt to meet the standards required of me by others and myself.

But at around 7.35am on 11th July 2017, it seems the universe had other ideas for me and decided to send me a message to tell me to slow down and take some time for myself.  One second I was driving in the outside lane, the next I was dinging down the central reservation, couldn’t open my right eye and heard the crying of my four year old before I realised traffic was still coming past me.

I had no idea what had happened

And I wouldn’t know until I managed to respond to my son’s question of “Mummy, Mummy, are you going to die?”

“No, no I’m not.” And I found a space in the traffic to drive the car across both lanes and pull up on the grass verge.

Once we were stationary I managed to piece things together.  The huge ‘slit’ in the bottom of my windscreen, the blood splattered all over the steering wheel and then, oh, the massive gash in my head with my skull on show.  My son was, thankfully, uninjured apart from where the A3 size piece of sharp, rusty metal had bounced off my head and scratched his right arm and ear before falling into the passenger foot well.  It was at this point that reality hit and in response, my body added vomit to the blood.

metal sheet

The metal sheet that flew into the windscreen

We waited for help

I have no idea of the time frame of what happened next. I remember being helped out of the car by a lady who sat me down, refused to let me lay on the ground and wrapped me in a foil blanket.  My son was taken care of by another driver while we waited for emergency services.

I vaguely remember being asked to unlock my phone and then being put on a stretcher and into the ambulance.  After that, I must have passed out again as I have no recollection of my ambulance ride to Queens Medical Centre, I only have memories of waking up in ‘resus’ to my sisters and my then husband.  I was laying on a bed- until I needed to be sick again.  But it wasn’t vomit this time, it was blood.  I’d later find out my sinuses had been destroyed and I was bringing up all the blood I’d swallowed because of the internal damage.  Gross, I know, sorry.

To spare you much more gore, I was taken into surgery for five hours where the amazing Mr Sidebottom fixed my face by lifting my cheekbone back up, putting a cross-plate and down-pin in my skull to close the fracture and he used metal mesh to rebuild my eye socket (and we think us teachers have to deal with the unexpected on a Tuesday morning!)  I woke up again on the Major Trauma Unit and was in and out of consciousness, with a banging headache (pun intended), nausea and a regular need to wee…a lot.  Apparently it can be a symptom of traumatic brain injury – who knew?

In addition to the skull injuries I also sustained two bleeds on the brain, haemorrhages in the right eyeball and a broken left molar.  I had collected all of the head injuries.

the aftermath of the accident

The scan of Katie’s skull

 

Two years after the accident and leaving teaching

Anyway, back to my actual point.  Scroll forward two years and multiple on going treatments, I find myself out of the teaching profession as my injured brain has issues with high level executive skills and is no longer compatible with the fast paced, high pressured school environment.  While part of me is gutted (to the point where I’ve had to have grief counselling to deal with having lost something that was such a huge part of me) there’s another part that thinks that “the freakiest accident” that the road traffic officer (of twenty six years!), who attended the scene had ever seen, turned out to actually a positive thing for me. I’m no longer on the ever spinning wheel of doing more, working harder and sacrificing the other parts of my life to be the best I could be for my students and team.  While it’s honourable and commendable to do our very best, this shouldn’t be at the detriment of the parts of our lives where we aren’t teachers, and the powers that be need to start and listen when we tell them it’s too much.

Looking forward

I’m now working for TTS and Consortium Education.  I’ve been here less than two weeks and although a lot is still expected of me, I’m given far more time, resources and trust to get the job done.  Once I finish work at five, everything stays at work: laptop, note book, schedules, (I have no marking anymore so that’s no longer an issue).  It. Is. Bliss.

I never realised how other industries treated their employees, and while I guess I’m lucky to work with – and for – people who care about those they employ, not everyone is so lucky, I do feel pangs of what I guess I can only describe as pity, for those incredibly hard working people I’ve left in schools.  The ones who are in work by 7.30 and don’t leave until after 6pm and when they do leave, they still take their laptop and bags of marking with them to continue their work at home.

The ones who run holiday and Saturday morning revision classes for Year 11 students, even though they get no extra payment, not just for the extra time, but the extra planning and sometimes marking that comes from these sessions.  The ones who are in their classrooms in the school holidays, updating displays, tidying, organising, planning, marking and sometimes as I found myself doing, deep cleaning so that the classroom was actually an enjoyable place to be.

Take care of yourself!

I guess what I’m trying to say is, take care of yourself.  None of us has any idea what’s going to happen and while I’ve managed to gain many positives from the horrible situation I found myself in, it could so easily have been a totally different outcome.  You are worth it, you are worth the down time, the time with your family, the time to read a book of your choice or have a binge session on Netflix.  However you prefer to relax, do it, you deserve it and if that means something at work has to take a back seat, that’s not your fault, that’s the fault of employers and the higher powers for not putting a high enough value on the people who prepare our kids to take care of our world – You.

 

With thanks to Katie Addison for this post. Katie was a teacher for over 14 years before her accident and we are thrilled to have her expertise and knowledge with us now.

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