As I write this the TES Awards are ongoing and my timeline is full of people I enjoy spending time with having fun, cooing over teaching, and eating great food. It’s always disappointing when you can’t attend something like that because of another commitment.
However, I am always reminded in these moments of a profound day with my Year 13 BTEC Health and Social Care class.
It was the morning break, and my students were using it to work away on essays that we’d later be revising. I, in typically unattentive fashion during breaks, sat at my computer and sighed about the fact that my friends were all at a conference and I really, really wanted to be there. (I know, I know, but it was in America, and it was very cool, by which yes, I mean that it was super-nerdy and about education).
I obviously looked a bit pained and one of the students asked me what was wrong. Aware I wouldn’t get away with a ‘nothing’ (they were CARE students, remember) I cursorily said “Ever had that feeling where you really wanted to be somewhere else, and it’s so strong you’re almost jealous of all the people there? Well, that.”
And I sighed and turned back to my computer.
There was silence. But only for a second.
Athena was the first to speak. “I know what that’s like, Miss. Because when I was in care, I couldn’t go to sleepovers, so that meant all the other people in my class would all be, like, doing their hair on Friday nights, and staying over with each, and all becoming best friends with each other, and I couldn’t join in. And it was horrible”
Laila next to her nodded sympathetically, “Yeah, I felt like that about the birthday parties. So, because my mum couldn’t afford for me to give other people birthday presents at their parties, this meant she wouldn’t let me have a party, but then she thought it was bad that I could go to other people’s parties but they didn’t come to one for me. So she just said I couldn’t go to birthday parties. And I hated that so much.”
I started to feel pretty bad at this point.
And then Camru spoke, “Oh, it was like when I had my stroke, and then they had to keep me in a room completely still for like three months, and NO ONE could speak to me, or i couldn’t watch things. And then FOR A YEAR I couldn’t go bowling, or the cinema, or anywhere with flashing lights. I basically couldn’t do anything.”
“How old were you when that happened?” I asked Camru, suddenly aware that while I knew she’d had issues with her brain in the past, and had some stroke, that I didn’t really understand the depths of it.
“Um, fifteen,” she said, and then went back to writing her essay.
“You’ll be okay though, Miss” said Athena, brightly and smiling at me sympathetically. “Besides, we’re more fun!”
All three of them settled back into their silence, and got on with their writing. I was floored. It was just a conference. Yes, in America. But with people who would tell me all about it, and would still be friends with me after. There would no loss of face, no loss of esteem for missing out. It wasn’t going to affect my health. And here I was moaning about it while my students shared their losses as if concerned about me.
I suddenly felt pretty sheepish. And I’ve rarely ever felt sad about missing out an event ever since.