What do you do?
It always amuses me when people ask what I ‘do’ because I always get that look that says ‘seriously?’ Well I’m a teacher. I’m also a farm hand. I deal with young bulls and young humans. The two are really quite similar. They both need firm boundaries which are consistently applied. They need fed at regular intervals, fresh air and to be exercised well. If you want them to be sociable then you have to commit to spending time with them and building up trusting relationships. You need to think about your positioning because even though you don’t have eyes in the back of your head you need them to believe that you do. Granted I would let out a bellow at a bull and guide them with a stick whereas with humans I would talk to them and guide them with my body language but we could argue that the principle is the same.
Why the diversity of work? Well that’s easy to answer. It improves my mental health. Considerably. I love teaching, I really do. I have tried the management thing, head of department, lead teacher but have gone back to being a class teacher. The truth is that I love the magic of being in the classroom. I love that split second when a pupil completes a task that they never thought they could do. Simon’s first bit of algebra, Christopher’s somersault and Cheryl mastering her first bit of psychology. I love it. I thrive on finding ways that help young people to learn. Kian, for example, likes to pace whilst he is learning. I give him some information or a problem and he paces around the classroom. He stops off after a certain number of laps to check in with me so I can move him on in his learning and knows that there is a minimum time to spend in his seat when the tasks are written. There is a real pressure in teaching though. It is relentless, there is nowhere to hide on an off day, no out of office message and there is a whole lot of paperwork that comes with it. That part can be really tough and, at times, demoralising. The emotional toll is very real.
On the farm I am trusted absolutely. There is no performance management as such — if I don’t fix hurdles in place then the bulls can get out, if I don’t consider the height of the loader when moving round bales then I’ll likely damage one of the pens. Success and failure are very public. I like hard manual labour. It helps me to clear my head. The repetitive nature of the task helps me to empty my mind and after seven or eight hours with a muck fork in hand, when I am physically tired the challenge becomes a mental one. There is a clear beginning and a clear end. There is a real cameraderie in the silence of two or more people doing hard graft alongside each other. I leave tired but content. I sleep better — fresh air and exercise has that effect. It balances out the stresses of teaching for me. On the odd occasion when I do something at the farm before school it leaves me feeling upbeat and energised despite the early start. The feeling of peace that I get when working with livestock is second to none. Working as a farm hand gives me a real balance in my week and gives me a real quality of life. It also helps me manage my depression but that is another story for another day.