18 January 2017

Diaries

After leaving university, I started teaching English in South Yorkshire. Thirty two years later I was an assistant headteacher but still head of the  English department. It was at this stage that I opted for early retirement. After all, almost without me noticing, I had become the oldest teacher in the school.

As what they called a "middle manager", there were always so many things to remember. At first, I used a desk diary as an aide memoire. That was okay when I was at my desk but I often found  there were things to jot down when I was away from my classroom. Consequently, for the last nineteen years of my illustrious teaching career I opted for pocket diaries instead. Where ever I was, the diary would be in the inner pocket of my jacket.

Each summer these pocket diaries were filed away in our old bureau desk at home. And there they sat - all in a line and never reopened. I wish that the entries within had been journalistic, recording what had happened each day with associated reflections but they were not that kind of diary.

Instead they contained swiftly written notes and reminders connected with teaching and department management. Dates of meetings - pastoral, department, heads of department, whole school staff meetings and appointments with parents, advisers, book sales people, the police, educational psychologists and social workers. Names of pupils caught fighting behind the tennis courts. Internal exam dates. External exam dates. Phone numbers. Library visits and planned staff absences. Deadline dates for assessments and work experience visits. And there were notes connected with my own teaching groups - homework issues, absences, merit awards etc..
From April 1991
I guess that someone somewhere, perhaps in an ivory tower, might have valued these diaries as historical evidence of a secondary school teacher's lot in the late twentieth and early twenty first centuries but when I spotted them earlier this week I just thought it was time they went. Sometimes you need to be ruthless. You can't hang on to everything so  at last  I have consigned them to the recycling bin.

But before ditching them I took the accompanying photographs to remind me of that other life I lived. At the time, it frequently seemed that there was nothing more important in the world than that last school with its 900 pupils and the things that happened in it but really we were like little fish in a small aquarium. There was of course an infinitely bigger and more significant world beyond that glass tank.

25 comments:

  1. I imagine that would have been very difficult to do - ditching the diaries. They represented a huge part of your life.

    Did you just ditch them, or did you burn them?

    If they were anything like the many notebooks I have here filled with my scribbled thoughts etc., no one would be able to understand them, anyway. If anyone found mine they'd never be able to decipher them. They'd think they're written in code!

    Sometimes I can't even understand what I've written!

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    1. Maybe I should have burned them but it's damp and wintry out there. Burning them would have been a better way of drawing a line under that part of my life More symbolic of an ending.

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  2. Oral stuff to Vicky, bus duty, soft toys ... I always wondered what teachers wrote in their diaries.

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    1. Good job I randomly selected those two pages! Not too incriminating.

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  3. Interesting to re-read notes from stuff we once believed it was important.

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    1. It was like looking at notes from someone else's life.

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  4. I'm impressed that you held onto them this long! Although they do look nice and colorful all lined up in a row. I see the dreaded BUS DUTY!

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    1. Yeah! Effing bus duty! At the school gates, controlling the scrum of kids as the school buses arrived. "STAND BACK! STAY ON THE PAVEMENT (NOT THE SIDEWALK)! DON'T PUSH YOU LITTLE B******!"

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    2. We had one principal who could be heard on the PA system every spring day at bus dismissal saying "KEEP OFFA THE GRASS!! KEEP OFFA THE GRASS!!" My mom was an English teacher at the time and said she cringed at "offa" every single time. We laugh about it now though :)

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    3. Between England and Wales there\s an ancient boundary line known as Offa's Dyke! Make of that name what you will Jenny!

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  5. Dad used to keep diaries after he retired, usually with a couple of notes about anything that had happened during the day (including anything of a political nature!). He got rid of most of them when he moved up here but I still have the last 4. It's nice to read through them sometimes, but heartbreaking to see the gradual deterioration in his writing as his sight got worse and he began to run out of steam.

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    1. You kept a fragment of his life. It is clear that you loved him dearly Jenny.

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  6. Your career sounds oddly similar to mine YP - and I too took early retirement. I think it suddenly dawned on me that I had had enough.

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    1. At just 56, I had had enough too. The hassle kept increasing. The spotlight burned more harshly. How come I was the oldest teacher? Where were the sixty year olds? Something was wrong.

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  7. I find it hard to part with that kind of everyday record, no matter how irrelevant. My hat is off to you.

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    1. I was just in the mood for a bit of a clear out. That desk was bulging with all manner of stuff. I wanted to shut the lid.

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  8. How wonderful that you were able to retire so young, with so many good years still ahead of you to enjoy. Given the direction the USA is headed (in a handbasket) I'm doubting there will be any social security by the time I reach retirement age. I'm guessing I'll have no choice but to work until I drop dead. Life in America! :(

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    1. In 2017, if a British teacher happens to be 56, he or she will find it much more difficult to take early retirement than I did just a few years back. The landscape is changing with regard to pensions and and social security.

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  9. I'll bet these bring back whole days. I still have some pocket calendars where I recorded things. I did a lot back then!

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  10. I've never kept a diary except maybe for the one from the previous year when there was some information to carry over.
    They must be fascinating to look back on

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    1. To tell you the truth Kylie, I just flicked through them before ditching them. That was another life.

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  11. A fascinating glimpse into your former life. Thank you for sharing it! As you say, there was a whole world outside your glass tank. And yet sometimes that world made itself noted. "Soft toys to Romania", and knowing that this entry is from 1991, says a lot about the situation back then (and, sadly, still ongoing in many parts).
    I have been keeping diaries for a few years now, they are filled with both business and private entries. Sometimes I put things in like "first snow!" or "ran 8.5 km", other days just show which of the regularly 3 different locations I was working at.
    But my handwriting is so bad that I guess people would think my diaries are written in code, like Lee's.

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    1. Maybe they'd think that a spider had just walked through an ink puddle leaving its indecipherable trail behind. To tell you the truth I am shocked to learn that you have untidy handwriting as your apartment is so neat and tidy - like your wardrobe.

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    2. You have just given me an idea for a post. Thank you!

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