Yesterday I got a new job at work – well, a new job in addition to my old one. The competition for this job was really tough and it also is the culmination of many of my ambitions as a teacher, so it would be difficult even for me to find the words to describe how pleased I am, and how proud I am that the school thought I was good enough. And after I’d been offered the job, and texted my husband, and been hugged by some of my lovely and excited faculty and friends, I found myself, unexpectedly, a bit emotional. Because what I really would have liked, right then, was to phone my mum.
I used to work with my mum – she was my second in department. Whenever I tell people that, they’re amazed. ‘You mean you were her boss? How did she put up with that? Did you not row?’ And the answer to this was yes, fine, and no, not really. She was a brilliant second in department – committed, focused, a wonderful teacher, and the writer of the best schemes of learning in the world. And we got on like a house on fire. There was nothing to row about. But what it meant is that she was on the scene of every job-related triumph I’ve ever had, and rejoiced in each with me. When I qualified as a teacher, when I became head of department, when we got amazing exam results – she shared them all with me.
She hasn’t been here now for more than three years. In that time I’ve had my greatest professional triumphs, including yesterday, and she has missed them. But it’s because of Mum that I’m the teacher I am. It’s because of Mum that I mark my books religiously, delighting in every small bit of progress the students make. It’s because of Mum that I truly understand the impact a teacher has on each and every student in our classes. And it’s because of Mum that I have the belief that I can do anything – because that’s what she spent her life teaching me. I watched her go to university as a mature student when she had young children; I watched her get a teaching qualification and become an amazing teacher; and I watched her get up every single day after the death of my sister and carry on. I don’t know how she did it. I don’t know how anyone survives life after the death of their child. But she did and, in doing so, taught me that we can truly do anything.
I have the loveliest husband and family and friends and colleagues in the world – I count myself very lucky every day. I am supported and loved. But I wish – often – that I could have just ten more minutes with my mum. I want to show her the amazing little people her grandchildren have turned out to be. I want her to see how Ella has become this funny, sweet, lovely, fiery little version of me. I want her to see the little bookworm Noah has become, and read The Famous Five with him the way she did with us. And I’d like her to see who I’ve become in the last three and a half years.
I hope that somewhere, somehow, she is some place that she can keep an eye, and see that I’m doing just fine, and that she’s having a glass of wine for me there tonight.