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Poetry Blog: Getting There

This is a poem I wrote about the early stages of my recovery from having pacemaker fitted. It happened in November – as you might know, if you read regularly – and especially in that first month or so, it was pretty much all I thought about. Still, three months on, it dominates my days.

It’s a simple enough poem, about the kinds of things I would find myself doing in those early days. Things like avoiding using my left hand side or getting used to the sight of another scar on my chest and just staring at it for long periods of time.

I didn’t see many people during that time; the fatigue and the pain and discomfort just made me want to hide away, but I did get a lot of messages from concerned friends. And when they’d ask me how I was I’d just tell them I was ‘getting there’ because I didn’t know what else to say and didn’t think they’d really want chapter and verse about how I really felt. It was also the kind of thing I told myself when I was feeling low or poorly – I must be getting there. Hence, the poem, written during any one of a huge number of sleepless nights, downstairs while every else in the house slept soundly above.

Getting There

Check your watch, swiping left three times,
lie awake, listening as your heart pounds,
strong but more vulnerable than ever now, you feel.
Trace the lumps in your scar all along its length, 
then follow the shape of a matchbox jutting out under your skin
and stare endlessly at these ugly changes in the bathroom mirror,
making sure that when you reach for something
it's on your right, never left.
This is the routine now.
Follow it like a child learning dance steps until it becomes second nature,
losing yourself for God knows how long
in a train of thought that feels like it might never switch off
and then remind yourself of them 
and however bad you feel, tell anyone who asks
that you're getting there.

So, since it all happened I’ve never been more aware of my heartbeat. At least nowadays it feels regular, unlike before. And then there’s the scar; a new one to go next to the one I’ve had for over 40 years now from open heart surgery. This new one is only about 3 inches long and at times looks fairly neat and tidy. However, sometimes it turns purple and has lumps in it due to the wires that come out of my pacemaker. Attractive, no?

On top of that there’s the actual pacemaker, which juts out of my chest – not literally – and is fairly visible under the skin. A friend recently explained that his grandad had one – which made me feel great, as you might imagine – and that it looked like someone had put a matchbox under his skin. So, that’s where that line came from.

The last part of the poem and the ‘them’ refers to my family. They’ve had to nurse me through this time, my wife and daughter especially. They were there when I passed out the first time as a result of palpitations and then it was my wife who took me to Accident and Emergency on the afternoon that I was admitted to hospital and her and my daughter who visited during the week I spent on the ward. It was especially difficult to watch how worried my daughter was; too young for all of this. So, when I would feel down about my health I always knew that I couldn’t let them see it and I had to just find a little bit more strength in order to get through the day.

As always, I hope you enjoyed reading the poem. Feel free to let me know what you thought in the comments.

Poetry Blog: ‘Every day, a walk’

I wrote this poem because I’ve become a little bit obsessed with walking. If you don’t know, I had a pacemaker fitted in November and as a result, I’m trying to work my way back to fitness and some kind of normality.

At the time of writing the poem, I was walking every day, like the title suggests. I couldn’t run, because the pacemaker was too uncomfortable and I just wasn’t well enough, so I settled for walking. However, Christmas got in the way of that, so now that my recovery is quieter again and my kids have gone back to school, I walk…every day. I’m building up to running again.

I got so obsessed with walking in the lead up to Christmas that I would get quite grumpy – or more accurately, more grumpy than usual – if I wasn’t able to get out. And I would be out whatever the weather too, because I came to depend on the routine of it all and it was proving a more than adequate substitute for long runs. Furthermore, it gave me time to think about what was going on in my life.

Anyway, it was only a matter of time until I wrote a poem about it. When something takes up such a big space in my life, I tend to write about it. As you’ll see with my next poem, ‘Taking Out The Bins’. Just kidding…

Every day, a walk.

Every day, a walk.
Some days you feel like you're fighting back,
others, like death warmed up.
Almost all, you're glad to be alive.
Whether breathless
or jelly legged,
alone with your thoughts
or in company and chattering away
about anything and everything,
swaddled like a newborn against the biting cold
in your big coat
that she zips up for you, because you cannot,
dazed by the noise or the light,
or the breeze,
bruised but not battered,
tweaked but not torn,
smiling, but not quite as happy as you'd like to be
and always, always tired.
Every day, a walk.

My first walk after surgery came two days after getting home from hospital. Down one street and back up another. I was utterly shattered when I got home.

At that time, I couldn’t dress myself properly, such was the restriction on my movement from the scarring and bruising around the site of my pacemaker. So not only did my wife have to zip up my coat, she had to put my hat on and do my laces too! Then she reversed the process when we got back home. Her reward was to watch me fall asleep on the settee!

I’ve gradually got stronger since then. Some walks feel great, while others are an absolute grind! Today’s, for instance, felt horrendous and I was out of breath and staggering a little having not gone far at all. There are good days and bad days though and hopefully tomorrow’s a bit better!

The final thing on this particular poem is just to mention that it came out of thinking the title out loud. I said it as I walked through the door from a walk one morning and liked it, so I quickly scribbled some ideas down and out of that came a poem! Funny, how inspiration can strike!

As ever, I hope you enjoyed the poem and always appreciate any comments, so feel free to leave one.

Poetry Blog: ‘Fog’

For around about the last month I’ve been off work, spending all day, every day at home courtesy of my latest brush with the cardiology department at my local hospital.

As part of my recovery, for almost all of the time that I’ve been at home, I’ve been going on a daily walk in order to build my fitness back up. Living in northern England means that it’s very cold at this time of year, so I’ve been forced to brave all weathers. When it’s rained and been freezing cold at the same time, it’s been horrible to walk in, especially when your body doesn’t want to be bothered. But, on days like the last couple when it’s bright and sunny, there’s something amazingly refreshing about walking in the cold.

Last week it felt like we were shrouded in fog for the entire week. It was cold, but not unbearable. In a way it was miserable too. But what struck me most was how lovely and kind of mysterious everything looked. And so it was, that while I was sat up, wide awake in the early hours of one of the mornings, I wrote a poem about the fog.


Looking up the hill towards town, you appear, 
a blot on the landscape,
tough shoes to fill given the presence of a paint factory 
at the side of this particular road,
but you fill them and blighting a beautiful day
you begin to strangle the light 
a creeping of the cursor down the screen,
deleting the optimism of a crisp winter's morning,
cancelling the order of light
and replacing it with not quite darkness, but a curtained haze
that disastrously alters the appearance of everything.
Later, diving out for some morning exercise
I try in vain to catch the sun through your veil, achieving only rare glimpses that turn this familiar sight
into an alien land, an unexplorable planet.
Still, it feels good to be alive, caught in the glare  of any number of incongruous headlights
and while dog walkers emerge unnervingly from the low cloud
their calls deadened by this slate grey wall,
I follow the path home to shelter once more from a different storm
and amble my way through another aimless day. 

So, those particular days looked different and as a result of the fog, felt different too. In a way, the fog broke up what was becoming a bit of a boring routine, when my health meant that I wasn’t able to break it up myself. It meant plenty of opportunities to stop – and in truth, catch my breath – and just have a gaze at how unfamiliar this familiar landscape now looked. So, although I would be walking a similar distance each day, I was able to stay out a while longer!

As ever, I hope you enjoyed the poem. Feel free to leave a comment, as they’re all much appreciated!

Poetry Blog: 24 Hour Hearty Person

This is another poem about my health, which over the last few years seems to be absolutely fine for just about long enough to lull me into a false sense of security before – metaphorically – jumping out from behind a bush to scare the living daylights out of me again. Middle age is proving to be a cruel mistress at times!

In summer of this year my heart decided it was time for a bit of fun and began to play up again. Having been admitted to hospital over four years previously with heart palpitations that led to enough tablets to sink a boat and then an operation a month later to resolve it all, I thought me and my heart were done with our difficult relationship. It turns out I was wrong.

In July, I had a mini episode when my heart began to race and stayed that way for around 5 hours one Sunday afternoon. I tried to hide it from my family, but eventually had to admit there was a problem after my complexion had gone grey and you could see my body shaking through my clothes. Dead giveaway, really!

In short – because I’ve already gone through this in a previous blog – I ended up being referred back to the cardiology department of Leeds General Infirmary and then referred on again for a 24 hour ECG. It found nothing at all unusual, but made for an eventful couple of days…and a poem.

24 Hour Hearty Person

Summoned to an inconvenient hospital you've never heard of 
your first impression is of a relic from a different time,
a bit like yourself, you think, and smile to seem brave.

The clouds have returned again though, as the heart acts up,
like a toddler seeking attention, giving a firm 'no' to all of your requests
and striking with a clown-like tantrum, shaking its head at your every syllable and making you feel that you're not as in charge of things as 
you thought you might be.

Once again, you'll notice every flutter, every beat, every time you're
out of breath.

So, here we are again.

A hot summer's day when you shouldn't have a care in the world,
even if you're stuck at work,
but instead, you're stepping tentatively through the automatic doors,
outwardly confident you hope, but inwardly full of fear.

A receptionist greets you, smiling through the Covid mask,
takes your details, asks the all too familiar questions about symptoms and tests and then motions you over to the exact place to where you will sit and wait...

A few minutes pass like a decade and despite the hustle and bustle
you're alone with your thoughts, your confusion and your paranoia.

Child again.

Then, your name is called and, still smiling you step into a glorified cupboard.
Pleasantries exchanged, seats taken, your next 24 hours are explained
and before you know it you've lifted your shirt without even being paid a compliment, let alone the offer of a drink.

The inevitable question of the scar comes, like night follows day
before you're scrubbed within an inch of your life and sticky patches are applied.
You instantly vow to be brave and rip it off without a sound when the time comes to leave it behind.

Next, the tiny machine that will shadow your every move is prepped and plugged and you're briefed about exactly what it is you'll need to do.
And then, when it's time to go, you clip it to your belt like a pager last seen on an 80s trading floor and off you go, back out into the sunshine to have as normal a day as you can while your every heartbeat is recorded and scrutinised in search of an abnormality that you'd rather they didn't find.

It was a strange couple of days while I wore the portable ECG machine. It makes you quite self-conscious, the fact that you’re attached to a machine that’s liable to make itself known to people if you move in a certain way.

After the hospital, I went back to work where those in the know were surprisingly eager to see my ECG machine (although secretly I’m sure it was a sneaky look at my abs they were after!). I’m sure that it was as disappointing a sight as could have been expected; the machine and the abs!

Having been at my appointment for a while there wasn’t a lot of work left, but it was simply a case of doing what would be normal in order to see what my heart did. And this continued when I went home before getting up the next day to have some breakfast and head back to the hospital to give the machine back!

As it turned out, there was nothing overly worrying found in the results of the ECG and the blood tests I’d had, other than the need to hydrate myself about 100% better than I do. So, it turned out to be quite a worrying time that led to no real answers, which is never what we want when we visit the doctors or the hospital, I would imagine.

I’ll end with a word about the title, which if you didn’t know, references the Happy Monday’s classic made popular in the late 80s and early 90s. Although the song is about doing drugs and staying out raving, adapting the title to fit the poem just felt like it worked, even if the drugs are purely prescription and the partying has very much slowed down these days! Regardless, I hope you enjoyed the poem!

Poetry Blog: Fledglings

This is a poem that I wrote about the transition to high school. It’s something that is very much at the forefront of my mind at the moment as for only the second time in a decade, I have a Year 7 form again. Not only this, but I start again on the merry-go-round of teaching English to a new Year 7 class too. So, this year I will see a Year 7 class at least once a day every day.

As one of the people most responsible for these new students, you tend to find that they’re on your mind quite a bit. So, a few days ago I found myself discussing a particular student in my new form with a colleague and it got me to thinking about this stage of their school careers. I began to think about my role, but also what I’d compare the Year 7s with and the image of fledgling birds in a nest came to mind. It’s not the most original thing, but I ended up writing the following poem from the idea.


(A poem best read in your best David Attenborough voice...)

Safely incubated over the course of a carefree six week summer,
now is the time for parents to let go of
one more downy feather,
as their latest fledgling ventures out into another brave new world.

Shielded up to this point by everything familiar
and much the same routine for the last 6 years,
now almost everything will change.
Another journey is about to be made,
new lessons learned and, with a tear of trepidation,
they are pushed from the nest.

Pushing through a door, a portal to a new life of possibility and potential,
some upright, confident, ready, while others seem still to lack
the confidence that will see them take flight.
Gathering in groups or shuffling into corners where adult eyes
are immediately alerted to the potential for danger
or a plan being hatched.

Already, lines are being drawn...

From here, a steep learning curve will be climbed
by choosing haphazardly from a list including
bravado, belligerence and bewilderment.
There will be casualties along the way,
tears and tantrums, but eventually all will thrive in one way or another
as confidence grows, feathers are earned and flight, however cautiously,
is taken, and however long it may take,
is embarked upon in order to begin yet another grueling journey.

With this poem – as with lots of the others that I write – it started with a few lines just arriving in my head after a little bit of thought. Usually, from there I’ll scribble them down and try to write more, before I decide what goes together…and sometimes even what it’s about!

The difference with Fledglings was that when forming those few lines in my head I could ‘hear’ the voice of David Attenborough reading them! As I wrote more, this just seemed to keep happening until, in the end, I just decided to try and write the whole thing as if it part of the narration of a show like Planet Earth. I really liked the idea of having a bit of fun with the poem. After all, it’s a very simple metaphor, so there had to be something else that anyone reading might find interesting! I hope that it’s a ‘twist’ that other people like. And I really hope that it’s not just me that sees or hears the poem this way. Maybe, if you find yourself a quiet space, you could try to read it in your best David Attenborough voice…

As ever, feel free to leave a comment as I always enjoy people’s thoughts about what I write, especially the poems!

Poetry Blog: Process

I’ve had a burst of activity with poems lately and written three or four that are in varying states, as well as several lots of notes that will serve as drafts for other poems.

I love it when this happens. Primarily because it’s good to be writing and in most cases, these poems provide something to go on the blog! But also, there are times when I haven’t written for a while and start to feel like I might never be able to do so again. So, to al of a sudden be able to produce some ideas, let alone some actual poems, is a bit of a relief.

I had to read this poem back a couple of times before I could work out what it was about. I’d written it a few days ago and, as is regular for me, it was done in the early hours of the morning after I found that I just couldn’t sleep once again. Hence, coming back to it, I was unsure who it was about as well as precisely what. Turns out it wasn’t that complicated because it’s just a poem about me and my state of mind at the moment.

I wouldn’t say that I was particularly low; just not particularly happy. Confused about a few things maybe and while not struggling, definitely not finding things as easy as I’d like. There’s been a lot going on with family issues and health issues and I think it’s reflected a bit at least, in the poem.


Thoughts emerge like a pack of cards being dealt haphazardly,
some spinning and turning over as they drift through the air,
others plummeting directly to the floor
and the time spent on each left interrupted as more and more land to steal away your attention from the last,
and although your gaze may return to some randomly, 
none will be allowed to feel complete,
so you twist and turn, restless for an end that doesn't look like coming.
Similarly, your questions are all frustratingly rhetorical.
There are answers, but they are never a truth,
a rock, a definitive
and as a consequence, you do not know which route to take.
This is a process.
No one else need get involved or share the burden.
All of this, you hope, will pass.

For once, I have reasons behind the title of the poem. And for that reason, I think that for once, I have a decent title. I called this one ‘Process’ because my whole state of mind and the situations that I find myself going through will get worked out. They really are a process. As well as this though, I used ‘Process’ in terms of the fact that I’m just trying to figure things out. In know what’s happening and I know why, but I can’t really figure out how best to get through it. But I know that I will.

The end of the poem is quite important for me. In terms of problems or any kind of mental health issue that I might have, I’m never great at sharing. It’s not that there’s no one to share with and it’s also not that I don’t believe in sharing, talking or unburdening yourself. I totally understand that a problem shared is a problem halved, as they say. It’s just that I’m usually fine just dealing with stuff myself. It might take longer, but at least I don’t have to trouble anyone else. Apart from by writing about it, I suppose!

I hope you enjoyed reading and would love to hear any comments that you might have.

Until next time…

Poetry Blog: ‘Summer Rain’

Given the weather conditions as I write, I’m not entirely sure what led me to write a poem about rain in the summer. We’re in the middle of a bit of a heatwave here in the UK, so maybe it was wishful thinking.

It’s felt like a while since I’ve written anything poetic, so it was a relief when a few lines popped into my head one evening after work recently. I scribbled them down on to a scrap bit of paper and did my level best not to lose it over the next week or so. Mainly this involved stuffing said paper into either my work bag or my laptop case and hoping that it wouldn’t escape when I was taking something else out.

Having only written – and saved – an initial 6 lines, I was pleased when I was able to complete it all with a few revisions one night last week. As is quite usual for me, this came over the course of a couple of nights where I couldn’t get to sleep.

Summer Rain

The sudden splodge and spite of furtive rain
sees the summer masterpiece give way,
pushed aside it would seem, by the fingers of a toddler daubing
the contents of their imagination across a canvas
and transforming this little piece of paradise 
into something unrecognisable from what we looked out on seconds before.
Bright colours are dulled as clouds close curtains on the blue sky,
pavements and patios darkened by the rain, 
as leaves on trees and shrubs shudder with each almighty drop.
Suburban streets are temporarily transformed into Venetian canals
as the shower bounces off the parched earth and you find yourself
rapt by the shift that you've witnessed a thousand times before.
"It's like a river!" you hear yourself say, before you can help it
and when it stops, like someone gradually teasing off the tap,
the sun will return, almost before you had realised it was gone,
steam will rise from the tarmac,
and for a brief few moments the grass and the plants
will glisten until the heat takes away the very last of the summer rain

There’s always a sense of relief, I find, when the heat of the summer is broken by rain. We do get heat in Summer in the UK, by the way and right now, in the middle of the hottest spell of weather we’ve encountered for a long time, we could really do with a burst of rain.

At any other time, I’m not a fan of rain. In the Autumn and the Winter I really don’t like it at all as I know that not only is is going to soak me to the skin, but it’s going to make me feel even colder too. However, in the midst of a heatwave, it can be a godsend.

I wrote about it, as I said, because some of the lines for the poem simply popped into my head, but also because of the spectacle of that kind of unexpected rain that we regularly seem to get in the UK on what should just be a sunny day. It often seems to come without any real hint that it would be there and then all of a sudden there are black clouds splurging water all over the place and changing the look of the landscape. The lines about rain flooding the roads are there purely for my benefit and they make me smile. I seem to gravitate towards our front window when this type of rain happens, often grabbing the kids when they were younger so they too could view the spectacle. I don’t know why it fascinates me so much…I mean, things getting wet because it’s raining is about right, isn’t it?

I hope you enjoyed reading and that maybe the poem evoked some memories or feelings for you. It can’t just be me that still gets excited by a summer rain storm!

Poetry Blog: ‘The Quiet Class’

A simple one today; a poem about a quiet class. A silent class, in fact, but not in a good way!

Now, if you’re a teacher, you’ll know all of the anxiety that such a class can cause. You’ll know that just as you’ve prayed for your groups to work quietly, when one of them just isn’t giving back it can be the worst feeling that you’ll have in a classroom. And it will invariably happen when someone else walks into the room, leaving you to imagine all manner of things that they’ll think – or worse still – write down about your ability to foster a relationship with your classes!

So, here it is; my poem dedicated to that very strange phenomenon, the quiet class.

The Quiet Class

When faced with the class that's just not giving back, 
the front of even the most familiar room can be the most isolated place in the world.
Silence ensues from the very start, aside from the shuffling of paper, 
the turning of pages and the scratch of a pen on the page that seems to creep furtively around the space.
Even a starting gun would fail to rouse such a group,
and yet, today you are charged with just that.
Questions are met by ever longer silences whose shadows stretch further and further across the dewy morning grass,
as if answering would result in almost certain death.
Eyes are frantically averted, darting around the room,
like those shoals of tiny fish that children chase in the shallows at the beach,
before the resistance of the waves sees them crash face first into the sea.
And this is your fate today, 
where every request is met with a room sized helping of nothing.
Today is a day to jump the waves, corner those fish and fill the room with noise.  

To be blunt, I didn’t want to bang on too much about the subject matter in this poem, so I kept it short. It’s a quiet class after all and a niche market for all but the teacher, really. But a quiet class can make life very difficult. I mean, you’ve heard the saying about getting blood out of a stone, right? Well, when you’re faced with an hour – or sometimes more in post Covid teaching – in front of a class that’s just not giving back, it can be an exhausting process! Obviously there are strategies that we can use, such shining the spotlight of doom and just nominating people to answer or offer an opinion, but I personally don’t always like that type of thing to be rolled out within the first ten minutes! Hence the feelings that led to the poem.

Hopefully, you enjoyed reading this one. However, whatever effect it had on you, feel free to leave a comment as I also enjoy reading them and it’s nice to interact with people about what I’ve written.

Poetry Blog: ‘An Observer at the Theme Park’

This is a poem that I wrote the bones of and then lost in Spring last year. I recently discovered it again when looking through documents on my phone. I was looking for a birthday present list for my wife, which I thought I might have made on my phone. I found it, but I also found some ominous untitled documents. Most were useless, but one of them was almost a poem.

I’d written this while we went around a North Yorkshire theme park on a day out, which for me is an oxymoron if ever I heard one. Unfortunately, I am in no way, shape or form any kind of thrill seeker or adrenaline junkie (what an awful expression that is, by the way). Thus, I found myself standing at the bottom of many rides, rapidly tiring of people watching and running out of the guts I felt I needed in order to tread my book while others queued up for the kind of fun that I didn’t understand. People were beginning to point, children were beginning to laugh…

And so, as far as I can remember, I began to think about how I must look to other people around the park. That is, if they even noticed me. If they did though, I imagined people were nudging each other and whispering stuff like, “There’s that bloke with the book again.” I was also in a perfect position to take note of all of the different kinds of people around the place. Very lonely bored looking bloke here was only one of a ton of different sights and sounds to be had and so my discomfort was eased somewhat by the fact that maybe people had other things to occupy their time. Not wanting to lose any ideas, I started to type them into my phone. Barring a few revisions made when I rediscovered it a year or so later, these notes were what became the poem.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that there can be no lonelier place than a theme park for the man who does not seek to be thrilled.
Wandering aimlessly around in the cold, of this Yorkshire spring will make an outcast out of any man. 
Children's screams far outweigh the fifteen seconds of fear that Andy Warhol might have said we should all experience, 
wasps hang around menacingly, seeking one last victim before buzzing off south for a proper summer, 
and fathers stand stock still, balanced and anchored,
readying themselves for the thump of returning children from rides
with tales of adventures from the moderately high steels.
This is a resting place for cheap summer leisure wear
and incongruously A-list sunglasses,
where gangs of girls from the caravan park roam, arm in arm,
almost identically dressed, looking for the thrill that could be found
either at the top of a rollercoaster or in the arms of a visiting stranger from a far of land in another part of Yorkshire.
A man in camouflaged trousers walks past and I consider 
that with my imaginary special forces training, I may be the only one who sees him.
I wonder if the same applies to me; not camouflaged professionally,
but somehow hidden in plain sight on a bench near a queue,
reading a book like persona non grata in this particular place.

There’s certainly a lot to see when all you have to do is watch! It was a fascinating day in many ways and yet, criminally dull in others. I tried to just be diligent and read my book, as I’d planned. And of course, I did go on some of the rides. I do kind of see the point in them! But eventually my day just descended into watching life go on around the park, hence the poem.

I’d love to read any comments, so feel free to leave them.

Poetry Blog: ‘A week to go’

It’s that time of year again. Us teachers are exhausted and conflicted. Year 11 are about to leave and we’ll benefit from the time that leaves us, so yay (!), but there’s also the shadow of ‘did I do enough’ hanging round. That particular weather front will keep popping back until late August and even then it’ll be immediately replaced by Storm ‘Could I Have Done More’ and Hurricane September!

Despite my vintage as a teacher – just over two decades and counting…not that I’m counting – this time of year doesn’t get any easier. I won’t lie and tell you that I’m not glad to see the back of my Year 11s though. We’ve got to that fractious stage together where we’re all pretty much sick of the sight of each other now, but it doesn’t stop the worry. Add to this the fact that my own daughter is also taking her GCSEs and it makes for a very tense and very tiring time. I’ve said this before about several things, but I think I’m just too old for all of this nowadays!

I wrote this poem – as I did another this time last year that can be found on the link below – while patrolling my classroom during a two hour pre-exam session while my class were working.

Poetry Blog: ‘In a Perfect World’

This year’s group are a set 2, so bright and capable, but watching them work all that came across to me was just how vulnerable, tired and disheveled they looked. So, when I got a little bit of time that evening after they’d gone, I began to scribble down the notes that would become this poem. As ever, apologies for the title; crap isn’t it? I wish I had more imagination when it came to naming my poems!

'A week to go.'

The latest in a long line of young adults are about to step out of the building for one last time and see what the weather holds.
The inevitability that you've been warning them about for years has dawned and the story is frighteningly familiar.
Everything is out and ready for their arrival,
yet still it takes two minutes to enter the room - some things never change - 
and even when I think they're in, several of the flock have wandered off.
I guess there's always a willful one or two that will find their way into someone else's field in spite of the fences, just because they can.
They arrive seven minutes late, quietly apologise, then,
having received the same instruction as the rest,
proceed to bleat idly to a fellow latecomer as if everything in this world was just perfectly zen.
Oh, for just a tiny dose of this carefree youthful optimism, this lack of knowledge of the world for just a few more days.

Functional stuff dealt with we attempt to power on, 
there's one week to go,
nothing can be left to chance,
no stone left unturned.
While they work, I wander somewhat aimlessly,
now adopting the roll of the lost sheep,
occasionally taking sharp inward breaths as if to speak,
but always holding back, telling myself to savour the silence,
let them work.
Outside, an ill wind blows ominous Shakespearean clouds across the horizon
and I wonder, is this a sign.
Maybe, maybe not. This is the north after all, where clouds are nothing if not ominous.

Averting my gaze, I take in the sights of the classroom once more,
looking for more positive signs.
One is slumped over the desk, writing, one shoe discarded perhaps for some kind of aerodynamic reason,
one wears tracksuit bottoms - more Sports Science in action, or more likely the result of what was lying on a darkened bedroom floor approximately 6 minutes before his lift arrived.
Several are conducting a tiny rebellion; dyed hair, trainers, no ties, shirts untucked. I smile and hope that this sense of rebellion and experimentation grows and grows until it bears fruit, lightens these lives.
I wonder though, what they're rebelling against, hoping that the answer would be 'Whadya got' but fearing excuses about not being able to breath with a tie on or school shoes breaking, giving up the ghost just at this most convenient hour.

Rebels or not, for now all are working,
minds hopefully being emptied of every quote, every interpretation and perhaps,
if we're lucky a skewed version of some contextual nugget, a view of what life was like in the dark and distant past.
Pens race across pages, wrists are shaken in order to bring new life,
before the pen returns to the page to pour out more in one last effort.
And then, time stops and for a wonderful moment it occurs that I might have done enough...
Still, I think, a week to go.

It seems clear to me that there are a wide selection of attitudes and approaches to the exams and the final few weeks or so of high school among the students we teach. This was something that I was trying to get across in the poem, as well as the worry that we teachers can feel. So the bits about uniform and hairdos (and hairdon’ts in some cases) were supposed to reflect that. Sometimes I think that the exams take second place at this time of year because it feels more important to forget your tie and flaunt your new, casual look. I don’t think I’ll ever figure out why though!

Popular opinion sometimes seems to think that teachers only care about results the students’ results affect our pay – they don’t. What matters to most teachers – I can’t say all because I’ve worked with some that seemed to utterly despise what they were doing – is that we’re able to make even just some small difference to the lives of those that we teach. Certainly, when I look at my Year 11s around now I find I worry about what’s next for them, hope that they get what they want out of life and that they can just put enough work into getting these qualifications, all the while knowing that there’s not a lot left that I can actually do.

Anyway, whether you’re a teacher or not, I hope you enjoyed the poem. Feel free to leave a comment as I always enjoy reading what people have got to say about what I write; especially the nice comments!