Man, I am tired.

Even my eyebrows are tired.

I think my feet are still attached to my legs but that’s only because there’s an ill-defined dull ache down there in the general vicinity of where they’re supposed to be. My throat feels like I’ve smoked a packet of gravel and washed it down with a pint of sharpened Lego bricks and if there was an award for tiredness, I’d be unable to attend my own prize-giving due to the fact that they’d be no sodding way I was going up those stairs to the podium.

Bugger. That.

Alright, I’m not shouldering packing crates or swinging a pneumatic drill about but there is a physicality to the job as well as a cerebral side. 2 hours at a time on your feet, great dollops of talk, flying from classroom to classroom, strutting around when you’re in there – it all adds up. Granted, we’re unlikely to see the ‘5 Lessons in 5 Hours’ exercise DVD featuring Whitebaord Marker Curls, Overhead Projector Stretches and Laptop Trolley Extended Upright Presses any time soon (I’ve been teaching for a decade and am still yet to reach my target weight of ‘not quite cataclysmic’) but small exertions over long periods of time have left me feeling ripped. And by ‘ripped’ I mean torn apart into itty bitty pieces. And I’m an English teacher, so God knows how PE do it (apart from the being quite, quite insane of course.)

This always happens – nervous energy and the general chaos that is the start of term lead me to zap about, going fifty to the dozen, all-singing, all-dancing until about the third week where I come to a flailing, crashing halt as my body finally decides that it’s having no more of this nonsense and downs tools in an attempt to force the management into implementing better working conditions.

So here I lie, half-comatose on the sofa, squinting at the screen and aching in places that I forgot I had. All because I keep forgetting one of the cardinal rules of self-preservation for teachers:

You’ve got to think of the long game.

If you go full-tilt for long enough, you know what what happens eventually? You fall over.

Our job doesn’t involve carpet carrying or digging up paving slabs, but it is hard. You’ve got to save a bit of yourself. It’s three long terms year after year and at the start it’s easy to get swept up in the wave (even more so if you’re new). Leave something in the tanks. Realise that it’s not about getting to tomorrow; it’s about getting to next term. And next year. And beyond. And it will take a lot out of you.

Be kind to that body of yours. Walk, don’t run (even if you’re late. The world will not end). Eat well (7 biscuits isn’t lunch). Lay off the coffee. Sleep. Relax. Do this right from the start when it seems like everything is absolutely and positively crucial and must be done AT THIS VERY MINUTE. Appreciate and savour the things that give you joy away from work.

Or don’t, and come join me on the sofa of muscular discomfort and exhaustion.

But go sit down the other end. I don’t want you accidentally bumping me.

It hurts.



  1. Justin Lamoureux

    Nick, you are not alone. I do the same thing at the beginning of every school year. With good intention and motivation I put a mass of energy into learning and trying new things. Sometimes they work out, sometimes, I have to put it aside to avoid burning myself out. So far so good this year! I am wondering though, how do you cope without coffee?

    • tstarkey1212

      Thanks for commenting Justin.

      I have been known to chug down an occasional energy drink that I’ve taken off the student on the pretense that it’s extremely bad for them.

      Personally, for me, the energy drain at the beginning of the year has more to do with trying to sort out problems from that have been handed down from on high + plus rushing at the lessons like an extra in Braveheart.

      I need to stop, think, and try to keep the panic at bay. And stop running up stairs.

    • tstarkey1212

      Ha – today I’ve had a little bit of a problem forming sentences that make any sense. Worryingly, I’m an English teacher.

      Thanks for the comment.

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