The one that got away — primary school



[cue song]

we left primary school.

My kids galloped into the fabness of summer holidays and new adventures, and for me it’s also a new start.

🖤 Babies and books 🖤

The first time I read with toddlers, 15 years ago, they enchanted me. I was captured; I read with them once, twice, three times a week, and when I wasn’t there, daydreamed of building libraries and gardens for them. I wanted to learn how their minds developed, and to teach them everything I could…. which was nothing, because I was just a mum at the school gate. All I could do was go in and volunteer.

I read with them whenever I could, and found things to share — if I couldn’t take other people’s kids on night walks, I could at least bring them night cameras full of the secret lives of foxes, and fill them full of Tattybogle and The Faraway Tree. Every time I left a reading session, I wanted to stay. I can do maths! And science, sport, geography, and I can… clap along to… music (ok, cats sing better than me). Friends started to ask if I’d thought of teacher training?

Well, yeah…


family health issues meant I needed to continue my day job, raise young children, and be a carer — and caring can be entirely unpredictable; hospital visits are a regular feature and the next emergency could be at any time. This made full teacher-training unfeasible, but TA + SEND could’ve been possible, and this became my dream — to work in a place that I loved, supporting the kids (and teachers) that I cared about, and be part of the team.

I explored a lot of options, but the challenges were stacked: despite the years of volunteering, the nearest school wasn’t interested in a scientist with no teacher training (me); the organisers of a p/t child development degree with classroom hours — a truly gorgeous course — and a really lovely college careers advisor all said I’d be a great candidate except there was no funding for graduates (me), travelling to other schools who WOULD provide on-the-job TA training required childcare (check) and adult care (nope), and moving house would disrupt our health-challenged family, at a time when I still believed I could sort out something local (wrong),



No matter which way I tried to climb, my fingertips were always 2 millimetres short of a handhold. I figured if my nearest school wasn’t interested, maybe I wasn’t good enough? Normally I would still have continued to try elsewhere, but concentrating on my own happiness instead of my children’s felt like a selfish overindulgence, so I settled for volunteering in libraries and classrooms, and supporting my children’s dreams instead. Volunteering, though, was a painful, lonely role; always on the outside looking in, and never authorised to plan exciting new projects or fully contribute. How I wanted to build the best library in the world for them! How I wanted to take the children with the hardest lives and show them the views from hilltops! I loved every child I met, but the angry or withdrawn ones, or the ones who couldn’t read or listen or sit still, grabbed me especially hard and I wanted to give them the world. While I struggled and dreamed, I watch the other volunteers train and be taken on as TA, which was lovely, as they were my friends, but also soul-destroying, as it reminded me of what I couldn’t do. Each time it eroded what morale I had left.

In 2018, after 11 years, I decided to walk away to focus on my own work and family. On my way out, I donated what training money I’d saved to the school, to build a garden — I couldn’t EXACTLY build the follies and gazebo reading-garden of my dreams, but I turned some tarmac into beds of pretty flowers, and the kids liked it. Then, that was the end of that.

Some moments will stay with me. To the incredibly inspirational teacher who said “if you do end up working with kids, this is your age group” about the 4-5y/os, I heard you and those were the best times xxx

Ironically, now that we’ve left, with fewer school runs and older kids, for the first time in a decade, I have






— Woo-hoo! — 

I want to work at something that I can be crazy-passionate about!


It’s time to decide exactly what to do next — I need full-on excited work in a place where I can truly belong. Perhaps it will include science, fiction, both, or something new! The scientific community 💚 has always been inclusive and enabling, and flexible enough to support parallel careers.

I will never not be a scientist.

On the writing front, I have some adult WIPs that I’ll be excited to complete, and I’d also like to write for children. Years ago when my kids went on school trips, in case they were homesick, I’d pack into their overnight bags a bedtime story that I’d written myself; a little piece of home, of mum, to help them go to sleep. Some were read by teachers to a sleepy dorm. I would LOVE to connect with young readers again.

I’m going to hibernate for a while, hunker down with my family and spend some quality time with the people closest to me, preparing all of us for new adventures ahead.

Perhaps 2022 and 2023 will be years for some dreams to come true?



Image by lisa runnels from Pixabay


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