The one that got away — primary school

Larkin garden



[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 captivated me. 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 — but I could go in and volunteer.

I’d read with them whenever I could, and find things to share — I couldn’t take them up mountains or on night walks, so instead I brought them night cameras full of the secret lives of foxes, and filled 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 (music teachers are my heroes). Friends started to ask if I’d thought of teacher training? Well, I had…


we had ongoing family health issues which meant I’d need to pay for and complete my training while also — throughout — working at my day job, raising young children, and being a carer. And the thing about caring is, it’s not just the hours and energy spent on looking after someone (which may be high or low at different times), it’s the unpredictability — someone might fall, or need to be taken to hospital. You’re on call.


STILL, I’d thought of it. TA + SEND was the dream, or honestly, any role to work in a place that I loved, supporting the kids (and teachers) that I cared about. I just wanted to be part of the team.

I explored a lot of options, but the challenges were stacked: the nearest school had teachers applying for TA roles and wasn’t interested in me; travelling to other schools required childcare (check) and adult care (nope); the organisers of a p/t child development degree (with classroom hours, gorgeous course) said I’d be a good candidate except there was no funding for graduates (me); meanwhile on-the-job TA training was available in remote schools, but moving would disrupt our health-challenged family, and at that time I still believed I could sort out something local.



My fingertips were always 2 millimetres short of a handhold and concentrating on my own development instead of my children’s felt like an overindulgence, so I settled for volunteering and loved the experience I could get, helping in libraries and classrooms.

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

There were also haunting moments; the TA from another school who “hated kids’ behaviour these days”, which she attributed to “awful parents”, all very Larkin, as if the kids chose their parents!

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.Philip Larkin, This Be The Verse

In 2018, after 11 years, I decided to shelve my volunteering to focus on work and family. I tried to salvage something positive by donating the training money I’d saved to a school, “to build a garden for kids with crap parents, with a plaque engraved with This Be The Verse”. Or, humour aside, just build a lovely garden for the kids. They built the garden, the kids seemed to like it, and that was the end of that. Covid happened, and now we’ve left.

Ironically, now that I have fewer school runs, and my kids are a bit older, for the first time in a decade, I have



— Study! Choices! — 

I want to work at something that I can be crazy-passionate about. I have 15 or more (why stop?!) years of career left, so it’s time to decide what to do next.

I have my scientific work flourished; the joy of working with fantastic people and teams, and exciting, worthwhile work that allows me to train on the job (the scientific community is inclusive and enabling) and is flexible enough to enable me to write in parallel.

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, but none of the things I wrote for my children was ever submitted for publication, and the ideas and drafts are all on file. Perhaps it’s time for some edits, and to find a way of connecting with young readers again?



Image by lisa runnels from Pixabay


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