The one that got away — primary school

Larkin garden



[cue song]

we left primary school.

My kids galloped into the fabness of summer holidays — it’s the end of an era and the beginnings of new adventures. For me, it’s also a new start.

The first time I read with toddlers, 15 years ago, I was enchanted. I daydreamed of building libraries and gardens for these sweet little people, 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.

🖤 Babies and books 🖤

From then on, I’d read with them whenever I could, and daydream of things I’d like to show them, to share — I couldn’t take them on nature or night walks, or up mountains, so instead I brought them night cameras full of the secret lives of foxes, and filled them full of Tattybogle and The Faraway Tree. I loved my time with them, but 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 saw my enthusiasm and started to ask if I’d thought of teacher training?

I had, but ongoing family health issues meant I’d need to pay for and complete my training while also — throughout — working at my day job, raising young kids, 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 over, or need to be taken to hospital. You’re on call.

But yes. 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 did explore my options, but the challenges were stacked: the nearest school had qualified teachers applying for TA roles and wasn’t interested in a noob like 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.



Whichever way I tried to scramble on board, my fingertips were always 2 millimetres short of a handhold, so I just volunteered and had great experiences, especially helping in libraries and classrooms. 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

And there were haunting moments. I spoke with a TA from another school who “hated kids’ behaviour these days”, which she attributed to “awful parents”, all very Larkin — those poor kids didn’t choose their parents! I wanted to offer to help out, but it was a distant school.

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’ volunteering and no closer to finding a way in, I had to shelve my volunteering to focus on work and family. A bit heartbroken, I tried to salvage something positive by donating what 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, bad humour aside, just build a lovely garden for the kids. School built the garden (poetry plaque pending), the kids liked it, and I didn’t hear from them again.

Then covid happened, and now we’ve all 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


I want to work at something I can be crazy passionate about. I have 15-20 years of career left (maybe more — why stop?!) Throughout all this, my scientific work flourished; I’ve had the joy of working with really fantastic people and teams, and the work’s exciting and worthwhile. (I also studied and trained throughout — the scientific community is very inclusive, enabling and innovative.) It’s also flexible enough to enable me to write in parallel, so 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?

When one chapter ends, another begins…



Image by lisa runnels from Pixabay


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