Term 2 is widely recognised among Australian secondary teachers as a right mongrel of a term. (Where, in a truly Australian way, “right” means “incredibly wrong” and “mongrel” may be substituted for the swear word of your choice – the less printable the better.)
It is frequently a long term, and here it culminates in the cold, wet and drizzly start of a Melbourne winter. It contains exams (and hence exam writing and exam marking), report writing, and at many schools also the start of semester 2, which means curriculum development and lesson preparation while still in the frenzied depths of marking & reporting on the outcomes of semester 1.
By the end of it students are exhausted and cranky, teachers are exhausted and cranky – even the weather seems exhausted and cranky. Tempers fray over relatively minor issues. Major issues can seem like killing offences. If you have personal trauma added in, as I have over the last few weeks, it can seem utterly unbearable.
In the midst of all this unprintable ugliness I have had cause to be profoundly grateful for the kindness of friends and colleagues. On Wednesday, the day of my dad’s funeral, my car died. Stranded outside my daughters’ school, a friend came past as I was trying to persuade it to start (whacking the starter motor with a tyre lever tends to attract attention, oddly enough). After pitching in with the tyre lever for a bit, she unhesitatingly offered me a lift to work, together with a carload of hugs to sustain me.
When I got to work and complained to a colleague that my car had died today of all days, the first thing she did was offer me her car to get to the funeral. The next person I told offered me a lift, as did the following two people. It could not have been clearer that I was not in this alone.
The weekend after my dad died a friend turned up at my house with a hand-knitted scarf, perfectly purple, perfectly me. It came with a card bearing the message, “Remember your friends are wrapped around you.”
Another friend showed up with a meal – and not just any meal, but one I could eat, which is quite an achievement given my food issues. There were flowers, lifts all over the place, phone calls, visits, and cards. Offers of babysitting, offers of food, even offers of report writing. Supportive emails at crucial times, and thoughtful texts when I most needed them. Oh, and hugs. Lots and lots of hugs.
Every time I got to the point of collapse, someone caught me. Every time I despaired, someone cheered me. Every time I cried (which was often), someone held me.
Sometimes it’s hard to ask for help, but I have survived this term by leaning on others. And the curious thing is that when you’re leaning on someone else, you’re often holding them up.