A bad day at the office, then, for Theresa May, as her Conservative Party keynote speech was interrupted by a prankster handing her a fake P45, by hecklers, by letters falling off the party display which initially read 'Building A Country That Works For Everyone' but lost an F and an E from its final words in a kind of inverse Scrabble disaster, and of course, by her 'conference cold', croaky voice and frequent coughs.
We've all been there.
We might not all have given keynote speeches or any speech at all, and surely what happened to Mrs May is the kind of nightmare which makes public speaking such a common phobia, but we've all been in the situation where something we've dreaded and worked hard to get through has gone wrong, quite possibly through no fault of our own.
I have been feeling a lot, recently, that that's where I am now.
It's just that point in the term where being back at school is no longer new. The excitement and freshness of the new school year has gone. The bright September mornings are over, and it's already starting to feel as though we're getting up in the middle of the night as the dark mornings of Autumn have arrived. The first colds, flus and viruses of the Autumn term have been making their presence felt among teachers and students and Mrs May is definitely not the only one with a cough. I croaked my way through the first Parent Teacher Meeting of the year last week, and smiled politely when a very harassed, tired parent tutted impatiently as I paused to sip some water before telling her about her daughter's progress.
But it's not just coughs and the weary dizziness of one of those fluey viruses which impede enthusiasm as the Autumn term goes on. I have a countdown app on my phone , currently leading towards all the school year's various holidays. Those people who hate teachers for their time off would undoubtedly add a disgusted tut to the one I heard at that Parent Teacher Meeting, and I don't doubt that our friendly neighbourhood postman will represent those views next time I'm off. The countdown for Half Term is steadily diminishing... three weeks, one day to go. I have things to dread as well as to anticipate at Halloween... a true 'trick or treat' week off awaits. But to those oblivious to what there is to dread, I'm just another lazy teacher with far too much time off, wishing my life away as I count down the days to yet another holiday.
They say the vultures are circling above Number 10: it certainly feels as if the vultures are circling above the heads of teachers too. Nothing we do seems good enough; it's the media perception and constant negative commentary which forms a chorus of disapproval which would be enough to demoralise even the strongest-willed of us. That tut of disapproval when we show that we are human. That constant fear that someone will hand you a P45 and that it won't just be a prank. The scrutiny. The feeling that every lesson is a keynote speech. The long evenings of marking and preparing; you finally sit down to watch the TV programme you've been looking forward to all week, only to wake up at the end, realising you've seen about 15 minutes of the hour. Yes, that was me trying to watch The Apprentice episode 1. I'll try again tonight... 'Try again, fail again, fail better.'
I'm certainly not Theresa May's number 1 fan. I felt for her, though, in her disastrous Conference speech this week. She tried. She tried to advance a vision which might make things better. She tried to make a speech which would make people believe in her and in what she was trying to do. The P45 prankster was an embarrassment for Conference security, not her, and whoever placed the letters on the wall was probably fairly mortified as well. But even Theresa May's own voice failed her. Her words quite literally stuck in her throat... she choked on the message she was trying to convey as the medium of expressing it malfunctioned.
Writing this, I feel my own words sticking in my throat. I am surviving. I am in school, every day, cough or not, upright, lessons planned, work marked. I enjoy an awful lot of it, and it made me smile this morning when I heard a girl saying to her friend, as they walked towards their first class of the day, 'I love school. It's just so great,' in tones which definitely didn't involve irony. Uplifting words indeed.
But what's the cost? As I see my colleagues looking tired and stressed, as I find it harder every evening to keep awake in what little free time I find, yet wake up at 2am and 5am each night, my mind racing through the tasks ahead, as my words fail me yet again... I certainly empathise with Theresa May's Conference disaster.
Struggling, failing, choking: it's not just her. It's me as well. Or Everyon(e).Suggest a correction