14. Something looming on the horizon

Later that week I received another letter inviting me to attend a pre op assessment. Suddenly surgery seemed less of a far off country and something on the horizon.

This required more cover to be set and impacted my year 11 class.  As a teacher and as a senior teacher you are only as good as your last set of exam results.  I wanted my class to excel as I had real faith in them that if they worked hard, did their homework, focussed in lessons they would out do their predicted grades. They are a good bunch of young people and have a variety of backgrounds.  One was a refugee from an war torn country, several were young carers, one was predicted a level 7 (Grade B+ in old money), some were predicted grade 2 based on their performance at primary school.  Differentiation was a key word when planning and delivering learning, made more difficult by a new GCSE syllabus which reminded me of O level content.

I mentioned to them that I would not be in their next lesson but that they would be doing their end of unit assessment.  One wag said that I was obviously off shopping (this young man told me he didn’t need geography GCSE as he would be working for a family member  and that maths and English were more important… emm no, in today’s climate of education students are measured on their performance of eight GCSEs and it is the progress they make rather than the ultimate grade which is the key).

I stopped in my tracks and said no actually I wasn’t popping into town to have a bimble through the shops but I was going to Derriford as I would need an operation in a couple of weeks.

Students are for the most part straightforward and were concerned about how long I’d be off, why I’d be off and who’d be teaching them whilst I was off.  I was up front with them and said that I didn’t know as it depended on any follow up treatment required, “what like chemo, miss” –  yes exactly and I told them I didn’t know how long I’d be away for as it depended on what was found in surgery.  Then it was back to business – how were meanders formed.  Later that day a homemade card had been pushed under the door of my office from one of my students.  She’d written “you never know how strong you are… until being strong is the only choice you have”.  Inside she’d written:

Dear Mrs O, I am sorry to hear you have cancer, I’m so glad it’s going to be treated.  Thank you for being an amazing teacher you have taught me everything including respect.  Your strength in this situation has amazed me and inspired me to handle any situation with strength.  Thank you miss, kick cancer’s butt and good luck with the operation.  

This is something I will treasure as this student has plenty of woes of her own yet could be this considerate.  Please GOD let this student exceed her target grade as she deserves it!


Author: fionaosmaston

I live in Plymouth, Devon with my husband Nick and near my parents Sandy and Sheena. Our three children, Marcus, Phoebe and Miles are grown up. I am a geographer and love teaching Geography. My current role is as an Assistant Vice Principal in an inner city comprehensive school where I lead on coaching and initial teacher training. In August 2017 I was diagnosed with invasive lobular carcinoma and following a skin sparing mastectomy and endrocrine/hormone treatment I am now awaiting a final reconstruction. These views are my own and writing this story has helped me come to terms with where I am in this interlude of life which has been dominated by breast cancer.

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