Making Use of Bad Experiences

Hangman GameA heartfelt thanks to all who responded to my last post about this blog.  Many of you wrote very fully and provided some really useful advice, not all of which I have had time to implement yet, as Beloved Daughter and grandchildren were staying last week.  I haven’t yet moved over to either.  But I am still working on it, all of it.

This week, I want to post about bad experiences, those that are so awful we don’t want to think about them.  I say that these are the things we should write about.

In November 2014, I wrote about stress once… and twice.   I rabbited on about trying to break into womag, but I didn’t because I was too wound up to write anything at all.  Some writers area galvanised by stress, anxiety and depression, but I have to be calm.  At that time, I was working full-time as an IT lecturer at a further education college.  The underlying reason for those posts, which I couldn’t bear to write about, even on my blog, was that I had received a unfair learning observation.  My lesson, in web design, to Level 3 (A level equivalent) students was by no means perfect but I certainly didn’t deserve to be told by my observer (A) that ‘You don’t show that you care’.   It was apparent, during the observation feedback meeting, that A did not understand the technical content of the lesson, and therefore assumed that ‘no learning had taken place’.  I needed to take two weeks off  as sick leave, because of stress.  When I eventually returned, early, because I was going off my head at home worrying, I had to endure a meeting with A’s line manager (B), who wanted me to have a thirty year old mentor.   Six months later, I left (officially ‘retired’ from) the FE college, and, after another six months, I started teaching part-time at an adult learning college.

Fast forward to last Friday, to me sitting down a mandatory staff development session at the adult learning college.  ‘Hello Rosemary,’ says a cheery voice.  ‘Are you teaching here?’  I looked up  to see A and B standing at the front, about to lead the session, all smug and smiley.  Oh, Dear Reader, it was as if the last two and half years had not happened, as if I was back at the FE college and being told that, after teaching for twenty years, I was the worst possible sort of teacher.  As I sat in that room, for six whole hours, I felt as if I was with two women who had seen me on the loo with my knickers around my ankles.   If that’s too graphic for you, I apologise, but I feel very naked and exposed writing about this.   Part of me feels I should abandon this post altogether.

Only now can I start to distill in my mind how I felt at that time, how my blood coursed through my veins like a raging river torrent, not a babbling brook, but water in flood, tumbling, fast and furious, over stones.  The water was muddy, having churned up everything underneath it, as the blood in my veins felt dirty, bilious with bitterness and anger.   I recall not being able to sit still, or stand still, gobbling my food, gulping down my words, not able to complete a sentence.   I was unable even to think through a complete thought or sentence.  Everything I did, at work, at home, I questioned.  Every drop of confidence drained from my soul.   But, like Gloria Gaynor, I survived.  Immediately after the feedback session with A, I went into my timetabled class of teenage boys and taught them Photoshop, even managing to forget – for a time.

No, I’m not going to write about FE teachers suffering bad learning observations.  (There would be a limited market for that.)  What I am doing is editing the novel I wrote for Nano, the first part of which concerns my mc being rejected for Cambridge.  She is very angry, and upset, and those terrible, terrible experiences back in 2014 are informing my writing.   Of course, these are my experiences, not hers’ and she is different (much younger), but tapping into these emotions has helped me write her grief.

…I’m still scared of publishing this.  I’ll find an image first.


7 thoughts on “Making Use of Bad Experiences

  1. You were very brave Rosemary for sharing this. I hope you have found some peace in doing so. You are a beloved daughter of God and He values you so much. Unkind words and assessments hurt, but we are not judged by God like this. It is hard to forgive those that have hurt us, but writing about the experience is the first step and you have done so with humility. God bless you friend.

    1. Thank you, Margaret. Last night, whilst reading back what I’d written, I wondered if other people would think that a bad learning observation was not a big deal, especially if they had experienced bereavements or illnesses or other personal hardships. Having suffered in my personal life as well, I can affirm that someone telling you are rubbish at your job is up there.

      1. It certainly can be, I know from experience how shattering to one’s confidence it can be. Especially when you have put your heart and soul into what you have been doing. Big hug.

  2. Maybe you needed to write it so now you can really move on? and put some perspective. And how many managers have I encountered who suck at giving feedback? More than I care to remember.

    1. Thanks camparigirl. A lot of my reason for writing that down was to ‘get it off my chest’, whilst at the same time, remembering how I felt so I could use it in my writing. I felt quite scared when writing it though.

      And, yes, all managers are hopeless at giving feedback. Me myself, when I’ve had to do it, I’ve erred on the side of too bland.

  3. All becomes clear – I remember those posts and also remember offering sympathy but realising you were too upset to talk about the actual issue. I’m not surprised. Any accusation of ineptitude from a supposed ‘superior’ is horrifying – especially if, like me, criticism weights more heavily in the balance with you than praise. I can see how much it has taken to make this public – well done! I hope it feels good to have both shared it and recorded it. I know a friend who has finally after years used her traumas as an actual basis for a creative writing piece – when you are ready, it does help, but you have to be ready. I know what you mean about relative degree of trauma – but, rather like depression, the scale that matters is inside your head – when it’s traumatic, it’s traumatic, full stop. I hope you feel better for this, all the best, M

    1. Thank you, Mary. You were very supportive at the time, I recall. And I do feel better for sharing.

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