A Meeting With the White Rabbit

I was sitting opposite her, at her desk. The tip of her nose was a smudgy black, and the area between her nose and top lip was a thick oily white, with a modest covering of black whiskers. She looked at me through her thin, black-rimmed glasses. When she stood up to make me a cup of tea, I noticed a cotton wool pom-pom tail attached to her lower back…

It had been 8 months since I had lost the hearing in my left ear. It had been 8 months since I had been living with tinnitus, dizziness, a sensitivity to loud noises, and the relentless pressure in my ears. It was almost 8 months since I had last carried out a day’s work. My headteacher had asked me to come to the school to attend a meeting with her. I was nervous. I wasn’t sure what the outcome of the meeting was going to be. I couldn’t bear to be around loud noises. Returning to my position as an Early Years teacher – a teacher of 4-year-old children – was not a possibility for me at this time. I wondered if there could be any other options for me; any other work in the school that I would be able to do. I wondered if, due to the amount of time I’d been sick, I would be asked to leave.

I arrived at the school on a sunny Monday morning. As I pushed open the stubborn metal gate, I was filled with apprehension and nervousness. I could hear children playing on the other side of the gate. As I walked into the small patio situated in front of the school, I was immediately struck by a magnitude of colour. The children weren’t wearing their usual dark blue uniforms or stripy blue smocks, but instead, they were all dressed in fancy dress costumes. It was Book Day in school. There were children dressed as Mr Men characters, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Dr Seuss’ Thing One and Thing Two, and animals, pirates and princesses. One of my colleagues promptly came to give me an all-encompassing hug. This alerted the children to look my way, and when they realised it was me, a large group of children, all of whom I had taught the previous year, ran to me and hugged me from all directions. They were chatting to me excitedly; asking me lots of questions, showing me their costumes, and screaming with excitement. My ears were hurting from the noise. I wasn’t able to focus on any of the children’s words. However, it was wonderful to see them, and to be surrounded by the energy of young children again. I stayed for a few minutes on the patio, soaking up the excitement, and receiving more hugs from children and members of staff. I had been working in this school for three years. It was a small nursery and infants school, and I had made close connections with many of the staff members, and of course, with the children. It felt so nice to be immersed again in this vibrant world. It felt so nice to absorb a little of what to me, was my former ‘normality’. I missed working as a teacher. I missed my days of creativity. I even missed the absolute exhaustion I used to feel at the end of the school day; knowing I’d applied all my energy to give my pupils the best possible start to their education I could offer.

I entered the headteacher’s office. She was dressed as the white rabbit from Alice In Wonderland. She stood up from behind her desk, and as she gave me a hug. I momentarily became aware of the humour in the situation. The irony that such an important meeting, one that could possibly affect my future work opportunities in this school, would be between me and the white rabbit. It was bizarre and felt somewhat surreal. This is the nature of working in an infant school! She asked how I was doing. She told me that because I was good at my job, she didn’t want to lose me. I hadn’t prepared for this kind of compliment, and the weight of it triggered my emotions. I could feel tears welling up in my eyes, but refused to release them; breathing deeply and wiping away any evidence of my weakened character. The past 8 months had been difficult, and my confidence was drained. She asked me how I thought I would cope as a teacher, in a busy classroom. I was honest with her, and told her I would find it extremely difficult. She said she didn’t want to set me up for failure. She then went on to suggest some other possible roles for me. There was a language school that was owned by the same company as my current school, where I could possibly work; teaching small groups of adults. There was also a possibility of working with older children. However, these didn’t seem like favourable options. My teaching background was firmly rooted in Early Years education, and it was with this age-range where my teaching passion lay. We discussed other options and came to the conclusion that working with small groups of children, away from the noise of the classroom, would be a role that could offer me the best chance of success.

After over an hour of talking about my options, my headteacher told me that she could offer me a position as a teaching assistant. It would include some time in the classroom as well as time working away from the classroom; with small groups of children who needed extra support in Literacy and Maths, and in learning English. I had an interest in working with intervention groups, and in Special Needs education. I also had experience in these areas. This role would be a way of seeing how I would cope in a classroom. I wouldn’t be letting people down or feeling guilty if I had to leave the position, as I wouldn’t be responsible for a whole class. I would earn just over a third of my wage as a full-time teacher, but this was an opportunity for me to discover my potential and also recognise my limitations, whilst doing so in a familiar environment.

It has been nearly 3 months since my meeting with the white rabbit. I returned to work for the month of June. It was difficult. It was an experience that proved to be challenging and demanding on my diminished confidence, and hearing. My ears were painful at the end of the day, and on returning home each day I savoured times of quietness. But I completed the month, and am proud of what I achieved. I will be returning to the school after the summer to start the new school year in my new role as a teaching assistant.

I am now enjoying my summer holidays; feeling like I earned them, and am now up to date with my story 🙂


    1. Thank you! It’s a big step back in my career to take a teaching assistant role, but I am glad I am able to still work in the school. I will see how I continue to cope after the summer…Hopefully things will get gradually easier the more time i spend in the school environment.
      Take care

      Liked by 2 people

  1. What a wonderful turn of events, Carly! The fact that the school was so accommodating speaks volumes about the quality of your character and professionalism.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your comment Al! I have always worked hard, and also love being a teacher. I am very lucky to have such an understanding headteacher 🙂
      ..maybe one day I can move forward from my new teaching assistant role, and return to my job as a class teacher…
      Take care
      – Carly


  2. Great to hear. I’ve been back to work about 15 months since my own sudden hearing loss. The first year was very difficult. Can’t hear this. Can’t hear that. Feel defeated. Little victories here and there.. However, as of now, I can honestly say I’m able to get by each day and no longer worry about not hearing. I’ve gotten used to my new level of hearing. I don’t expect to hear everything and don’t stress when I miss things. Now my stress with my job is related to the job itself not the anxiety of how well I will hear in a given situation. I’ve picked up some tricks like positioning myself at meetings and lunches and make it known that I have a hearing loss when I’m missing things. I bet by the end of next school year, you will have regained all the confidence that is taken when you lose your hearing. Best of luck to you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hello Tony. Thank you so much for your supportive comment. It is so good to receive a comment from somebody who has some experience of the difficulties I have been experiencing. It is great to know that you are doing well, and no longer have the worry about not hearing certain things in your workplace. You are right, confidence can be taken along with hearing loss. My confidence was definitely very low. Gradually I am aware of it returning, with time … Your comment has filled me with positivity, and I hope that soon I can write a comment similar to yours 🙂
      I just wondered, do you also have a sensitivity to noise? This is something that seems to be a little more difficult for me to cope with, especially when working in a school. Any hints or tips about this would be appreciated 🙂
      Thanks again, and I hope you are doing well.
      – Carly

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I certainly had a major sensitivity to noise upon first losing my hearing. I have two young kids and when they would play and screetch, it would be like nails on a chalkboard. I feel like that is much less an issue for me now. My guess is my brain has adapted to it by just being immersed everyday around my kids. I also have been wearing hearing aids since pretty much the start of my hearing loss so I think that may have helped me with the hyperacusis. I can definitely say my tolerance for that type of noise has improved. I bet it will for you too in time as you expose yourself more to it.

        The nice thing about kids is they don’t get frustrated no matter how often you ask them to repeat. You can even make a game of it in some fashion I would bet. Best of luck to you in your journey!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Hello again Tony. Thank you for your reply. Oh that is great to know that you feel your sensitivity is less! I am exposing myself to everything as i would normally be exposed to. I find that any loud music and also the noise of lots of children in the classroom, is really difficult to tolerate. But hopefully, like you said, this will get better for me. Yes, I realised that the kids will continue to ask questions until they get their answers, however long that may take 😉
          Thanks again for your response, it gives me lots of hope 🙂
          Best wishes to you too


      1. I’m doing well.
        I know how hard it can be to be in a situation where you need to hear, but you can’t. I always feel I’m missing something. I will sometimes feel very small in a big hearing world.
        I have noticed recently that I don’t get as stressed in environments where hearing is a huge challenge.
        Things will get better on that front.
        The sensitivity to sound is a different issue. I don’t have that, but understand it to be very painful.
        I hope it gets better.
        Keep enjoying your summer!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Hi Wendy. Yes, I also have the feeling of being very small and isolated in s hearing world…but I am also starting to get less stressed about the, especially around people I know…I am hopefully getting some help to deal with my noise sensitivity too… I’ll keep you posted ! Thank you as always Wendy for your comments xx

          Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s great that you are able to continue working at the same school. I know having a hearing disability is difficult. I have tons of stories about my own struggles and how people have treated me over the years. However, I have learned to accept it and at times appreciate my differences.

    People may look down on the disabled, but we are stronger than they will ever know. We are more resourceful, because of our disability. We are more determined, which allows us to succeed. We have much to teach the world.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Hello Lynn. Wow, what a wonderful comment! Thank you!
      Yes, I think learning to appreciate our differences, is the best option for us.
      I was actually thinking the other day about what i have learned from losing my hearing, and positive things that have come from this experience. (Of course it’s much easier to think of the negatives!) Anyway, I agree, I think i have become more determined, and also feel like i am a more compassionate person now.
      Thank you again for your comment. It means a lot to me to receive comments, especially from people who have a personal understanding of the issues I am facing.
      Best wishes to you Lynn!


  4. What a great achievement, and lovely for you to be able to join the real world again – you are doing great, but don’t overdo it! enjoy the summer holidays and soak up some sunshine xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Anita! Thank you for your comment!
      Yes, it feels good to start to get back to normal a bit. I wont overdo it, and I’m definitely enjoying my summer 😉
      I hope you are doing well?
      Take care
      – Carly xx


  5. It felt so comforting to read you do what you love to do despite of your hearing problem..its amazing too to feel through your words your positive attitude towards your health problem..cos honestly, i am not sure if i could ever be halfway you are..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Mich. I am glad you found some comfort in my post.
      I am trying to be positive, but it is sometimes difficult. I am sure you are doing much better than you realize. Stay strong and I hope you feel better. Xx
      Best wishes

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I would love to hear more about how it’s been for you teaching and adjusting to hearing loss.

    I am a chaplain by trade, and always interested in learning how people are able to find ways to connect and still grow despite their particular challenges.

    Liked by 1 person

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