Coming Home

The way I remember it, I finished teaching in Golden Gate on Tuesday, flew back to Britain on Wednesday and by Monday I was a policeman. That was December 2007. On February 25th 2019, after more than ten years in the police, I’ll be a teacher at Golden Gate again. The school is very dear to my heart. Golden Gate brought me to Tarnowskie Gory, one night in TG I met the girl from Ohio who became Mrs Williams and now we have a little daughter, Zosia. I know I’m a Gorol but I feel like I’m coming home. My time teaching at Golden Gate was great preparation for the police. In both jobs you need excellent communication skills. To succeed you must be confident, professional and very adaptable. Often there is a group of people watching your every move, waiting for you to mess up. You have to know what you’re doing, or at least make them think you know. It takes time and mistakes to become good, but when you get there it is so rewarding. I took the skills I learnt at Golden Gate, developed them in the police and in February 2019 I’m bringing them all back to TG.

I joined the police because it looked like an exciting way to help people. It was a big challenge. On the street every day was different and you had to be ready for whatever life threw at you. Or whatever life threw up on you.

I had a great time, mostly. In a job like that the highs are high and the lows are very low. It definitely requires a lot of mental strength to keep going. During my police career I was punched, kicked, spat on and bitten. There were bad days too. Being in the office doing paperwork was a bad day. I didn’t join the police to work in an office.

I was involved in incidents that were violent, bizarre and sometimes hilarious. There were car chases, Samurai swords, knives, dead bodies and some of the most evil people you could imagine. There were also lots of good people. It was life with the volume turned up to ten. After about four years I had passed my Sergeant exams and was well-respected by my colleagues. The future looked very bright for PC Williams.

One day it got darker. I was at work and my heart felt like it was burning. I went to see the police nurse and within minutes I was in hospital. My heart was fine but it was the first sign of a rare chronic pain condition called Tietze Syndrome. It’s a bit like having arthritis in your chest. The pain got worse over weeks, months and years. Most doctors I saw knew nothing about the condition. They would look it up on Google, throw painkillers at me and say I should get better soon. I didn’t. Any doctor who knows anything about Tietze Syndrome (and I didn’t meet many of them) will tell you it can last forever for some people. Unfortunately I am one of them.

I carried on in work but life is a lot more difficult when your chest feels like it’s full of broken glass. I was still good at the job, I was even Temporary Sergeant a few times and in charge of many officers and a huge area, but I was almost always tired and in pain. The light of my bright future was dying.

Some doctors told me to rest at home and prescribed medication that turned me into a zombie. Not fun. My wife and family were a magnificent support and at times like this you see who your friends are. Some friends were fantastic, some ‘friends’ did nothing.

One guy who helped me so much was Rafał from Golden Gate. I told him how frustrated I was with the British doctors. He said he had some doctor friends in TG who might be able to help. I came over for a few weeks to meet them. There was nothing to lose. Rafał arranged all the doctor appointments and stayed to translate for me when needed. I hadn’t worked for him in years and he didn’t have to do that, but I’m forever thankful he did. I ended up seeing a specialist in Zabrze who helped me more in twenty minutes than any British doctor had in three years.

The treatment in Silesia gave me some more time back on the street but eventually it became clear I couldn’t do the physical stuff anymore. I had difficulty pushing a shopping trolley so fighting an aggressive bad guy was just too dangerous, for me and my colleagues. I was told I had to stay in the office. I didn’t join the police to work in an office.

After about a year doing paperwork and admin I realised I wasn’t making any new memories. Every day was different on the street, in my office job every day was the same. On the street, with my experience and skills, I felt special. Not many people could do what I did. Anybody could do what I was doing in the office. It wasn’t a challenge anymore.

After a lot of thought, I asked to be considered for Ill Health Retirement. I saw a few specialist doctors and I was told my days as an active police officer were officially over. I had the option to stay in the office, which would have been a great decision financially, but I wanted a change of environment. Happiness has always been more important to me than money.

At the age of thirty-four I was a pensioner. I was given a beautiful trophy and a certificate from the Chief Constable saying my conduct had been ‘exemplary’. The light was finally out on PC Williams’ bright future, but I’m glad it was me who flicked the switch. It was the right thing to do.

I am proud of my time in the police. I was always honest, never ran from trouble and a lot of incredibly difficult situations were made better because of me. I helped a lot of people and I’m grateful for the opportunity to do so.

So, what next? At first I tried to be Mr Dad and stayed home with Zosia, who was two at the time. After three weeks of Peppa Pig and Tellytubbies I wanted a gun. I had to get out of the house. After a few lifestyle changes, such as learning Tai Chi and planning my days very carefully, I was able to manage my pain levels better. I found an interesting job at a small airport working for a flying school that trains pilots. I made timetables and dealt with students and instructors. It was a refreshing change. It was especially nice to be around members of the public who weren’t trying to punch me.

Being in this learning environment made me miss teaching. I loved helping people who wanted to learn, like Golden Gate students or younger police colleagues. It is so satisfying to see somebody grow in confidence and ability. I could see this happening with the flying students but it was because of their instructors, not my timetables. I wanted to be more involved in helping people develop. I can’t teach flying but I can teach English.

Rafał knew I wanted to get back into teaching and contacted me when there was an opportunity to come back to Golden Gate in February. I’m taking it. Mrs Williams and I are very happy Zosia will grow up in TG around our Polish family and friends and we’re all excited about the move. I just hope no students try and punch me.

It’ll be good to get back in the classroom, like I’m coming home. I love how in Polish ‘uczyć’ means both teaching and learning. When I taught at Golden Gate I learnt a lot about myself. If you’re doing something interesting you never stop learning. I was a good teacher when I left in 2007 and I hope to be a better one after I return in 2019. That’s my new challenge. The future looks bright once again for this Gorol.