Don’t look back in anger if your cherubs for­get you

TES (Times Education Supplement) - - MICHAEL TIDD -

THE RHYTHM of the teach­ing year is un­like that of any other job. For a start, in most jobs there are strict pro­cesses to make sure that ev­ery­one can’t book their an­nual hol­i­day at the same time; nowhere else does the whole staff count down to a sin­gle day when every mem­ber can waltz off into the sun­set for a few weeks.

Yet I’ve of­ten found that the end of the sum­mer term brings a strange, melan­cholic sort of joy. It is a joy, no doubt, to be pre­sented with five or more weeks of timetable-free days, but there’s also some­thing rather fi­nal – par­tic­u­larly in pri­mary schools.

I’m re­minded of a class many years ago, with whom I was jok­ing about want­ing to be a weather re­porter, on the premise that you only had to work for a cou­ple of min­utes at a time. One child’s re­sponse was: “But then you wouldn’t get to make 32 new friends every year.” Now, “friends” might be putting it a bit strongly, but there’s no doubt that spend­ing five hours a day with the same group of in­di­vid­u­als breeds a sense of fa­mil­iar­ity, at the very least.

Of­ten, those chil­dren can be­come a very sig­nif­i­cant part of your life. There will be plenty of “teach­ing wi­d­ows” – hus­bands, wives, chil­dren – who come to know the names of in­di­vid­u­als, de­spite never hav­ing met them, as we dis­cuss their tri­als, tri­umphs and an­tics. Yet by the end of July, they are gone. Per­haps to the class­room next door, per­haps to a school down the road, but sud­denly we go from spend­ing our every work­ing hour with them, to noth­ing.

In re­al­ity, of course, there are some chil­dren you’d hap­pily have waved off back in Fe­bru­ary. But there will be some in whom you have in­vested a great deal this year, and it will seem strange not to be ac­com­pa­ny­ing them on the next stage of their jour­ney.

For those who have reached the end of their first year of teach­ing, it may seem like an unimag­in­able loss. Rest as­sured, like so many things with teach­ing, it gets eas­ier. By the time your tenth class wave good­bye, you’ll have learned to look for­ward more to the weeks of re­lax­ation than back on the loss of your cherubs.

And noth­ing can put your melan­cholic thoughts into con­text like the re­sponses of the chil­dren. Yes, in the last cou­ple of weeks they were say­ing you were their favourite teacher ever, as­sur­ing you they’ll come back to visit. But you can bet they won’t. By the mid­dle of the year, they’ll hardly ac­knowl­edge you in the cor­ri­dor. At first it might seem sur­pris­ing how quickly they get over you. Hurt­ful even. Don’t be of­fended. It’s just as it should be. Your class in Septem­ber won’t match up to them – es­pe­cially if you’ve moved to a younger year group, but by this time next year you’ll find your­self in the same boat: sur­prised at how fond you’ve be­come of them.

And while they might well be ig­nor­ing you on the play­ground by Christ­mas, or have stopped drop­ping by the school by the sec­ond week in Septem­ber, there’s one more boon to come. Give it 10 years, and one day in the supermarket you’ll sud­denly hear a voice be­hind you: “Al­right,­mem­ber me?”. Don’t be mis­taken: those last 12 months will have made an im­pres­sion in their minds, too. Michael Tidd is deputy head at Edge­wood Pri­mary School in Not­ting­hamshire. He tweets @Michaelt1979

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