Don’t look back in anger if your cherubs forget you
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, Miss...remember 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