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One day Goodbye will be Farewell

Posted May 23 2009 12:00am
Man, what a week. Physically tiring and emotionally draining. Not enough time to even think about UC. Which is a good thing. Except that, if I haven't got time to think about the UC, that must mean I'm working really hard. Which, to be brutally honest is the very antithesis of my nature... I'll admit it: I'm an idler. I remember my wife once chastising me upon returning home to find me sat in the very same place (on the floor on some scattered cushions, in our unfurnished semi-decorated conservatory (which is pretty much how it remains after several years)) as I had been 6 hours earlier, the only signs of movement having been a pile of used tea bags... Well TMS (thats Test Match Special for those of you who are not cricket lovers) was on the radio...

Is it just me, but having just re-read that paragraph there is something slightly suspicious sounding about the phrase 'a pile of used tea bags'...?

Anyhow, this week, it's been a belter. First of all the deadline for year 7 reports was friday. I have 4 year 7 classes this year, so thats 120 students (approx). Now my union recommends around 50 words a student (I think) which would mean: 6000 words! Half a disertation. And of course I've left them to the last week. As usual. Thank god for modern technology is all I can say. Blimey, back in the old days I would have had to hand write them all! Not that I'm suggesting I would rely on, say, cut and pasting these days you understand.

Apart from that it has also been the week that year 11 finally leave for study-leave. They don't get all those empty weeks before the exams like we did back in my day (revision or beach? revision or beach? revision or beach? beach beach beach Yay!). Oh no. In fact the exams have already started. Now this is a fraught time because to begin with I am always desperately trying to revise as much of the course as possible in class with them before they go. Precisely because I know once they are out of my clutches (like me before) they will do bugger all. And secondly, because I always end up very fond of my GCSE teaching groups - its bloody sad to see them go. And thirdly, this year, my form group are also in year 11, so they are off too. Which is even sadder. I've only had this lot since year 9 (my last form I took from year 7 to 11, it was like waving goodbye to my own kids... sniff. I bump into them around town now and again, some of them even greet me with a hug!), so a couple of years, but I have grown very attached to them, and, I think, they to me. So, as I say, there is a lot of hard work and worry, and a lot of emotion (not to mention all my other classes, year 10 coursework, the reports, my own kids etc etc).

This whole week is rounded off by soemthing called Record of Achievement (RoA), something that also didn't exist in my day. Basically a big, formal, send-off for the year 11's in the local town hall in the presence of the whole year group, senior management, governors, parents of all the kids etc. Essentially they all recieve a folder (their 'Record of Achievement) containing all the certificates they have garnered through their school life, plus CV, personal statements and so on. (Right, I too realise that it won't contain their GCSE certs, and that they haven't even done them yet, and yeah, september would seem a much better time to do this kind of thing - but, hey, I'm just a classroom teacher - what do I know?). Anyway, they get those, plus loads of the kids get subject and sports prizes, there are some speeches/reminiscences by staff and kids, then a buffet and mingling afterward. It's a mixture of dull, blinkin lovely, very happy, and lump-in-throat stuff.

It's about here in the week where the UC starts to rear its ugly, unwelcome head. Because as tutors we are expected to do a speech, about our forms groups. Now, many people think because I'm a teacher this is easy. But: a)some people do short little off-the-cuff (perfectly reasonable) 'you've been great' type speeches, but I HAVE to try to make mine funny and mention them all, b) standing on a stage in front of about 300 students plus, say, 250 parents is absolutely arse-sweatingly, ball-shrivellingly, UC triggeringly TERRIFYING. So I wrote a speech. Went to the toilet about 4 times before my go (I was near the end). Delivered the speech, desperately trying not to think about, or accidently say something about pooing myself on-stage. And was delighted to hear much laughter along with my gags, as opposed to the deathly hush of a hall full of people watching a man uncontrollably poop under a spotlight. And then it was over. And there was a great deal of hugging and hand-shaking, and thankyou's and goodbye's and... then I went home. And, although I'll see them all again around school as they do their exams, it leaves you feeling pretty weird. The only comparison I can think of is when my wife described that feeling you get having finished a really good book, where the characters in particular really pull you in. A sort of hollow, empty, yearning feeling. Because they're not my kids, but I've seen them every day, every morning, for the last 3 years (and 5 with the previous form), and I've had a real laugh with them, and I've told them off loads of times, and I've helped them/failed to solve problems, and I've shouted at them, discussed serious issues with them, given them advice, played jokes on them, had jokes played on me, shared good times, sad times, happy times... and now they're gone. On with the rest of their lives.

And I'm knackered.
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