‘And now the end is near, and so I face my final curtain. My friend, I’ll say it clear, I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain. I’ve lived a life that’s full, I’ve travelled each and every highway. And more, much more than this, I did it my way.’
There really are no other lyrics that can express my feelings as I approach the last two days at my school. And yes, I am not facing my actual ‘final curtain’ even though two people have told me this week that I’ve had a good life (!), however, it is quite the end of an era for me.
I joined my current school just over 9 years ago, with my older two children having started in the September in years R and 1 and my youngest having just turned one. My husband at the time was the deputy head. It was quite a family affair.
I lived on little sleep in those first few months, as my baby woke early, very early and I worked late into the night, trying to be the best teacher I could be, as well as the best Mum I could be.
In that first year I met one of my closest friends, who was my TA. She has been a rock for me, and I for her and we are bound by an unspoken devotion to our friendship now and forever. We had a great class, and I had the opportunity to direct an amazing production of Joseph with the KS2 kids and the Year 6 teacher. She and I bashed heads occasionally, but over the years have developed a strong affection for each other made deeper by our respect for each other’s hard work.
In my second year I became SENCO, a role that I loved and respected. I developed amazingly strong relationships with the children and parents in that special group and learnt from them every day. I met other amazing SENCOs in the area and developed my understanding of the role as I did it. I like to hope I was pretty good at it, and made every opportunity to get the importance of how we include children with special needs in our classrooms out to anyone who would listen, finding ways of using iPads and other technologies to support them when all of this was new to primary schools in our area. This was a sad year as my TA lost her mother to that most horrid of diseases, pancreatic cancer, it drew us closer but it was a desperately sad time for her and her family.
In third year I was fortunate enough to gain another TA who has also become an extremely close friend, a bedrock of support and love to me. We had a great year culminating in our ‘premiere performance’ on Teachers’ TV – what a laugh we had!
Then I was asked to move up to Year 6, I begged my TA to come with me, a bit apprehensive about the Maths to be honest, I didn’t want to let them down. Actually, I think it made me a much better teacher and I met one of my classes again. OK so we didn’t get the great SATs results from years gone by, but they kicked-ass in every sporting event they took part in, and even now I hear from their parents what a great team we were.
The end of this, first year in Year 6 brought devastation to my life. I discovered some horrible truths in my marriage and decided to leave. My friends and family rallied round, two letting me stay at different points while I sorted my life out.
I cried all the time, in class, in the loos, in the staffroom. I still had to work with my now ex-husband, and it was hard. It was hard not seeing my children every night. It was especially hard at weekends and I rotated the people I rang to sob down the phone too so they wouldn’t get fed up of me. I put everything into my job and my kids, those same kids and TA who had been on Teachers’ TV were now back with me in Year 6. We became the ‘Dream Team’. We rocked. They were with me, and somehow knew when to be gentle and when to be strong. I let them down, many times, but they were my sanity.
Time heals. It does. And though the next few years were hard, I became stronger and got myself out there. I spread my professional wings on Twitter and took risks, going out to meet people I had only chatted to ‘virtually’, driving in the dark November night in the middle of Dorking forest to spend the weekend with a bunch of people I had never met, with no phone signal – crazy? yup, but leading me to realise the world of teachers, as passionate as me was out there.
Since then my teaching has improved, my creativity has soared and my opportunities have multiplied. I have had the chance to write in a published book, organise two teach-meets, a weekend for SLT, speak at a Womened event and this weekend be involved in the organisation of one of the most talked-about events so far this year. As well as getting to know some of the most fascinating and inspirational people in British education today.
And all the time my school and the people in it have supported me. Let me push through madcap ideas. Told me when to hold back and when to fly. My friends are my colleagues and now I am heading for pastures new.
It has been a few years in the pipeline and I have tried before and failed, but just as we say to the kids, keep going, the time will come, you will ace it one day soon, I did. And now I have found a school whose head and governors see in me perhaps a glimmer of what my current school do. I have something to offer, and I do like to share!
So with just two days left how do I feel? Emotional, drained, sad, lost, and a tiny bit happy. I am ready for this new venture, but I wouldn’t have been without some extremely special people in my life. Thank you, you know who you are. You have been with me through highs and lows, thick and thin, ups and downs. You will always have me as a devoted friend, any time, any place. So when you need me, just call. This is for you. Love you loads x Lean on Me