Parting is such sweet sorrow

‘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. Girls

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

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Thinking differently

  Home after a pretty amazing day yesterday, the culmination of months of planning, it is time to quietly reflect on yesterday’s TedXNorwichEd event.

Seven months ago I was asked to join one man in his crazy idea to put on an independent TedX event. Sarah and I, probably just as bonkers, said yes, why not, let’s just do it. A big fan of Ted.com, I wasn’t that familiar with TedX events, but a little research and I knew, if we could pull it off, it was going to be an amazing day for educators in East Anglia and all over the country.

Our premise was to get people to think differently about education. We invited people, anyone, to apply to speak and had nearly 50 applications. It was a tough call to narrow it down to 25, which may even have been too many, but at least we know we have a bank of interested speakers for next time. The organisation of deadlines, rules and communication was key to our success and the man behind the plan really was quite incredible in the hours of time he put in. By Christmas we had our speakers. It was real.

We needed partners, this was tough, but in the end we managed to just do it. Huge thanks to all the partners, in particular Eos and ATL without whom there really would not have been an event.

A million direct Twitter messages, tens of thousands of emails, a hundred hangouts, and a few face to face meets, and we had it all together. The day loomed. 

Friday night had the amazing volunteers reshaping the big auditorium into a cabaret style venue. Astonishing what a few tablecloths can do to lift a place. Goody bags filled in a conveyor belt fashion. Balloons pumped, carpets vacuumed. The volunteers worked their socks off all evening to bring our dream to life, and made the event run so smoothly on the day.

As the speakers started to arrive, apprehension and nerves etched on their faces, we realised there was nothing more we could really do, it was time to let the event do the talking. 

The talks ran all day, interspersed with a little poetry and a dance (performed brilliantly by Sarah’s daughter, Nadia’s who even got teach Jon Briggs a little move!) delicious food from the social enterprise The Feed, based in Norwich. Jon Briggs, voice of Siri, kindly hosted the day, and boy was he good, his skill of connecting everything together with warmth and humour is outstanding, and I believe he really enjoyed his time with us.

We were trending throughout the day, up there with the cricket and another brilliant ed event #primaryrocks. And the talks were praised, debated, deplored and celebrated. They are still being debated now, as I type. This was never supposed to be event for everyone to pat themselves on the back at how great we are. It was intended to provoke, spark debate, make people think differently. And now via yammer and Twitter the conversation and debate will continue.

I was incredibly impressed with all of the talks, the speakers worked so hard to encapsulate the ideas they felt were worth sharing into their very strict time frame, that takes time, preparation and dedication.

I am extremely proud to have been part of this event, and the work we all put in as a team. Thanks must go to the amazing volunteers, the venue, the caterers, the partners, the photographer and video recorders, the sketcher, the brilliant host, the inspirational speakers and of course the rest of our little organising team, three of whom have been holding down full-time SLT teaching roles whilst doing it.