Ten years on I can honestly say that my memories of bad times in teaching have faded over time and what I remember most are the very good times I have had, and continue to have. These memories are exclusively connected to the human factor of teaching which is what makes it such a special and unique kind of job. So this blog is likely to completely lack coherence and stumble into anecdotes, oh well!
There are some students you remember for the long term and I am fortunate in being able to say that I still keep in touch with a good number of my former students (or rather they keep in touch with me, depending on how much work I have on!) I am proud of so many of my former pupils, for so many different reasons. A fact that is often glossed over by many is how incredibly loyal kids can be. I am lucky to have been blessed with good health and am well known for taking very few sick days. The very fact I turned up day in day out was enough to get kids on side, the question “God is it you again, why are you never off sick so we can have a cover teacher?” was generally uttered with a cheeky smile. Those hours put in in the classroom creating a personal connection can be paid back in the most surprising ways. When I was moving out of the house I shared with my ex-husband at the start of a lengthy divorce process, it was two of my former A-level students who packed my van up for me, carrying wardrobes over their heads and offering to hide kippers behind the radiators. They had heard through the school jungle drums that I was going through a difficult time and emailed to offer their help. They gave up a day of their Easter vacation from university to help me, they wouldn’t accept payment but stayed to share a beer and curry that evening with many of their former teachers, colleagues who had come around to help me clean and put together furniture. I supported one A-level student when his parents moved out of the family home during his Year 13 to care for his sick grandfather, leaving him to deal with the day to day running of a household as well as study for his A-levels. He went to Manchester University to study chemistry (clearly I must be a bit inspiring!) followed by a PGCE, he is currently teaching chemistry in Hong Kong. I was honoured to be asked to attend his graduation. He also helped me renovate parts of my house, knocking down walls and wallpapering my living room. Just recently I ended up stranded in Bolton town centre on my way back to school for a parents’ evening following a day working in my other job in Manchester. All the trains were cancelled and my car was at a suburban train station, I only had £3 in my purse and limited time to get back to school. Outside the train station I bumped into 2 girls who I used to teach, now a very happy couple. The older girl had been in my form in the 6th form and had had a tough time, I remember regularly ringing her up to get her out of bed! We had a good catch up and they gave me £3 to add to my money for a taxi to get me to school and parents’ evening on time.
No-one goes into teaching expecting anything in return but the time we spend and the human connections we make can have a big impact on the young people we meet. So much of an impact that they are prepared to go out of their way for someone who did the same for them when they were adolescents. I have many more anecdotes like this, enough to put a smile on the face of even the most jaded teacher but for now here is some of my student’s handiwork….