It was inevitable, really, that something would be said about the fact that I am retiring. I have spent most of the last forty-three years at the ‘chalk face’ even when it turned into a ‘whiteboard face’ and then into an ‘interactive whiteboard face’. I have taught pupils between the ages of 5 and fifteen and pretty much every subject on the primary curriculum. Some I have felt comfortable with and others decidedly not; never mention year six geography … ever!
I began my career with ILEA – Inner London Education Authority – at a time when that was all there was in the capital. As a ‘rookie’ (NQT – Newly Qualified Teacher) I was put into a staff pool and assigned a school. I was very lucky – I was living in South London at the time and Battersea was not hard to get to. The school also had the advantage of being in the middle of a rejuvenation project, which meant that many of the houses had been knocked down ready to be rebuilt, leaving few families and, consequently, very small classes. My first year three class in an Inner London school, way back in 1973, consisted of sixteen pupils. Not many new teachers working in the State Sector could have boasted that then and certainly can’t now.
After a year I moved back home, as my flat mate married, leaving me driving across London from north to south. This went reasonably well for a year but, when I started to realise I couldn’t remember great chunks of the journey, I called time and contemplated a move nearer home. As it happened, the grammar school which I had attended had now turned comprehensive and suddenly had the need of what was then called ‘remedial’ teachers to support English and maths. I didn’t know this, of course, but cold-called my erstwhile head teacher and asked if she had a job for me. She did; teaching English Support to years 7-9 – I think she may have made that one up for me. A year later I was getting married. We were moving to the Midlands and I, regretfully, left that job. More posts were in the pipeline before I had the two kids.
Apart from a fourteen year span whilst we were bringing them up, I have known nothing but teaching. I have seen the inception of the National Curriculum, all its varies incarnations and the New National Curriculum, the most recent. I have gone from teaching what I felt like to being told what to do and having to write it all down first. I have worked with a plethora of heads and other colleagues, some of whom were amazing and others Hell Spawn. I have been euphoric and ground down but I have always loved the job. Seeing the change in seven-year-olds as they turn into human beings, or the realisation in a fifteen-year-old that you haven’t written her off because she can’t read.
September 2013 was the turning point. I found that, in spite of trying my damnedest to get some relaxation over the summer break, I woke up on the first day of the new term feeling almost as tired as the last day of the previous term. Things didn’t improve and, by the end of that academic year, I was wiped out. I came to a number of conclusions from this experience; I really wasn’t as young as I thought I was any more, I was working harder than I had ever done and my home life was being affected. Time to go. I managed to make it through the next three terms and was finally allowed to leave. I feel so sorry for my (ex) colleagues who must continue but this is right for me. I still love my colleagues to pieces. However, on September the first, the beginning of the new academic year, I plan to send them each a text with an attachment of a photo taken down the bed of my feet under the covers accompanied by the message ‘Still not up’.