*A Note. None of the Teachers in these photos are me. EXCEPT THE ONE RIGHT AT THE BOTTOM*
By Tony Sergeant
Dedicated to Mr Dixon – My Year 5 Teacher
End of an Era
Very recently I closed the door on a ten year whirlwind career in education and as the dust settles the mind does as the mind tends to do at these milestone moments and cruises into reflection mode.
I wish I could summarise in a thousand words my total set of teaching experiences and make that reading of some use to others. Perhaps those either entrenched in the all consuming world of education, or at least give a clue of what to expect for those flirting with the idea of entering the profession.
Unfortunately, that would quite simply turn this light and feathery blog into a Saturday morning slog (perhaps a book of its own one day) so I promise – for today at least – I’ll be brief (ish).
What it’s all about
The first thing friends and family want to know when the topic of my now former career comes up, is what I will miss.
Thankfully it’s an easy answer and the same as the reason I entered this all encompassing world to begin with – the children. Working with children, helping your pupils through life’s little daily challenges, and sadly sometimes challenges that no child should have to face, is as rewarding an occupation as there is. Every day you make a difference as a teacher, it’s what makes the job so addictive but also such a great responsibility.
The way you approach your pupils, your behaviour, your words, your attitude – things that you aren’t always aware of (or in control of) as a busy professional just trying to ingest every ounce of caffeine to get through the next lesson – every little word or action can have a long lasting effect on the young minds who are developing products of their environment in your charge.
Now reread that last sentence – it’s a scary thought and a lot of pressure. It is pressure that you’re made aware of during the first minutes on day one of your Teacher training. It’s the very real foundation you have to build on, there is pressure before the daily pressure. Before planning lessons, setting out classrooms, collaborating with colleagues, developing relationships with parents, assessments and then the next day – you repeat it all again. The day to day reality of this equilibrium is at times soul destroying.
Worth the Pressure?
All this though is worth every second with the children in your class. It truly is. It’s why teachers on the whole are special, strong and inspiring people. It is why we as adults remember the good ones – even decades after being pupils – their influence is long lasting, and when you experience time with one that encourages you, lights a fire in you or simply shows you how kindness spreads simply by being kind yourself it shapes your future in at least a small and potentially profound way.
I am blessed to know that at least some of my actions, advice or even general demeanour will have at some point sent home a child with purpose, passion and perhaps a light bulb idea or attitude that puts good into his or her world even to the day I write this blog. I can tell you, that is a feeling worth bottling.
Did I always get it right? Oh gosh no! That’s a whole blog of learning curves but more often than note I like to think my influence was positive.
Of course, along with that daily dose of goodness there is the that inevitable downside to be experienced.
I was a Year 6 teacher for most of my career and the great sadness of being a Year 6 teacher is that at the end of the school year the children you have spent 11 months building such strong relationships with – people who were starting to turn into young adults that you’d laughed with, argued with and lead through a whole year of growth and challenge – these young people, who in any other profession could be considered colleagues and friends – they all of a sudden, at 3pm on a day in late July – disappear from your life all together.
Sometimes up to 30 people who you have thought about constantly for almost a year, people who you spend your days trying to figure out, measure, improve, worry about, smile about, almost as much as your own family and friends – they just vanish, and for me this was devastating,
For 5 years I felt this sense of loss at the end of the school summer term and it took days for me to come out of the sad slump that goes along with such an ending. Thankfully the realities of summer holidays, a much needed rest, an overriding sense of relief and rediscovering the real world takeover.
However before you know it’s late August and like a glutton for punishment, you’re ready to begin the cycle all over again.
It is remarkable how emotionally resilient you become as a teacher. Your day-to-day feelings swing and shift and change at the drop of a hat, the joy at the correct spelling of a word, the annoyance at the shouting out of an answer that whilst breaks the ‘rules’ of the classroom secretly makes you happy because it’s that breakthrough moment from a child you never expected to hear it from.
During the holidays I would always conclude that the range of extreme emotions that you had to negotiate on a daily basis – just to reach 3pm – was surely not healthy, but you still went back to work the following term regardless, jumping straight onto that white knuckle ride and doing whatever it took to get through to the end with your sanity in tact, but most importantly, giving your pupils the best ride you can give them along the way.
Many more reflections to come
One day I’ll return to my career reflection and give myself time to review other parts of the profession that have shaped me into who I am now, and sadly not all of it is a pleasant story, in fact I expect it to be a difficult exercise, but whatever comes of it I know ultimately the answer to those questions from friends and family is one that fills me with pride and was always the reason why I stepped before the whiteboard in the first place – to help children on their journey as people and be a conduit for putting good young humans into the world – for this, I am forever proud.
Thank you for reading and I’ll see you again in Part 2.
More About Tony
Tony is currently the Managing Director of Lambs to Lions and despite valuing his career in teacher he is now carving out a new path as a Literary Agent and Author. He lives for his young family – wife Erica and three children Edward, Amelia and Henry.
Visit his website for more information on his books, his work and himself apsergeant.com.
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