In the sliver of time between waving off the last child for their summer holidays, and coming back for the ‘do’, it occurred to me that I should have prepared a speech.
Last time I left Thrush Woods, I’d given quite a lot of thought to what I was going to say. A neat little speech at the Leavers’ Service in the afternoon. The last eight years have been very special, the school is very special, the staff are very special but I need a new challenge. So long and thanks for all the fish.
In those days, I was still ambitious. I moved to a much bigger school: in theory, promotion but quickly found it frustrating. Less opportunity to try things out; less opportunity to make a difference. I do have friends who enjoy working in larger schools but it wasn’t the right thing for me. After two terms, I had the chance to come home and I took it. The last twelve-and-a-bit years have been by way of an extended comeback tour.
Off the top of my head, I can think of six other staff who have also left and returned to Thrush Woods. We’re thinking of twinning the school with Hotel California.
Teachers across the country are resigning in their droves at the moment but only two of us are going at Thrush Woods: Gill Archer and I. Both retiring. Gill has been our Special – sorry, Additional – Needs and Assessment Co-ordinator; and a jolly fine one at that, battling to get the best possible support for our most vulnerable youngsters. I hope she doesn’t mind me sharing with you the thank you letter she opened yesterday.
I’ve said before, I was lucky to get the job at Thrush Woods and I’ve been equally lucky in the timing of my retirement, in that Gill is the world’s most organised person. So my input into the organising of our do, (yes, why is it called a “do”?) has mainly been that of Chief Nodder. She bought the friendship bench that we donated to the school, and organised the plaque, and booked the caller for the hoe-down in the evening, and divvied out the jobs for the catering. I did a lot of agreeing.
Things were made extra special for me when it turned out that DearHeart would be able to join me for the last day of term. It was brilliant to be able to show off my school to her, and the children were intrigued that someone as old as their teacher should still have a friend. While I was flapping around with end of term stuff, she was being given a master-class in Loom Band weaving. I’m sure that, as I write this, she is spreading her discoveries among the natives of Yorkshire.
I could have said a few words at the church in the afternoon but came over all un-necessary. It didn’t matter, as the Leavers’ service is about Year Six flying the coop and they had plenty to say. But, rather late in the day, I realised that I should have prepared a speech for the evening.
When Pa retired, he said “I’ve been here for thirty years and hated every day of it.” No-one believed a word, of course.
While ActorLaddie and DearHeart were getting freshened up for the evening, I tried to plan a speech but my thoughts stubbornly refused to be marshalled. It was all too big a deal to get my head around. I’d just have to trust to the inspiration of the moment.
And everything was magical. The weather was perfect. Family and colleagues – past and present – swang their partners and do-si-doed the evening away on the meadow beside the school. There was just the right amount of food, plenty of drink and a phenomenal cake. Mr Headteacher gave a very kind speech, Gill a gracious one, and I wittered away a bit. When it was too dark to see, even by candle-light, we cleared up and went home.
And that’s it. Me retired. Well, I’m going in a bit this week to tie up a few loose ends but by August I’ll be done and dusted. Not how I thought things were going to work out but, as I think I quoted in my speech – although, frankly, it’s all a blur – life is what happens while you’re making other plans.