The time of year parents of school-age children share a victory dance for surviving the summer holidays, and the time that teacher-folk remember that they actually have to get dressed in the mornings again.
We teachers thought the summer would never end. When they finally arrive, those glorious six weeks off seem like an absolute eternity, and we're out of here on the first Easy Jet flight quicker than anyone can say ‘Leaver’s Disco’. But, we know all good things must come to an end, and when September comes round like the drizzly grim reaper that she is, we’ve learnt the hard way that it’s best to just rip that back-to-school bandaid off quickly, because there's a job to be done and we’re not sitting down again until October half term.
The back to school photos have dominated the walls of social media this week – the obligatory hallway / front step photos of children reaching their new academic milestones. Parents up and down the country have been weeping silently into their sleeves as they wave their little ones off to Big School or watch them move with an unfathomable confidence further up the ranks. Nobody can quite get their heads around just how quickly they’ve grown - weren’t they all just babies yesterday?
But there’s no need to worry, because the teachers are ready for them. I assure you, we're ready. Because as much as we’ve been having a blast, instagramming our sand-covered toes and #lovinglife for the last six weeks, we’ve been thinking about your kids for some of it too. It’s actually impossible not to.
At some point over the latter half of the break, we've no doubt been spotted on a mad trolley-dash around Wilkos, because word got out that the glittery playdough was on offer, and we needed a few more games for the wet play cupboard. We’ve bought new posters for the walls (the old ones were looking tatty), and we got carried away with the jazzy pencil pots and stickers - lots and lots and lots of stickers. We’ve ordered new books for the reading corner, and we’ve scrolled for hours through Pintrest for some tried and tested crafts to roll out quickly so we’ve got something colourful to go up on the walls. We’ve popped into school for a day or two (or three or four) to get things just so – to unpack the stationery and clean out the cupboards, to photocopy resources and generally clear up the carnage that was left after the mass exodus on July 21st.
The peg tags are made and the trays are labelled, so each child has a place that’s theirs – a place to hang their coats and scarves, and a drawer to store their conkers and gloves and lists of big dreams and plans. We’ve broken every health and safety rule going by lugging around huge stacks of books, balancing on chairs and standing on tables to suspend string from the ceiling, and we’ve clambered up the school’s death-trap ladder to cover every inch of magnolia paint in multi-coloured backing paper. We’ve been busy creating a space that says, “Come on in, new person. This is for you!”
And you needn't fret, we’ve done our research. Notes get passed on and teachers do talk. We know who needs to sit near the front, whose peg needs to be on the end of the row to allow more personal space. We know who needs the toilet more often than the rest, who needs distracting with special jobs, and who needs a buddy at playtime. And for the new little ones, if we don’t know these things already, we’ll have them sussed out soon enough.
But you don’t know our children like we do! I hear you cry.
And you’re right of course, we don’t. But we know them in a different way, we know a different side. Primary schools are small and they’re impenetrably tight. Over a child’s seven year journey with us, we get to see them a lot. We see them in the playground, dressed up in school plays, shyly delivering a message to our classroom door. We see them in assembly, collecting medals with bashful grins, and performing karate routines to a stunned and watchful crowd. We see them outside when they play; we get to know who’s good at organising games and who runs really fast, who likes to sing, and who takes forever to eat lunch. We get to know the book-worms and the dare-devils, the day-dreamers, the peace-keepers and the mischief-makers. We see the ups and the downs of friendships - the bonds that are made and broken and made again, secrets whispered, discoveries made, hands held.
And we make bonds with them too. Because we’re more than just their teachers. We’re the safe storers of lost teeth, the giver of cold compresses, the councillors to broken hearts, the solver of quarrels, the double-knotters of untied laces, the disaster relief after a projectile vomit. We’re the givers of hugs and the wipers of tears, the patters of backs and the holders of hands. We’re there in the sunshine and we’re there in the storms, through all the set-backs and successes, the breakdowns and the break-throughs.
Forgive us that we can only be stretched so far. Especially when the government pulls names from a hat and puts a potato in charge of education. We know that your child is your baby, your beating heart, your number one, but there’s only one of us and maybe 24, 28, 32 of them – and while we’re making sure that they each know they matter, we’re teaching them that everybody else matters too.
Because the classroom is so much more than science and maths and phonics and SATs. We encourage them to be kind and patient and to help their friends. We show them the value of listening to others and waiting their turn. We help them learn that the classroom is a place to work together, to find resilience, to respect people’s differences, to challenge themselves and to do brave things; we teach them that pride comes from doing THEIR best, not being THE best. And we want you to know that when they’re proud and you’re proud – we share that too.
So you can trust us, please trust us, to leave your babies in our capable hands. We know what we’re doing, and we’re giving our all. Do
talk to us, we’re only human and despite what you might think.... we’re all on the same side.