This time last week, I was ironing, packing and getting ready to take 53 children away on a residential camp for four days. This year was my eighth camp and over those years we’ve taken around 480 children with us to three different centres to do activities such as canoeing, abseiling, climbing, surfing, high ropes, bodyboarding, archery and team building activities.
In the early days of my teaching I went along as a deputy leader and enjoyed every single minute, enjoying being able to hang out with the kids outside the classroom and see new strengths and talents that cannot ordinarily be discovered within the confines of a school day. Over the last three years I have been the overall party leader and while it’s still lots of fun, it’s a whole other kettle of fish when you are ultimately acting loco parentis for 60 children! Nevertheless, we had huge amounts of fun and created many memories.
Over the years I have had the privilege to witness children overcoming huge fears and succeed in doing things they wouldn’t have ever dreamed they could do. I’ve seen the fear etched on their faces and then seen it transform into pure joy and triumph as they proudly come and tell me they did it. I’ve seen the quietest, most reserved children in the class suddenly transform into articulate, outspoken, strategic problem solvers able to lead whole groups to victory. I’ve seen children that struggle every single day in academic lessons flourish and excel in extreme outdoor sports. I’ve seen children over the span of the week discover new things about themselves. I’ve seen children comfort and care for each other, and even sometimes tag-team in doing so, when they are homesick. And every single minute reminds me just how precious my job is.
For many people a job is a means of earning enough money to be able to enjoy life, to pay bills, to provide for their families and while this is an obvious factor, it really isn’t what drives me. Teaching is not an easy profession. It’s not nine to five. You can’t just clock in and clock out. It has the potential to take over your life. It often takes over your evenings and weekends with planning, marking and organising. It can also take over your emotions. There have been many times when I’ve taken children ‘home’ with me in my heart, times when things have happened and I’ve been unable to turn off. But, it’s an amazing profession. A profession where you have the ability to impact little lives for the better and help children develop into beautiful little characters while setting them on course to go and reach their potential.
And this week, in the name of being a ‘teacher’, I have squelched through mud, getting splashed and splattered, I have got soaked through to the skin, I have been forced to abandon any hope of looking at all fresh-faced and fashionably dressed, I have been reduced to half the amount of coffee I usually need to get through a day, I have been sleep-deprived and I have found myself doing crazy things to entertain the children because I’ve weakened and given into the pressure of being chanted at by a group of ten and eleven year olds!
And. Honestly. I’ve loved it all. We’ve had fun, we’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve played, we’ve achieved, we’ve created memories that will last forever. And in that context, the role is priceless. Last night, I finished making and editing a video montage of photographs set to music for the Year 6 leaving assembly next week and this year more than ever, I will miss the children when they leave. They have been amazing, every single one of them. I wish I could post the video here but for obvious reasons, I can’t. It’s full of joy, smiles, laughter, triumph, growth, development, accomplishment, experience and celebration. The children have worked hard, I’ve worked hard and we’ve come to the end of another amazing year.
We have one more chockfull week together. We have two daytime performances and two evening performances of the Year 6 production of ‘Annie’, we have the evening leaving barbeque, we have the leaving assembly, we have a staff v year 6 football match, we have drawers to empty, books to send home, displays to take down, PE kits to go home, uniforms to be worn for a few more days before they are packed away forever and a million other things to do.
But at the end of the day it’s all good. My job is done for another year and I know the children are moving on to the next little phase in their lives. The foundations have been laid and they are ready for new adventures, new challenges and new memories. And … I have a blissful six weeks holiday stretched out before me to recharge the batteries!