(24) A Punch, A Pinch (of Cinnamon) and Quite A Few Goodbyes.
Updated: Apr 10, 2020
Are your eyes wet Mrs Gillies? Yes they are. This week has seen my eyes wet many times. I have ten classes which I teach the Expressive Arts and French to. Wednesday's first class came in, each with a closed daffodil and put it in a vase, which their teacher had put on the desk. Each child said their own goodbye message to me. On Thursday I had a Haka from one class, who I have been teaching dance to. What does it feel like to have a whole class group hug? Knocked sideways.....
With each class this week, we finished up with this term's favourite song, Jambo, a Swahili song. I made a point of meeting every child in the eye and holding it for a fraction longer than I normally would. They didn't know that was me saying goodbye personally, to each of them. I knew it though. In those goodbyes there were some with the added 'I will really miss you'. There were some with 'What an absolute star you are.' There were, of course, some with 'I will miss you, but I am glad to not be teaching you anymore.....'' And then there were also the odd few with 'I hope you fucking change your mind about your behaviour.' I have had to say goodbye to 275 children this week. It is a coincidence, with this goodbye song, that Jambo means Hello.
Hello child minding. Hello cleaning. Hello more piano, hopefully. Hello the odd day of supply. Goodbye reporting to parents at 3 in the morning (275 report paragraphs for french. 275 for music, 200 for art, 275 for dance is a very large number of paragraphs). Goodbye updated behaviour policy..... Two weeks ago I was punched by a child. He was one of the ones who definitely had a swear word along with his goodbye. I said in that eye moment what I could not say out loud. What the fuck makes you think in any way that it is alright for you do that? How the fuck do you dare walk into my classroom and think it is ok to run around shouting? Why the fuck have we been told only to reward and no longer sanction? (Seriously there was talk of saying 'Do you remember last week, when you chose not to run around my classroom shouting? Do you remember how good it felt to make those good choices last week?' And then just leave it to the child to be so overcome by a good feeling memory and a desire to go back to it, that they stop.) FUCK. RIGHT. OFF. I know that the cycle of doing wrong, feeling shit and self loathing, and doing wrong again needs to be broken. I know there are reasons behind the behaviour, sometimes appalling ones, heartbreaking. But we are not managing it this way.
There are some kids you just love anyway, in spite of their behaviour. I can't help comparing two boys who both want to come into my classroom shouting. My room had many cool things, including a piano and a drum kit, in it. They each want to make the loudest noise they can, these boys..... One I really do like. The other, not at all. Some children you just cannot take to. And you try. Not many, fortunately. But still. And it does feel wrong to say that it loud... I want to make up for that by saying that even with the brash, punching, fuck-off one, I added a YOU. CAN. CHANGE....
So many hugs..... Spontaneous ones, heartfelt ones, tentative ones, bandwagon ones. My very last hug from a child in the school was at the end of the day and he ran in to the classroom as he walked passed my door. I haven't actually taught him this year and when I did a while ago, I dreaded that class so much and my hair went straight every time I had him. Some kind of hair shock reaction.... A couple of years ago it would not have surprised me if he were running into the class to kick me or shout an obscenity at me. The thought did cross my mind actually. But no. It was a hug. My (silent) goodbye to him was 'It will be fucking hard for you to change your behaviour, you are one of the heartbreaks. But please, PLEASE change.'
I also hugged a fair few staff. It is an enormous school (of over 600 children). Not one for frequenting the actual staff-room - I prefer to chat in doorways, standing up - I did the goodbye tour. I have really enjoyed working at this school and the staff have been incredibly nice. And then I said goodbye to four colleagues properly on the last day of term. I'd invited them round for a tapas type dinner, slowly spread over a few hours. They brought gins (PLENTY), games (RIDICULOUS BUT FUNNY ONES), swearwords (FUCKING LOADS) and laughs (LOUD ONES). I managed to pluck up the courage to give them my goodbye song, which I wrote on my first day not teaching (YESTERDAY). I have really enjoyed working with them and I will miss them. One of them I had a lift from every day. She is my age but relatively new to teaching. This is her second year and it is much harder than she thought it would be. It always is. We have laughed, cried, whooped and sworn our way to school as we have swapped stories, backgrounds, what we had for dinner and general ongoing school stuff. I like to think it was a bit therapeutic, although as I said earlier, with some children the answers to their problems are very well hidden.
In my goodbye bag, among other lovely things, were all the ingredients for Port toddies. Port. Lemons. Cloves. Cinnamon! Port Toddy Friday, apparently. I may not need a restorative port up in Applecross but shall certainly give it a go. I love port. We both do. In all probability we will finish it before we go. We are about to start packing, ready to go up to help Ian in a week's time. Then we hire a van in Inverness, drive it down here, load it up, and say a final goodbye to Linlithgow, drive up , unpack, drive back to Inverness, drive home and SLEEP........ In the meantime, you fabulous four, you are fucking good teachers.......