I hope you don’t mind, but 6YO won’t be coming into school on her last day on Tuesday armed with a ‘thank you teacher’ card and present. It’s not because we don’t appreciate you, but just because I suspect that with 30 children in the class, you’ll be getting more cards and chocolates than you can comfortably carry to your car in one journey.
What I have done is given her a pen and paper, and told her to write you a letter telling you what she’s enjoyed about this year. The letter is sealed up and ready to be taken into school on the last day. I wasn’t allowed to see it – “it’s not for you, Mummy!” – so I can only hope it’s a fair reflection of the progress she’s made in her writing this year, and doesn’t harp on too much about her disappointment that she still hasn’t managed to sneak a look inside the boys’ toilets.
Her letter will probably mention some memorable highlights of the year, but because she’s only six, it probably won’t express the impact you’ve had on her life since September. So I thought I’d try and explain, on her behalf. She’s not had a perfect, easy year. She hates school dinners, and she’s been between friendship groups, finding her feet. But despite all that, she’s loved coming to school. She loves that you never shout, that you always speak kindly, that you tell her when she’s done a good job. She’s thrilled that she’s learned to count in fives up to one hundred. She takes it very seriously – far more seriously than I do, with all my skepticism about unrealistic government targets – when you send her home with spellings to practise. She was so proud of being one of the Three Little Pigs in the school play, and she made my heart melt when she came back from a trip to Yorkshire Sculpture Park, and told me seriously that she preferred Henry Moore to Barbara Hepworth.
I don’t doubt that teachers work hard all year round, but as a parent, the sheer amount of stuff going on in the final weeks of the summer term really bring it home. The end of term trips, school sports days, charity events and everything else that’s going on must take a massive amount of organising, at a time when you’re probably ready to collapse over the finish line. And here’s the thing that really gets me, the crucial difference between your job and mine, and just about every other job I can think of: obviously all of us have times at work which are full-on hectic, but in my job, the results of my efforts are satisfied customers and targets achieved. In your job, you’re making memories that kids will carry with them all their lives. And that’s pretty incredible.
So thank you. Not for teaching my kid to spell common exception words and recognise a fronted adverbial. I know you’ve got to jump through those hoops whether or not you feel it’s right for pupils. But thank you for being a role model of kindness and patience. Thank you for listening every Monday to what thirty kids have done over the weekend. And thank you for collapsing in a heap in the teachers’ race at sports day, and then running over to give my little one a high-five, putting a beaming smile back on her face after she’d come last in the egg and spoon race. You – and this is all of you, at high schools and primary schools around the country – do an incredible job, that I certainly couldn’t even begin to tackle. You’re the key people in the proverbial village that it takes to raise a child. I know the conventional wisdom is that how kids turn out is all down to parents, but I just wanted to tell you that you really do make a difference.
Have a brilliant summer.
A grateful mum xx