I’ve been in and out of school over the last two weeks and not spending as much time with Favourite Daughter as I’d like. She starts her new life in London in one week and will then become a teacher too.
Two weeks of exam results remind me, however, just how brilliant students are – not necessarily because of their results (some are jaw dropping, naturally), but because of the way they respond to them. Invariably it all works out, even if there are some life lessons to be had in acknowledging that the outcomes didn’t produce a rainbow. League tables mask the students’ latent ability and the rubbish they often contend with as they sit their exams – garbage often way out of their control and not of their own making. I’ve learnt over the years that it is the students dealing with the most difficult circumstances who seldom ask for special consideration in exams and who just keep pressing on regardless; they are always the most modest about their achievements. They always teach us most.
Time to shout out also to parents and grandparents to remind them that they too have contributed to a job well done. There are scant parenting guides* out there and the few there are give only a sprinkling of tips to help conquer the teenage distractions of gaming, texting and ‘Love Island’. It’s a thankless task for a parent; it’s exhausting holding the line and they often do it alone. Then, on Results Day, most parents are ordered to stay in their car while their white-faced adolescent walks into a school hall to collect their results (‘I don’t want you hugging me in public, mum’) and then have to come creeping in when they can stand the wait no longer – by this time, son or daughter has usually totally forgotten about their existence and left them in limbo in the euphoria of celebration, disappointment or the request to jump frenetically high with a group of friends for a photographer from the local newspaper.
Teachers too should find time to modestly congratulate themselves on their tenacity, consistency and inventiveness in supporting students through to the home straight and onto the next life stage. It’s not a job for the faint hearted – few jobs face you relentlessly with 30 different challenges on the hour every hour. Few jobs open you to such public feedback – yes class results and parent emails, but also comments from your teenage clients on your bingo wings, hair colour, VPL** or bad taste in fashion (perhaps this is just my students). Nothing more rewarding though than having a student come and shake you by the hand (yes, this happened to me this year) to thank you for their exam result. Nothing more rewarding than a letter of appreciation from a parent. Nothing more rewarding than knowing we didn’t let anyone down. Again.
As Favourite daughter enters the teaching profession her nerves and excitement are all too familiar; anyone who works in a school – they don’t have to be a teacher, even those with a lifetime of school experience under their pedagogical belt, and especially Headteachers – starts having broken nights and butterflies during the last weeks of the summer holidays. (Stage whisper from the commercial sector: ANOTHER REASON WHY TEACHERS SHOULD HAVE SHORTER HOLIDAYS). However it’s the rush of nerves and the unpredictability a new set of classes will bring, that keeps us in the game. We’re never bored, we get plenty of exercise and we’re able to carve our way neatly through a packed corridor at speed (I rate the latter life skill highly; walking with attitude is a blessing at music festivals and in the January sales).
In the last days of the holidays I’m determined to spend more time with my daughter before she starts her new life. Strange hitting the stationery shops with her though, both cramming our school bags with a range of coloured marking pens, highlighters and stand out notebooks – the amoury of any good teacher – ready for September. The ‘back to school shop’ used to be preparation for sending her back to school as a student in a crisp new uniform after an argument about sensible school shoes, now I find myself looking forward to learning from her cutting edge teaching techniques and a discussion about schemes of learning for our GCSE set texts. (‘Get out more mum or at least stay in your car’).
I couldn’t be more proud. She’s going to be a brilliant teacher and I’d love to be a fly on the wall of her classroom but I’ll be too busy and she wouldn’t let me; I know she’ll really be making a difference. I’ll distract myself by drawing up some new seating plans and digging out my favourite teacher kitten heels (I too can own this look, Theresa M). At least we’ll get the same (LONG) holidays.
As we reach the shop checkout, on this occasion I’m happy to pick up the tab, it’s just like old September times. Job well done. It’s surely worth another shout out.
* We Need to Talk – a straight talking guide to raising resilient teens. Ian Williamson. I really rate this book – wish it had been published when my children were teenagers.
** VPL – Visible Panty Line (line from an advert from the ’80’s)