A year ago, I sat where I sit now writing the Christmas blog; a parent sat down at the spare window seat beside me, waiting for his wife to return with the Christmas shopping and off-loaded about his weed-smoking son and lack of power.
A year ago, I wasn’t a parent, but a year since I am the happy father to a beautiful baby girl. For over twenty years, my accumulated wealth of experience working with children comes into sharp focus; my wife, having taught no less completes our hydra-headed determination to create the perfect human girl, who, actually is perfect already. Our enthusiasm grows as our sleep diminishes.
This year, I am as exhausted as my pupils are. At 4 in the morning, the night before the start of the week, my daughter begins to choke and cough uncontrollably. I engage daddy mode and relieve my wife of our precious treasure, rock, comfort, pat and rub, until, eventually, the coughs subside, the hacking dissipates and she falls into fitless slumber. The daddy force is strong with this one, think I, in no way fearful of my over-confidence.
On the 90 mile journey in to work my eyelids slip and slide fighting back the tiredness. I promise myself a nap as soon as I get in. There is just about enough time between printing the day’s resources and registration.
The van pulls in to the car park. I log on, print my resources, and curse the fact a handful of eager Christmas elves are in early too, decorating our tutor room. Determined to nap, I let them know I’ve had little sleep and put my feet up, drape my coat over my legs and they busy themselves in welcome hush. I thank God for these thoughtful angels and apply points on our rewards system for each of them.
Two minutes into the nap the guilt sets in and I jerk awake.
More alert after a coffee I see to my next, most important, task:
My weekly tutor time album, or artist, of the week makes way for Mariah. The unavoidable herald of winter’s welcome to Christmas. There are moans and groans aplenty, cheers too with tuneful accompaniment. It’s the start of the week, the last week before the Christmas freeze on learning. The new Head warns all against the season’s temptation to show dvds. In days of yore, I remember kids turning up with sacks packed with Christmas entertainment; travelling, Santa-like, from one lesson to the next and pleading the case for Elf, or Home Alone and even Saw 3; twelve year olds turning up with 18 rated movies. My appreciation for their parents’ oh so dutiful care always sky-rocketed when I saw the certificate, and I looked forward, oh so more, to future Parents evenings and the plethora of excuses that would tag along for late and incomplete homeworks and poor behaviour.
These red-cheeked cherubs were the picture of Mary and Joseph looking for safe harbour; a friendly inn to kick back and chill after the long journey through half-term. Each and every time I was the inn keeper who denied entry, holding to the party line, not even offering a stable – learning must march on, not perhaps Herod and the Slaughter of the Innocents, but the slaughter of Key Stage 3 innocence.
My last day ends with a Year 11 double. We make it, by a whisker, to the end of Macbeth and they are now ready; tuned and primed. This term has been a marathon run to complete the text and exam prep. There won’t be time post-Christmas. We are moving from mixed ability to streamed classes.
It’s a last ditch effort.
The year group needs fresh slates and fresh faces.
My last lesson with these Year 11s is a whirlwind and one to remember. Suddenly and eventually, the loudest and most obnoxious of the assembled delights sparks into life. He becomes that person you went to school with, many moons ago, who was truculent, pimply and opinionated, making no notes and handing every homework in late, and then, discovers Speed at some end of year house party; they operate at a hundred and eleven miles per hour, try and fit two years of partying into one night, feel like every answer to every question is an epiphany and pukes up on your mum’s Turkish rug instead of the waste paper bin not two yards distant. You hear tales of them waking naked in a hedge in the park and their legend is complete.
Tried and tested stalwarts of learning in my class look at each other in bemusement; they look at me too and we share this time of perplexity.
“Wait, Lady Macbeth DIDN’T kill Duncan?”
Was it the fact he and his partner realised this was it?
The cliff edge.
They both knew they were moving down the pecking order in these new sets: reaping what they didn’t sow.
The last day of term I’m off, but it’s the Christmas concert, so my wife and I take the baby on the 90 mile journey to meet colleagues and kids. Groups of Year 7s wait outside my room in anticipation; staff coo and applaud the progeny of our loins; my favourite Year 11s come to say hello after the concert wishing us all Happy Christmas and confirming, that though there is a set shift, I still have them next year.
They seem happy, so I must be doing something right.