All week it has been about saving stuff and chucking other stuff out - getting my classroom ready for the next incumbent. I had kept news of my going secret from the pupils but in the last two days, my fifteen year olds got wind of what was happening. There were hugs and photographs, tears and cards. At breaktime I danced like a maniac with my "harem" of English teachers and Moira brought in two lovely homemade cakes. I picked the lemon one with lemon cream and lemon icing - delicious.
The clock was ticking and the end of term buffet was nigh. Does anybody really look forward to giving speeches? Two ICT (Computer) teachers were leaving after just one year. Then there was Adam the Technology teacher transferring elsewhere after five years in the job, Head of Art Derek - seconded to be a trainer with a fast-track graduate teacher programme, Emma the fellow English teacher promoted to another Sheffield school and Sandra the Science technician leaving after fifteen years in the job. Last but not least was yours truly.
Having worked for Sheffield Council for more than twenty five years, I knew I'd be getting an official citation in appreciation of my service though a fat cheque would have been nicer - "...you have worked tirelessly... continuously conveyed your passion for your subject.... totally committed to the education of young people in your care.... devoted service... well-respected."
Then it was my turn. I was determined to leave that workplace with dignity, a sense of achievement and a certain light-heartedness. Not for me the bitter departures I have witnessed from various departees in recent years - people who felt they had been truly shafted, blaming a self-righteous but ineffective senior management team led by the gabbling innovation-addicted harridan we call the headteacher.
I was calm and unhurried. I gave a history lesson about how the school had changed in quarter of a century. I praised the non-teaching staff and raised laughter when I referred to the number of cleaners I had been through. Above all, I praised my immediate colleagues for their energy, commitment and their unwavering support. I finished by referring to a memory I have retained since 1978 when I was a young teacher in the mining village of Dinnington.
It was early September. I looked out of my tumbledown terrapin classroom and saw two eleven year old boys wandering on the adjacent school field. I went out to them and I could see that one was clutching a map. Because a map is not three dimensional, the mapmaker had drawn the first floor Science suite in the nice empty space where the little boys were now walking. "What are you doing here?" I said. "We're looking for Science," they replied. Ending my speech, I said I very much identified with those two boys and their geographical dilemma.
There was warm applause and afterwards many hugs, handshakes, kisses, good wishes. I finally drove away, not quite knowing how I would feel but a voice from deep inside me said "Thank Christ that's over!" It was my time to go. I felt it in my bones.