After leaving university, I started teaching English in South Yorkshire. Thirty two years later I was an assistant headteacher but still head of the English department. It was at this stage that I opted for early retirement. After all, almost without me noticing, I had become the oldest teacher in the school.
As what they called a "middle manager", there were always so many things to remember. At first, I used a desk diary as an aide memoire. That was okay when I was at my desk but I often found there were things to jot down when I was away from my classroom. Consequently, for the last nineteen years of my illustrious teaching career I opted for pocket diaries instead. Where ever I was, the diary would be in the inner pocket of my jacket.
Each summer these pocket diaries were filed away in our old bureau desk at home. And there they sat - all in a line and never reopened. I wish that the entries within had been journalistic, recording what had happened each day with associated reflections but they were not that kind of diary.
Instead they contained swiftly written notes and reminders connected with teaching and department management. Dates of meetings - pastoral, department, heads of department, whole school staff meetings and appointments with parents, advisers, book sales people, the police, educational psychologists and social workers. Names of pupils caught fighting behind the tennis courts. Internal exam dates. External exam dates. Phone numbers. Library visits and planned staff absences. Deadline dates for assessments and work experience visits. And there were notes connected with my own teaching groups - homework issues, absences, merit awards etc..
|From April 1991|
I guess that someone somewhere, perhaps in an ivory tower, might have valued these diaries as historical evidence of a secondary school teacher's lot in the late twentieth and early twenty first centuries but when I spotted them earlier this week I just thought it was time they went. Sometimes you need to be ruthless. You can't hang on to everything so at last I have consigned them to the recycling bin.
But before ditching them I took the accompanying photographs to remind me of that other life I lived. At the time, it frequently seemed that there was nothing more important in the world than that last school with its 900 pupils and the things that happened in it but really we were like little fish in a small aquarium. There was of course an infinitely bigger and more significant world beyond that glass tank.