I suppose I have to say something. I want to. But it’s just so hard. How do you sum up fourteen and a bit years of your life in a few minutes? I’m struggling to! So I finish up at work next week, and I guess there will come a time when I have the opportunity to say something. Nobody has told me I’ll get this chance, but you’d hope that they’d give me a few minutes to say goodbye before the end. But how? I’ve already written and deleted three different versions. I started with attempts at humour. Then I had a go at something a little more reflective and serious. Then I tried a poem. It’s just so hard to sum up so many years.
When I started in my job, I was engaged. I had two years teaching experience. I was playing basketball a few times a week. I was still a kid. I leave now, fourteen years later, divorced, an experienced teacher and a parent myself! So much has changed, but the constant in my life has always been the school. I haven’t always liked it, and it hasn’t always liked me. But we’ve always been there for each other. A constant companion through the years.
The things you remember across such a span of time are quite unpredictable. I’m surprised, while I sit here at my desk and mull over what has been. There were the pranks: a piece of fruit left on my desk over the holidays… drawers and handbags filled with packing peanuts… everything on a desk bagged up and placed perfectly back where it was. Then, the moments of triumph: a student sending an email many years later to thank us for everything we’d done… the kid who just couldn’t get to school, finally doing half a day… the student so engaged in my subject that she asks for more work. Also, the moments of sadness: the marriage breakdowns (including my own!)… colleagues experiencing illness or even passing… students suffering at home with unwell or unfit parents. But then, the moments of celebration: the end of year parties… the victories on the sporting fields and academic competition… the kid who struggles all year to even connect with you, but comes through at the end to get the certificate.
These are all big moments. But there are also so many little things that have made my time in this job so special. In my part of the school, we have a kitchen. So food has become pretty central to our days. The fridge is always full and nutrition has become a big topic of conversation, often led by our resident body building champion! There have been roasts just cobbled together, Dutch style. There have been pasta days. We have eaten left over lamb rack in meetings. The Kingston’s didn’t usually last long on the table until a certain colleague finished up at the end of last year. The spontaneous burger lunches from Grill’d were always good. My food highlight, however, is much more simple, if not a little unprofessional. When the aforementioned body building colleague would knock on the classroom door with a question, you knew it was going to have a good outcome. It was always one of two options, always beginning with “Hey mate!” Then it would continue with either, “You want a coffee?” or “You want some eggs?” I don’t ever recall saying no. And yes, I tucked into those eggs while my students continued with their work!
But lately, these things changed. Not because people were any less collegial, but because they just have so much to do. There are so many things taking our teachers away from their core business, that there is far less time to build relationships among ourselves. And I strongly believe the students will be poorer for it. Teachers who work well together, get along, support each other and want each other to succeed are the ones who will get the best from students. And if they’re so snowed under that sometimes even a smile is difficult, how can they really get the best out of themselves and those around them?
But I digress. The positives really do far outweigh the negatives! So many colleagues have become incredible friends. Some of these friends will be in my life forever. Some will fade. But the friendships have been the lynchpin of my time at the school. From the colleagues who welcomed me to the languages office fourteen years ago, to the unknown newbies who shared a shy smile of greeting with me this week. But the ones who are still there at the end of the day, they are the ones who’ll remain with me. The ones with whom I’ve played basketball. The ones with whom I’ve shared a bottle of wine on a Thursday night. The ones who ask me how I’m going and really mean it. The ones with whom I’ve shared a late night Facebook chat. Who call me on the holidays. Who know me for who I am. They are what I’ll take with me.
Things have gotten hard for me at work over a longer period of time than I’d care to admit. But I’ve given my best. And now I know it’s time to move on to a new chapter of life. It will be a different chapter. It will be exciting. It will be full of challenges and triumphs. But I will never forget the people who have made the last fourteen years of my life so rich. You are what I’ll take with me. Thank you for everything. There is so much more to say. So many people to thank. To hug. That will come. You know who you are.