Thankfully, I had provisionally booked the School Hall and Community Lounge for such a circumstance, so I decided to relocate. The afternoon was spent on the phone letting people know, and then preparing the hall and lounge. Things got a bit hectic, but we got everything ready on time. Two friends and Suraj did the honours on the several BBQs, Sarah handed out a quiz that I had prepared, and Sue was a blur sorting out the food, chatting with people and organising things. Charlotte and Sarah both looked stunning and made me feel very proud to have such pretty daughters (they take after their dad). Jamie meandered around helping out where necessary (scoffing the food!) mixing with the guests and enjoyed having his photo taken. His girlfriend Harriet arrived at 10.45 pm, she stayed for a while and then they left for another party.
At the age of 5 yrs. (1958) my mother took me to Thurcroft Infants School for the very first time and now 50 years later having never left the world of education, I walked out of Farndon Fields Primary school for the very last time (maybe). With celebrations all over, I now have time to sit, relax and do what I want to do, when I want to do it. That’s the theory.
The last few weeks:
Schools get very busy towards the end of the academic year. I attended several children’s classes/year discos and organised two class trips (I had a stomach virus during one of them and took the following day off). I helped at the PTA Summer Fete, organised the school Sports Day, and organised and attended the Area Sports meeting. I attended several Governors’ meetings, PTA meetings and Community Association Meetings, I took more assemblies than I care to remember, and I managed to do a bit of teaching in between. I feel as if I have galloped to the finishing line, and now there is a nagging doubt at the back of my mind that I may be facing an emptiness which I will not know how to fill.
I am not alone; I have three members of staff crawling through the escape tunnel with me. Wilma, our Scottish Year 2 teacher is returning to Scotland (her marriage broke up this year). Anne, the office ancillary was also at the age of retirement and didn’t like the ‘new idea’ of ancillaries being called Teaching Support Assistants and being asked to cover classes when teachers are ill or on courses. Eleanor, the school secretary and bursar has decided to move on to a much bigger and better job (so avoid the coming backlash of some injudicious budgetary decisions by the present Head).
Anne and I have been employed by Leicestershire Education Authority for the last 25 years and as a reward, we were given £250 to spend on a present for ourselves (of course the money comes out of school funds!). Anne chose a bike and opted for a Satmap Active 10 GPS (a brilliant bit of kit) to help me on the many walks I intend to take.
During my final meeting with the school Governors, I was presented with a gold pen and a silver paperweight, and at my final meeting with the PTA, I was presented with a voucher for a rotavator, the dress I wore at a previous ‘Stars in their Eyes’ Talent Contest and a case of wine. And then finally, a staff farewell was held for the four of us at the Angel Hotel. The food was very good, some people of us got very drunk and I entertained them with an impromptu (prepared speech) which ended with Wilma throwing some England memorabilia at her (mostly) English audience.
As I was expecting, the most difficult of all was the final day of farewell with the Year 6 children at our Leaver’s Assembly. Hankies were passed around staff, parents and children alike as Richard (Year 6 teacher) conducted a heart-wrenching assembly with his class. My turn came again at the very end of the assembly, the tears flowed copiously after Richard’s eulogy of the Year 6 children, and I was presented with more gifts. As I stepped up to the front, I would guess I had similar feelings to that of a condemned man prior to meeting the hangman’s noose It wasn’t a moment for light-heartedness, so when requested for a speech, I gave the shortest one in 35 years; ‘At the age of twenty I had only three ambitions in life; one, to be happy, two, to have a brilliant job, and 3, to meet some wonderful people, and I think I have achieved that.’ I held it together just long enough to exit.
At the end of the day, as the children were leaving for home, I became quite emotional as parents and children sought me out to say a last goodbye. People can say such kind things and for once I did really feel appreciated. In the past, on occasions, I have had to comfort parents when they have been quite distraught about their child, those times I have always found difficult, but coping with parent after parent with tears running down their cheeks and recalling such lovely memories that had at the time had been very important to them, but I had long since forgotten, brought rather moist eyes from yours truly.
Finally leaving school, at 4 pm, I met up with Sue, Sarah and Jamie at the surgery for some Yellow Fever injections for our upcoming holiday and found out that Jamie and I needed a Typhus booster as well!! The Yellow Fever injections cost £31.45 each! And you don’t get a guarantee it will work, ouch!
Charlotte, Suraj and Lucas came on Friday to help with my retirement BBQ. On Saturday we put up a Marquee and Gazebo in the garden while Sue prepared the salads and got the meat defrosting nicely. I had previously tidied the garden and it looked nice and pretty (even extra cleaned the swimming pool). THEN, at noon we had a heavy rain shower, when I checked the Met Office’s weather forecast it predicted more showers (not a problem, we had plenty of undercover space) but the temperature was to fall to a very chilly 6 degrees, NOT what was needed for an evening BBQ!!!!
Lucas surprised everybody with his quickness of feet and ability to disappear in a fraction of a second, he was certainly the hit of the party with the ladies (maybe a sign of things to come?). For entertainment, I booked a local rock band (East-West). They were excellent and played the set that I had requested, but as a surprise they gave a superb rendition of Pink Floyd’s ‘Another Brick in the Wall’ and appropriately we all sang loudly ‘Teacher, leave them, kids, alone!’ We eventually got to bed at around 1.30 am.
It was back to reality on Sunday. We spent most of the morning in school, tidying, clearing up and washing. The school hadn’t looked so clean in years! Not surprisingly, we had another BBQ lunch with the leftover meat. During the afternoon Sarah accompanied Charlotte and her family back to Newark, while in the evening Sue and I went to the cinema to watch ‘Hot Fuzz’, a brilliantly funny film (I recommend it).
Now retirement starts in earnest!