“Goodbye to all my friends
The time has come for me to go.
Goodbye to all the souls
who sailed with me so long.
The coffee pot is cold
The jokes of all been told
The last don’t has been rolled away.”
Billy Bragg, Goodbye, Goodbye. Tooth & Nail (2008)
About six and a half years ago, I saw an advert in the TES to work at Park High. We were moving to the area and I was keen to get a job locally and I had been searching for a school within a few miles of my house. It was getting towards Easter and I was getting worried that I would not find anything suitable and then an advert for Park High popped up. I thought the universe was speaking to me as the school has the same name as my street, surely it was meant to be.
I came for interview on the last day before the break. I walked from the Tube with plenty of time, letting myself get a bit lost as I wondered around the local streets wondering what it was like. The school was very different from my previous institutions, the main building was a handsome 1930s modernist design which felt impressive although some if its glamour has faded over time. Architecturally, it reminded me of the north London tube stations with tall towers and art deco features. It was clearly a popular local school, oversubscribed but with a premium on space. Miraculously, 2000 pupils and staff squeeze into its nooks and crannies and make the magic happen everyday.
Nonetheless, it was the young people who impressed me the most. Whilst interview lessons are not normal, it was their enthusiasm for the learning which blew me away. They were willing to follow this unknown teacher into a new way of thinking and hold on to the reverie. I would like to say thank you to all the wonderful students who have made my time at Park so enjoyable. I have had over 50 cards from students with such lovely messages inside (all from my ‘best’ student) as well as a ‘retirement from Park’ tea party attended by colleagues as well as past and present students. Parting really is such sweet sorrow. I am genuinely sad that I will not be able to see some of these student to the end of their journey.
I must of course recognise the many wonderful staff at Park. My time has been made much easier by fantastic colleagues who have helped me be the best teacher I can and perhaps the greatest honour is that I can call many of them ‘friends’ rather than just work colleagues. I consider teaching to be an Olympic event, some people compare it to a marathon but I think it is more like the Winter Olympics, the one where you have to ski, slalom, shoot and paraglide all at the same time. It is not something you can do on your own and I have been very lucky with the support I have had. I have been privileged to teach alongside people who are much better teachers than me and our discussions on pedagogy have helped me develop my practice and sense of humour.
Leaving a school is rather like leaving a strange long-term relationship, one where you have become comfortable with each others idiosyncrasies and strange habits. Park has played an important part in my life and made me a better person for working there.
All changes in life are more or less tinged with melancholy for what we leave behind is part of ourselves.
For my colleagues, I have left a pile of unmarked books, three dried out marker pens and some cress-seeds in the keyboard. I did not want you to forget me in a hurry for I shall not forget you.