Well, it’s been an emotional few hours. After a (fortunately) fleeting visit to A&E with a bump-headed baby, we made a stop off at McDonalds as said baby’s dinner was about to be served up before she managed to tip over her high chair. While we were queuing at the Golden Arches, my very-nearly teacher husband (MVNTH) was accosted by three young girls who were ex-pupils, filling him in on their secondary school exploits. To be honest, it didn’t make good listening. Fallings out, fights and broken noses were all being bragged about. MVNTH listened to it all, taking in what they were saying and offering wise words and advice about how their decisions now would affect their futures. Of course, the girls listened to everything he said (whilst discussing their plans for the rest of the evening), but whether they heard or not could easily be debated.
As we sat devouring our Big Tastys and fries (I know, we are very bad parents, but by this point, we were all very hungry), the inevitable comment was made by MVNTH: “I just wish I could have done more to help them while they were at school”. Come on, teachers, be honest: who has ever uttered that phrase? I bet we all have at one point or another. So let’s stop and think about this. Think of an individual who you could say this about. And then think about what you did for them. I bet you greeted them with a smile each day. Asked them how they were feeling when they came in every morning. Talked to them when things were getting tough. Overlooked a misdemeanour because you knew that they were having a difficult time. Gave them advice which, even if they didn’t think about at the time, will probably come back to them one day.
So often, we beat ourselves up because a child has begun to stray onto the wrong path or made wrong choices once they leave the security of primary school. We spend so long with these children and get to know them so well that we begin to view them as our personal charges. We do so much for them, we take their successes and failures personally. But at the end of the day, we cannot take responsibility for everything that happens to them. We are in a position of authority and influence, but once they pass through the school gates at half past three, we have to hand that responsibility back to their families. We have the opportunity to shape and mould them as individuals, to educate them and provide them with skills to get them through life and to succeed, but the ultimate responsibility of turning them into decent, well rounded young adults lies with the people they spend the other 18 hours a day, the weekends and the holidays with. During those 6 hours a day that they spend in our care, we can help them to make friends, to have fun, to learn and to be children. For that short period every day, we can help them to forget the difficulties that they may have at home, and provide them with the tools they need to begin to deal with them. We can mentor them, counsel them, and most importantly, teach them. And then, on that glorious day in the middle of July when they leave our class, we can hold our heads high knowing that, whatever may happen to them in the future, we at least did our very best for them.