I teach, therefore I am.
For my first and only form (who I was honoured to tutor for three years) on their Year 11 Leavers Day. With thanks to Ms Pinto who put in all the hard work looking after them over the last two years.
I can’t believe you’ve reached this stage in your school life and that your GCSEs are all done. I’m sorry not to be there to watch you cross over this significant threshold in your academic life.
I remember the moment you arrived in my classroom: your faces round with childhood; your eyes restless, darting around taking it all in. I remember how you shuffled into your places with each other, working out who would lead and who would follow, determining who would be your allies for the next few years.
I looked at you and felt overwhelmed with the honour that I had of being your form tutor. We had our times – most of Year 7 felt like an end of the day detention as I called you back for some silliness or lack of work. But I did so because I expected more of you and I knew you were capable of it. You proved me right far more often than you proved me wrong – like the time I made you write down who you liked in the form and why because you’d been arguing and you picked out people for their fun but also for their kindness and for their impressive work in school. You made me so proud. And didn’t we win together, whether it was Christmas decoration competitions or end of year best form awards (I’m sure they were called something more diplomatic like most watchmarks but let’s stick with “best form”).
Saying goodbye to you at the end of Year 9 was tough but I knew that you were amongst a great crowd of teachers who would look after you and push you to succeed. I hope you appreciate them. I hope you know that those who gave you the hardest time, who set you challenges and didn’t let you get away with anything were those who probably cared the most. I’ve kept an eye on you from afar over the last few years and have heard of your wins and losses, your highs and lows. Some of you will end this year with your head held high, sure in the knowledge that you worked your hardest and gave it your all. Some of you know that you could have done better but listen when I say this isn’t the end. You have time to turn it around and to choose a wiser path – make the most of that opportunity!
The end of Year 11 signifies a moment when you have to begin making choices for yourself about the life you want to lead. Want some answers? Read! Read, read, read until you lose yourself and then read until you find yourself again. Use the next few years to soak up all that you can from your remaining education whatever path you’ve chosen to follow. I’m sure you will get many messages about the ‘men’ you should now become, I hope you think less about this and more about the people you want to be and the contribution you want to make to this world. Be critical of anything telling you what you should be – learn some more first and then work it out yourself. Read some philosophy, debate with people you don’t agree with, let your ideas be challenged
Look after yourselves and look after each other. It’s been five years together now – that’s got to be worth something! As you wrote in the song you composed – “For now and always you will be/An everlasting part of 2P”.
So stand together in the sun and be proud of yourselves because I am so very proud of you.