Sometimes, the holidays arrive and I feel a sense of foreboding.
There are some students I know were willing the term to last that bit longer, who really didn’t want the holidays to begin. Some who stayed in school until the very last moment they could. Some, for whom time spent in school makes it a sanctuary they cling to at all costs. Some, who smile and laugh along while friends talk of their holiday plans or traditions, whilst inside are sad that they don’t have the same happy prospect; jealous, really, that their friends do. Some, for whom this winter break isn’t marked with any festivity, rather it’s marked by the lack of it in this continued ‘cost of living crisis’. Some who will witness terrible neglect and even abuse, and others who will tragically fall victim to both. Some, sadly, with wisdom way beyond their years.
It is some comfort to know that we have tried to provide all students with a sense of not only safety, but of community, and - crucially - of love, whilst they are with us.
Actually, there is a lot of love in this first term. This can be seen in the care with which teachers plan and deliver their lessons, in the way so many staff (both teaching and non-teaching) support students individually outside of class, and in the time taken to ensure families are kept ‘in the loop’ with our provision. Love is woven into welcome events which eased the transition to a new school or year group, assemblies given on important issues, wellbeing events, clubs and societies. Love is evident in the joy of witnessing talented students perform in concerts, proudly accepting certificates at awards evenings, revision masterclasses, sporting fixtures, quizzes, dance performances. Love is found in charity events, languages song contests, the creation of school newspapers, rehearsals for the school musical, teachers giving up time to complete mock-interviews for university applicants… the list is endless.
Many of our students are oblivious to the time that staff put in to provide these joyful experiences. That they just accept and even expect them as normality, is testament to the enormous efforts of staff to provide them so routinely. There are also many students, though, who are so acutely aware and incredibly appreciative of these moments of care, and of love. They feel it, and that’s why, despite how exhausting it is, we all continue to go ‘above and beyond’.
When we end the term, all we can do is hope we have communicated everything we can to those we should in order to keep our young people as safe as possible. Care and communication, when we distil everything down, are all we have.
And then there’s the guilt. Because, as teachers and school leaders, we need this break. The first term is a gruelling one and it hits hard in terms of exertion and exhaustion. We’ve earned a rest. And our loved ones need us to switch off, to connect and to enjoy. We need this too.
But, it’s sometimes in these joyful moments that we remember the young people in our care who are not getting to experience the same. All we can do is pick up again in January, relentless in our pursuit of the best provision, support and outcomes for those we serve; regardless, and sometimes in spite of, their particular contexts.
It’s a tricky thing, this teaching lark - tricky but crucial. A precarious privilege, built on love.