10 things that school memories are made of

The end of the school year is poignant if you're moving on – you think of the things you'll miss, says Yvonne Williams

Yvonne Williams

The school play might be headache at the time, but you'll laugh about the teacher cameos and mishaps for years, writes Yvonne Williams

It can be a poignant time as the school year winds down. Holidays are in sight: just three weeks to go.

And, for those moving on, the euphoria of landing a new job/promotion/alternative career can be a little tempered by nostalgia.

No, it’s not the mounds of admin you’ll miss, and not necessarily the great lessons, satisfying though they may be. It’s the things you didn’t sign up for: the comic, challenging, most human moments. 

Happy teacher memories

So here are the top 10 things we didn’t realise we were signing up for, in no particular order:

  1. Participating in school sports day
    There’s always the staff race, sometimes in fancy dress. Seeing colleagues run in rabbit suits in the heat of summer has always been a highlight, but getting picked for the department relay team is a definite bonus. It’s a carefully organised affair, with some colleagues starting ahead of others, some splitting the 100m leg, all in the interests of ensuring a fair contest. Unsurprisingly, there’s always one department more competitive than others, practising baton changes, checking the timings and stats… 
  2. The inter-house drama competition 
    This has for some years involved staff members in cameo roles and great costumes, which doesn’t necessarily hold back the thespian talent. Such is their charisma that some staff only have to be present to attract applause.
  3. Christmas nativity play
    This is even better than the drama competition: pastoral staff are cast as shepherds – I’m not sure what can be said about those playing the sheep, except that it’s very hard on the knees. It’s definitely worth investing in your Equity card. 
  4. Quizzes
    Teachers are always prime contestants for quiz events aptly named "Universally Challenged". When it comes to the Harry Potter round or music after 1999, students surge into a commanding lead. 
  5. Staff-versus-staff charity events
    Even in staff-versus-staff charity events, it’s not always the most competent teachers who win. Take the lip-synch competition, for example. If it were solely about competence, the PE department would have been given the honour of performing the victory routine again. It would be nice to think that it’s sympathy for the underdogs that leads the student judges to pick the most unsynchronised routines. 
  6. Fancy dress
    The school year offers all kinds of opportunities for staff to conceal their identities behind a variety of disguises, from the Pink Ladies to the Teletubbies (one I missed thanks to maternity leave many moons ago).
  7. School assembly
    Taking school assembly seems a very unlikely candidate for happiest memory. But colleagues always surprise and delight with their idiosyncratic takes on the world of human affairs. Then there are drama performances, both as dress rehearsal and advert for the school play. Gruelling trips in the Welsh mountains in high winds and driving rain provide a warm glow of satisfaction...a week or so after the event, in assembly, when the blisters have healed. 
  8. School trips 
    School trips may involve 24/7 supervision and hours navigating trip software, but the photos of exotic locations – anywhere from the local shopping precinct to the Great Wall of China – leave a lasting impression on the photo album. Accompanying the annual trip on a PGL weekend to remotest Dorset can provide anything from hypothermia in the March northerly gales to sunny slopes more reminiscent of the south of France. Best advice is to take thermals and sun cream.
  9. Charity fashion show
    This is the highlight of the year for sixth form and staff alike – a time to collaborate around costume and routine, rehearsing in secret corners round the school.
  10. Inter-house singing
    This may seem an unlikely favourite, especially for those who just about manage to mime along to the singing in assembly. But with some pieces of music, the feeling’s quite different. Earworms this year include “I’m still standing…” 

Yvonne Williams is a head of English and drama in the south of England

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