Final Word - Class act hangs up her mugs

7th August 2009 at 01:00

Teaching awards can be such glamorous events nowadays. However, I would like to consider a very different award ceremony that took place at a small primary school in South Yorkshire and involved one Mrs Kindheart. (Of course, that's not her real name - because I value my life too much.)

During the past few weeks, she took late retirement. Actually, I strongly suspect that she would have taken even later retirement if that had been possible. In any case, nobody was as surprised as I was to receive an invitation to her party.

"I always thought they would have had to wheel you out of the school in one of those extra large storage boxes they use for infant play equipment," I told her.

"I know," she sighed. "Teaching has been my life."

"Really?" I quipped. "I think it'll be the death of me."

When the big day arrived, there were speeches about Mrs Kindheart's distinguished career. The various fond anecdotes were not just about helping children to read and write, but a whole range of other stuff too.

There was teaching boys how to tie their own suspiciously damp shoelaces and to use tissue-based alternatives for wiping snotty noses. There was teaching girls to tidy the paint cupboard and the book corner. And there was teaching children generally to put plimsolls on the correct feet, gloves on the appropriate hands and heads through the right holes.

There was also teaching children to be patient with each other, to take turns, to say please and thank you, to be kind, to share toys, feed Plop the goldfish, water the spider plant and refrain from biting. And then there was also teaching youngsters that it's possible to cuddle away hurt and sadness and that it's OK to fall asleep in the reading corner, even while there's a lesson observation going on.

"I have it on good authority that Mrs Kindheart taught children to read using phonics before it went out of fashion," beamed her headteacher. "And that she continued to teach phonics during the years when it was thought that children simply 'caught reading' Ha-ha ... a bit like swine flu. And now, of course, it's caught up with her ... Er, the phonics I mean, not the swine flu! Still, I hope you've been using the synthetic version, Mrs K! Ha-ha!"

If using blackboards and mark books had come back into fashion, I suspect Mrs Kindheart would not be retiring just yet. Her "capability issues" were all ICT based.

She had problems with uploading planning on to the school intranet, providing detailed assessments at the click of a mouse and downloading lessons on to her interactive whiteboard (as opposed to writing them on it in permanent marker). But the final straw was her decision to press wild flowers for children to stick into their science books. Apparently, this is not a cost-effective use of a 600 quid laptop computer.

Mrs Kindheart never really was one for speeches, but she did wish to thank everybody for their cards and kind words, and for the buffet, and the Waterford Crystal, and for "this mug" ...

She held it up. "Chloe Matthews gave it me at home time," she said. "I have 42 almost identical ones at home, although I suppose this will be my last."

It said Best Teacher Ever on it.

Steve Eddison is a key stage 2 teacher in Sheffield.

Mike Kent is on holiday.

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