Imprint left by off-piste lesson

7th July 2006 at 01:00
Here they come, bug-eyed and terrified being herded around. Year 6 are on induction day. Fear, tension and excitement are in the air. Nurse's expecting a full complement of headaches and upset tummies today. I remember to pull myself up to my full height and march menacingly and majestically down the corridors. Don't want any of them thinking I am kind and friendly now, do we?

The induction day theme is the Olympics. Of course in 2012 they'll only be 16 and I'll be, oh God, I can't actually bring myself to write the number down.

I can't quite believe that the academic year is drawing to a close and another one is on its way. One lot out another lot in, like a conveyer belt of lives. Tomorrow's future in today's youth. What a responsibility.

Suddenly I am struck with the fear that I haven't taught my charges anything worthwhile at all. What imprint have I left? That laminating is fun. That order will be made out of chaos in my classroom. That the best texts aren't necessarily written by dead white males despite what the national curriculum would have us believe. How to dance in vertiginous heels wearing a cowboy hat while dancing with a camel. (Long story, don't ask.) On the 272 bus a soft voice calls "Mrs G." Turning I see a beautiful young woman and recognise Alisha. She has just finished her exams and has a place to attend nursing college. Spoken with joy in her eyes. How many years ago was it that she arrived in my classroom a reduced, nervous child from Rwanda, eyes full of fear and a heart full of the unspeakable horror that no child should ever have to witness?

"I remember you every time it snows Miss. Thank you." Ah yes. The snow. We went outside and caught snowflakes on our tongues, then we laid down and made snow angels. Very Robin Williams. Deputy head didn't think so. I was reprimanded for going "off-lesson plan". Alisha meanwhile learned words for things she had never seen before. It was the first time I heard her laugh.

With a hug she gets off the bus, leaving me openly weeping.

No one will give Alisha an Olympic gold medal, yet clearly her bravery and humility deserve recognition. The Olympic mantra "let me win and if I cannot win let me be brave in my attempt", could have been written for her.

It may only have been the taste of snow on the tongue, but now I know the imprints we teachers leave behind.

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