My guilt turns parting into a sweet sorrow

4th July 2008 at 01:00
I'm leaving on a jet plane
I'm leaving on a jet plane. Don't know when I'll be back again. Oh, babe, I hate to go. Well, actually, I'm going in a Honda Civic, will probably be back for a visit fairly soon and ... no, the last one's true. I really do hate to go. Leaving the school where I've taught for four years and moving to another a hundred miles away is proving tough.

As far as my students are concerned, you'd think I'd betrayed them to the KGB. I wish I could claim that it's because they think I'm Mrs Chips - and more. But I doubt it. I'm leaving their school and I'm going to teach other children. This means I don't care about them, have never cared and was pretending all the time when I said I did.

I wasn't sure what reactions I'd get when I announced my departure, particularly from the exam classes I would have taken into next year. I'd steeled myself for a cheer from Jack in Year 10, who's had so many detentions from me his name pops up automatically like an old friend when I enter him on the sanctions spreadsheet. I thought James, a sixth-former who gets sent out so often that my classes are good aerobic exercise for him, would also be partying.

But there's been none of that. I've told them the news, there's been a shocked silence, and then the comments have ranged from "Why, what's wrong with us?" to "Why, what's wrong with us?" to "Why, what's wrong with us?"

I remember, when my parents split up, thinking that way. Is it because I scream when I eat cabbage? Should I not have thumped my sister? Was my dropping mummy's new bottle of Chanel on the kitchen floor the final straw? I was convinced it was something to do with me and my deficiencies. (The Chanel thing probably did contribute, though, and no wonder.)

My students feel the same. My protests - we wanted to move away from London ... I'm going back to my home town ... I'll be nearer my family - don't wash. They're not interested in these trivial details; as far as they're concerned, I'm married to the school, have made a commitment before God, the Queen and the governors, and can't go off and get a divorce, just like that.

What makes it worse is that I'm leaving a boys' school and going to teach girls. Jack said I'd hate it because girls wouldn't understand my sarcasm and would cry. James reckoned I would be bored because girls would reject my attempts at interesting activities and tell me to get on with the teaching so they could take notes. And another boy said, scornfully, "And you think we're hormonal? Pfff."

Still, despite their ominous comments and wounded looks, all my bags are packed and I'm ready to go. And, for the last week of term, I've bought mountains of chocolate.

Not that I'm feeling guilty, or anything.

Fran Hill, Teacher at an independent school in London.

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