Thank God it's Friday

24th April 1998 at 01:00
MONDAY It's my last term in teaching and the realities of early retirement are becoming clearer. Many people ask what I am going to do. There are two sorts - those who assume that I've reached the end of the road and others who wonder where I'm going next. While it's flattering that some think I'm still young enough to continue, I'm content to become a human being again after spending so much time as a human doing.

Today I tell the staff that a new OHP (overhead projector) trolley has arrived. They say it will be useful. They thought I said OAP.

TUESDAY A father is concerned about the waste of money caused by dripping taps. Plumbing is yet another non-teaching skill acquired during 19 years of headship that could be useful for future part-time employment, but I refer the matter to the caretaker. "We all start to drip as we get older," he says, darkly. "Or seize up," adds my secretary, giving me a straight look. Then the spell-check on her computer refuses to accept "cheque" and suggests she send a pound;43 cheese to thediocese instead.

I attend a committee meeting at a pupil's home in the evening, but he's already in bed. My imminent arrival is a great way for his parents to persuade him to retire early without the usual excuses. And he put the light out immediately.

WEDNESDAY Year 5 are planning a class service. They are invited to write some prayers. One pupil puts "Dear Lord, help us ...". He's a slow writer, but he's also a deep thinker and might havefinished, so I recommend using the words as a response to intercessions. I wonder afterwards whether he's worrying aboutLiteracy Hour, in which case he's in good company.

Meanwhile, I'm thinking about the legacy for my successor. The omens are good: the closing date for applications was Friday 13th (of February) and interviews were held on April 1st (and 2nd), so the governors are clearly determined to succeed.

THURSDAY The vicar takes assembly and his theme is Daniel in the Lions' Den. Nearly all the children volunteer to be lions and wicked men, but few wish to be Daniel. I'm due to have two teeth extracted shortly, so I know exactly how they feel.

Then he talks about healthy minds and healthy bodies. "What sort of food helps you to grow up?" he asks. "My favourite?" suggests one child.

Later, two boys come to my room. They seem confused as they tell me in one breath that they're sorry I'm leaving and they're looking for Moses. I tell them he retired a long time ago. It turns out that they need help on the CD ROM.

FRIDAY "Back at school, as normal?" inquires the lady at the bank. I wonder what on earth is normal, while enduring one of 'those', all too frequent, days at school. But headship, as the poet said referring to marriage, "is like a Devonshire lane - full of unexpected events", so when I move to Devon to concentrate on my writing I guess things will be much the same.

There's a fundraising sleep-over tonight. I remember being on duty last year and sitting on a bench at 3am, coffee in hand, gazing at 50 juniors lyinghiggledy-piggledy on the hall floor. Fast asleep in their sleeping bags. Such peace, with all that energy waiting to burst out. Some things at least will be unforgettable. Many in fact. Yes, I'll miss the children.

Luke Darlington is headteacher of St Mary's CE Primary school, Yate, near Bristol.

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