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Humanising Language Teaching
Year 6; Issue 3; September 04

Short Article

A Teacher's Retirement Song


Though I officially retired from High School and University a few years ago, I determinedly stayed on at the same school even doing many extra hours last year to sub for a suddenly stricken colleague. I had to desperately salvage what had until then been a lost year for them. It had been a long draining year, but, as usual, adrenaline was high. I enjoyed the dialogue with the kids and, at times, they must have tolerated me.

But all the while I have monitored my back-of-the-mind reactions: "are my mental responses to the kids ( who are lightning fast) as good as in the past? Is my planning as good? Can I hold their interest and even inspire them as in the past?"

At the end of last year, despite my deep-in-the-bone fatigue, the kids reacted positively, and had been tolerant and even excited about my teaching. Some even wrote a note thanking me for inspiring them.

But the administration with their never ending interventions:

"This kid should do the final exams even tho he does not write a coherent English sentence…………. because his mother thinks…………

And that kid's father is on the School Committee and that kid's mother or brother had an accident………. So keep them in the fast track course or otherwise………….

And why don't you teach them easier material and don't ask them to do so much. Their parents are complaining because nobody else demands so much.

Just do what we ask of you. Check the register and keep them quiet. Don't give them so much homework. Mrs Patakis whose husband……phoned up ………..and……"

And they ground me down. The principal and the deputy principal growled my way and the deputy principal scowled my way, but the kids did not. They rushed to my class ahead of time, and unlike other students were there waiting and ready. They even reminded me where we had been previously and did not watch the clock ready to rush out.

But the petty, nicketly pickety administration wore me down.

They did not like the idea of kids writing and asking to transfer to my class from other colleagues' classes and so decided to put me in my place.

The present they offered me this year was a no-hopers' class, especially over-populated.: five or six non-readers, some kids with heavy emotional non-learning records; Learning disorders reigned high and then there was the Tourette syndrome kid.

And then it was that I sensed the weariness in my bones and remembered that 35 years ago I had sung and pranced and danced with just such a class, even standing on a table to clarify things! It had been a wonderful roller coaster experience but this present class had been booby-trapped to undo me. (" let's show him ")

I then knew that the time had come to quit. You don't repeat your life or go backwards. It was time to go. Sadly, reluctantly, painfully I phoned up HQ to let them know that the locomotive was now out of commission and would, in future, be found on different tracks.

Adieu! Forty two years in the classroom and thousands of pupils have passed. May they go well-remembering English here and there, trying not to say "I don't be sure " !

They will travel well and so will I.

[Editorial note: HLT is honoured to share this extra-ordinary "swan-song "with you but I am obliged to publish it anonymously to protect the writer.]

HLT would love to publish more such contributions which really speak about the nitty-gritty of teaching, warts and all.

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