There’s probably a class in every teacher’s teaching life that they will never forget. I’ve been very lucky in my time as a teacher and I’ve taught many classes that were wonderful, challenging, memorable, hilarious, or just plain lovely. There were my first two year 11 classes in my new school, who were the nicest, most hard working, most committed bunch of students I think I’ve ever taught. There was an A level class of only three delightful students, and an A level class I taught many years ago in my early years of teaching, where one of the girls returned to the school later as an Englilsh teacher and became my friend. There was an all boys class that I taught in my second year of teaching who were my first real spectacular success in terms of their GCSE grades. In each and every one of my classes there have been special moments, special successes, and special memories that I will always have to keep. They’ve made me realise every year why being a teacher is the best job in the world, these amazing little individuals who arrive to school as children and leave as fully fledged, tremendously impressive adults. It’s a privilege to watch them grow, and an even greater privilege to be a teacher who helps to shape them, even a little bit. And nowhere I have a felt a greater privilege than in teaching my A level class who left today.
This class have challenged me, often. They’re one of the cleverest, most insightful groups of students I’ve ever taught. Some of them know more about John Donne than I do. One in particular knows more about pretty much everything than I do. They know their own minds, and they’re not afraid to give me their opinions, and not just on poetry. On feminism, footballers, page 3, the future, death, childhood, love, mothers in coffee shops, neediness, my own teaching, and pretty much everything in between. They have never been afraid to question me: ‘why can’t you do that miss? Why can’t you define that/ tell us that/ make me understand that?’ They have genuinely been some of the most interesting people I’ve ever met. They’ve had amazing and insightful opinions and ways of looking at things that I would never have seen myself in a million years. They’ve criticised, analysed, evaluated, discussed, and suggested. They’ve torn apart Plath’s prose and Donne’s poetry and pieced it back together again in wonderful, interesting analyses. They’ve loved some of my favourite characters in literature, and they’ve hated some others. We’ve read Jeanette Winterson and Sylvia Plath and F. Scott Fitzgerald and Carol Ann Duffy and Marvell and Dickerson and Herbert, and they’ve approached each with the same open minds and come to love (some of) them as much as I do. They’ve argued and disagreed and we’ve all agreed on our favourite punctuation marks, and not only that, we enjoyed doing it. They’ve listened to me go on about my children and been polite enough to pretend interest. They’ve made me laugh, all the time. They’ve made me think. They’ve made us all think. They’ve supported each other every single step of the way, even though they’re possibly the most disparate group of individuals you could meet. An Ofsted inspector asked me what I thought of the class, and I said, before I could think of all the Ofsted-correct things I should have said, that I loved them. As he left the the room, he smiled and said he would have loved them too.
It can be easy to lose sight of why we teach, buried often as we are beneath piles of paperwork and marking and gloomy statistics about people leaving teaching. But this class – and many, many others I’ve taught – serve as wonderful reminders of why I am a teacher, and why I could never do anything else. Because I watched them grow into mature, confident, wonderful individuals, all with very different but equally bright futures before them. And so when they thanked me yesterday in what was fittingly their last lesson ever at school, I had equally as much to thank them for.
Thank you, my lovely year 13s. It’s been a real joy and a privilege to teach you. X