Saying goodbye


Isn’t saying goodbye to the 11th/13th year’s hard work? Dear me. All those final assemblies, lachrymose valedictions, elegiac picnics, terminal huggings, shaving cream frolics and magic markings on T- shirts, as they pass through the school gates for the

“Have a great life!” “Miss you forever!”

Good grief! Too much emotion! I had to sometimes escape to a stockroom. But I couldn’t repress dark, nagging doubts. Had the school been good enough for them? Had I?

Had I been the “enemy of promise”, as Mr Gove has opined? Had I caused too many children to fail, as the Lord Tofsted has just suggested you have? Should I have taught them more grammar? Apostrophes? Conditional tenses? Would they get those C grades, without which they’d be doomed. Was class still fate? Had we done enough to shift it just a bit?

Such musings were also prompted by Zadie Smith’s latest, NW, the best novel since Bleak House and, I’m afraid, your compulsory holiday reading. Its lyrical and dazzling insights quite annihilate the lumpen strictures of the Lords Gove and Very-Shaw, exploring the complexities of our pupils’ inner city lives with an unflinching empathy. The novel also prompts a tough optimism. As your pupils probably do. Mine certainly did.

Those goodbyes may have been tough going, but the farewell boat trips down the Thames banished all glum doubts ... the pupils all lovely and scrubbed and leaping about under the stars to the likes of Notorious Biggie’s Missing You or The Wailers’ One Love. Delinquents apologising for the last five years.

“Sorry I was such a donut, sir!”

Sidney Lunk dancing with Rhapsody. Sidney’s off to do the Knowledge at a Taxi Group. Rhapsody’s off to do the Knowledge at a Russell Group. They will never meet again. Attila telling me that I wasn’t complete rubbish. And, of course, Death Metal Seth and Purple Goth Rosie sinking a gallon of Smirnoff to facilitate the romantic process.

“What nice people!” observes the wife. Indeed. They still are – and so talented. We’ve recently learned that London’s inner city pupils do better than most and state school pupils perform better than public school pupils at university. Well, quelle surprise! We knew. The two Michaels can put it in their pipes and go demonise someone else.

Perhaps it’s the agreeable Merlot, but I lurch into louche epiphanies, as we gaze on Waterloo sunset to the tune, of course, of The Kinks. “We are in paradise,” Phoebe trills. Indeed. The world doesn’t deserve them.

“See ya, sir!” Well, you probably won’t. And they’re gone.

And so have I.

Have a happy and terrifically indolent hols!


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