I’ve known for some time that today was going to be a struggle. As the day got closer I’ve imagined, and no doubt dreamt about, how it would go. You see just over a month ago I handed in my notice to the school where I’ve worked for nearly two years now. Before I started there, I’d never had a proper job looking after children. Of course I have two of my own, and had done some volunteer reading at their school, a little MDSA work (that’s lunchtime with the kids) there, but apart from that…….NOTHING!! And so it was that as I searched for a job of some sort that would fit in with continuing to look after my kids (after school, holidays, etc) that eventually an advert appeared in the local paper for a Teaching Assistant. It jumped out at me from the page. “But what would be the point in applying?” I remember thinking. After all, I had no experience…..well, only looking after my own children. Anyhow, I did apply, and thanks largely due to the support of the wonderful headmistress at my children’s school I was asked to go along for an interview. The invitation was at quite short notice, and I was told over the phone that as well as the normal question and answer section of the interview, I would be put in a classroom with children for around twenty minutes to see how I coped. On hearing this…….I became more than a little nervous, that is until my wife pointed out how well I get on with children in general….not just my own…at playgroups, with friends, in social situations. And the more I thought about all of this, the happier I was at being ‘thrown to the wolves’ as some might describe it.
Something else thrown into the mix was the fact that the school in question was now on the site of the middle school that I attended as a child, the school that changed my life and introduced me to…….HOCKEY!!!!. I’m not sure I believe in fate – I certainly believe you control your own destiny – but something about all of this seemed so……meant to be.
I duly turned up at the appointed time, completed a question and answer with the Headmaster and the deputy head (whose class I would be working in), and then I was escorted through the key stage one part of the school and into the nursery classroom. I clearly recall thinking that I’d probably be introduced to all of the children, but as I walked through the door, both the headmaster and the deputy head veered off in differnt directions, leaving me with a fraction of a second to make a decision. Instantly I headed towards the largest group of children, who were all role playing in a kitchen, with pretend pizza, cake and bread. I sat down on the floor in my freshly dry cleaned suit and that was it. Immediately they were chatting to me about the snow that had recently fallen, their work, what they were (pretend) baking, what my kids liked…….everything. I’d totally forgotten about the fact that I was being observed in any way shape or form. Now, my understanding was that, along with all the other candidates that day (and there were loads), I was supposed to be in with the kids for at least twenty minutes. By my reckoning, it was all over for me after about seven or eight minutes. It really couldn’t have been any better; the number of kids increased the longer I sat there, and they were keen to tell me all about themselves and learn a little more about me.
Just after I had picked up my children that afternoon, I received a call to say I’d got the job and that they’d like me to start on the first day of the new term in January. Since that fateful day, my life has never been the same. The children throughout the school that I’ve been privileged to help look after have been wonderful, as have the staff. If ever I’ve been feeling down, which is rare, it only takes a few minutes of being with the kids to make me smile……just a look, something that they’d say or do. All in all, a fantastic environment to work in. And, well, this is something that only became apparent after a few days, but still shocks me that I didn’t know beforehand: helping other people’s children learn………is just as rewarding as helping your own. It never would have occurred to me when I started this job…………but it’s true. So I feel truly lucky to have shared in just a tiny part of the journey of these wonderful little beings.
So back to today – my last day at that school. It has been one of the hardest, if not the hardest work related day of my life. The children have just been wonderful. I’ve had lots of cards, presents, well wishes……………I simply couldn’t have asked for more. I will miss everyone at the school immensely, but I truly believe it is the right time for me to move on. Hopefully I can pop in from time to time and see how everyone’s doing.
But on Monday, the next chapter starts. A new dawn at a new school, with new people, new children and ……..new challenges! I sit here now feeling incredibly sad, but that sadness is tinged with more than a little nervousness, and just bubbling away in the background…….excitement.