There are a certain group of school gate mums (and dads) who like nothing more than spending much of their time in the playground having a good moan about the teachers.
They’re not doing enough reading, they’re getting too much homework too soon, they made little Jonny (are there any kids of school age called Jonny any more?) sit on a separate table to eat his packed lunch, etc.
Rarely do these people consider just how difficult it must be to be a teacher. Think how tricky it is to look after one or two of the blighters for a day, then times that by five, 10, 15 depending on class size. Not a pretty thought, eh?
But at least, these people will cry, at least teachers can go home at the end of the day and escape the mayhem.
Never mind the lesson plans, the marking, the sticking bits of shiny paper on white card as Christmas approaches. And if one of these things doesn’t get done, well then cue more moaning.
Never mind the parents meetings and general out-of-hours extra-curricular activities which provide the likes of these moaners with even more free childcare and for which, I daresay, the teachers do not receive a penny more in overtime.
And this is not to mention those teachers who go home to look after kids of their own.
For goodness sake, teachers – in most cases – are gods and goddesses to whom all children look up – and us parents would do well to do so too.
In fact I have a perfect example.
Two weeks ago my five year old daughter Carys came home with a letter from her teacher which said that she was getting married in a couple of Saturdays time and wanted all the children in her class (about 15 infants of varying age) to come along and sing a hymn at her wedding.
Yes you did read that correctly.
She had already told the children that she was getting married and what that meant and they were all very excited. She just needed our permission to have them come along.
At first I thought she was bonkers. I mean don’t get me wrong, it was very sweet. But bonkers. Weddings are stressful enough without having to worry about getting a group of 15 children to sit still and be quiet.
Still, as I said all the kids were really excited and Carys was no exception. All week she was going around the house belting out ‘sing hosanna, sing hosanna, sing hosanna to the new born king.’ I’d never seen her bestowing such confidence.
The big day arrived. With my wife at college for the day, I was given far too much responsibility for my liking. An extra child – and wedding guest – to look after and ensure was presentable but also as said child was being dropped off, her mother handed me three bunches of flowers for the children to make into a lovely arrangement for their teacher bride. She had even thought to provide some nice material and gold ribbon to present them in.
And so now I was expected to oversee a flower arranging session amid the usual play date chaos. And for someone’s wedding no less. A rabbit caught in headlights doesn’t quite do justice to the way I was feeling. This was more like the whole cast of Watership Down stepping out of their warren one night to find they have been surrounded by a whole fleet of 4x4s.
Needless to say the girls lost total interest in the flower arranging project within 0.5 seconds, certainly once they’d finished bickering over the lilies. So I just had to do my best. A rose here, a carnation there. Really I can’t even be sure they were roses or carnations, such is my minuscule knowledge of flowers. One had thorns on the stem so I’m guessing roses.
Anyway I did my best to feign confidence in my limited floral skills while my so-called helpers watched Strawberry Shortcake and finally I had a bunch of flowers that, on the bright side, did look like they could have been arranged by schoolchildren. Well, pre-schoolers actually if I’m being honest.
With the clock ticking, at least Carys’ friend was in her uniform ready to go but Carys had chosen to wear her school summer dress which doesn’t display the school logo. A small part of me was concerned this would completely mess up the colour scheme in church and that she really should change into her winter uniform but we were at that stage where the kids were playing up and I was saying ‘right it’s no skin off my nose if you don’t get in the car now, you can just miss the wedding.’ So I decided to quit while I was ahead.
We made the church in time and I dropped the girls off with another teacher and went to park. When I returned the kids were all lining up waiting to go in. Someone said: ‘shall they take off their jumpers so they all ma…’
Her voice tailed off as she noticed Carys, the only one of the 15 children in a bright summer dress as opposed to a solemn winter uniform.
Non- conformist, some might say. Optimist would be more like it. By now the sun was beaming and glorious – in my head that was why Carys had chosen her outfit.
And besides if anyone mentioned it, she could just say she was the conductor.
So they went in and we waited. Soon we could hear their voices sing out the hymn with all their hearts. Not only had they all looked happy to be there, they sounded it too. Certainly they put to shame the congregation, who afterwards drearily and dutifully forced their way through ‘He’s Got The Whole World in his Hand’ like a bunch of delinquent teenagers.
Out came our lot and their excitement was numbed by a packet of sweets that a well-organised parent produced. And they really are a good lot – they quietly waited for the service to end and their newlywed teacher to emerge.
When she did, the first thing she said was ‘where are my children’. She pretty much brushed aside any of the guests who were waiting to congratulate her and take photos and ushered over her class who lined up beautifully and one by one went up and kissed her. Some said ‘congratulations’, some tried out her new name, others, like Carys, were too overwhelmed by the moment to say very much. But the bride paid attention to each and every one of them and really made them all feel a part of her big day.
I well up just thinking about it. She has only been with the school for about a year but that scene was testament to how much those kids mean to her and how dedicated she is to her work.
I still think having her class sing at her wedding was a bonkers thing for a teacher to do. But I also think it was an amazing one too. And I am positive she is not alone. I am sure other teachers at the school, had they been getting married, would have done the same or something similar. I am sure there are other teachers around the country, around the globe, who have done this or perhaps are planning to.
So to those moaners at the school gate I have but four not particularly eloquent words to say.
Give them a break!
Speak up and have your say by all means. Complain if you have to but do so in a constructive way. Never suggest that these teachers are doing anything less than their best because eleven times out of ten, they will be.
And what’s being taught isn’t quite the whole story. It means so much for little kids to go to school and have a teacher who really does genuinely care about them. It can often make a difference between a child doing ok and thriving really well. I can still remember the names of my primary school teachers who really cared and made me feel safe as I ventured out into the outside world away from the family unit for the first time. Heck one of them – Mrs Hicks – even made sure that I learnt to swim before I headed to secondary school. Teachers who care aren’t rare but they are like gold dust all the same and should be treated like such. Carys’ teacher is proof of that.
We hung around so the kids could all throw confetti. Then we all went home. But I have a feeling this wedding day will be etched in their minds for many years to come, much like the bride herself will be.
As for the flowers, well, I did genuinely forget to get them out of the car on the day. Shame that. Instead the wife gave them a much needed motherly touch and the girls presented them to their teacher on the Monday morning.
No time for a honeymoon when you’re a teacher and set the date for term time just so your kids can sing during the ceremony.
Like I said, sweet but bonkers.