Well skoolz out for summer and the house is full of chocolates and 'thank you' cards and there is a bottle of Cava sat in the kitchen and if it were sentient it would be asking itself what on earth it was doing here. Indeed the chocolates would be asking themselves that too, if they could think. Due to my illness I can start to feel quite ill after ingesting either if those things. So they are getting ignored and I'm wondering where useful second homes for them might be found....
It is however so very touching when the pupils do say thank you in whatever way they choose. This year there has been a rich seam of 'confessional' cards and hushed conversations in corridors along the lines of "I'm sorry I have been such an utter pain in the neck for the last 3 years, thank you for not giving up on me". Money can't buy that. I've also been taken aback by the 'you've really inspired a love of Physics in me' cards. OK the number will not cause a gravitational collapse and a black hole to open up in Wessex, but 4 whole cards saying that was 4 more than I would have thought possible. I've been doing mainly chalk and talk didactic stuff that any inspector would slate because I've been too weak to do much more than prop myself up on a low cupboard next to the board in order to scrawl on it. And whilst every teacher has their own fan-club, it is always a shock when someone you thought did nothing more than sleep through your lessons says thank you. I got one letter which said 'thank you for ignoring me, thank you for respecting my strong personality'. For my part I think I acted out of cowardice with that pupil, I didn't think I'd win the fight.
The best gift this year is just about my best present ever off anyone. My sixth formers got me a Stirling engine and it was an emotional moment; wiping back the tears whilst running for the kettle and trying to find a can of machine oil. Simply brilliant! I've got it to work if the temperature gradient is as small as 25 degrees and I'm trying to see if it will go lower. A few year back some sixth formers got me an abacus from the Early Learning Centre, this was the previous 'best ever' present. Like a lot of Physicists my arithmetic is appalling, and I enjoyed the joke at my expense.
And then I start to think just how well pupils do get to know teachers. They will know every little mannerism and be able to mimic these. They can draw piercingly accurate cartoons of us. They see us 'perfom' several times a week, on good days as well as bad. They are uncompromising critics if something we do isn't to their liking. Our style of dress is scrutinised as is any slight regional variation in our accents. They will pitch us against their parents with a "but my dad says....", and we have to be so careful because dad is often a high powered academic at some prestigious university. They will pitch one member of staff against another and they know our weaknesses; mine being a strong belief in the inferiority of chemistry. So they will deliberately start up an ideological battle between myself and a willing chemist and stir up rivalry.
OK, so it is lots of fun, but like my Stirling engine, I've ground to a halt, but I'll need a bit more than some machine oil and a hot cup of tea to get going again.