I still remember the smell of my primary school’s assembly hall: a mixture of wax crayons, those big ol’ blue P.E mats and smiley potatoes with peas. If you look closely, I bet you can still spot a few dogeared pom pom strings on the floor from majorettes club, fluffy gold stars missing in action and maybe even a few blobs of rolled up PVA glue too. Peeling it off was so satisfying. I blame Art Attack! I never did make it as a majorette – probably because I spent most of the time sat in the corner eating my after school sandwich (inevitably chicken paste if left to dad) instead of twirling my baton. Not much has changed there.
I can’t remember what I did this weekend. I struggle to link recent conversations to the right person half the time, but I do remember primary school. I remember the people that made it the best time of my life and the teachers that gave me so much more than just maths and metaphors.
Out of every helping hand I’ve had along the way, you’ve probably received the least credit and yet, you’ve given me the fondest memories. I want to let you know that I haven’t forgotten you. You may not remember me, after all, you probably had to learn hundreds of names throughout your career, so I don’t expect you to. But you should know, I don’t wear stripy finger socks nowadays and I definitely can’t do a handstand into a crab anymore, but I’m still obsessed with Jacqueline Wilson and whenever I find myself at a loose end, heads down thumbs up is my first port of call. Glad we got that out in the open.
You were there way back when I fell in love with the pages of Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights for the very first time. You read my weird short stories out in class and I felt like a hero. A hero in a navy jumper with a hideous yellow stripe and a tie to match, but a hero nonetheless. You encouraged my creativity and taught me to value other people’s.
You made me run laps of the school field for fun so that my lungs could learn the terrains of a carefree life, and play rounders under saturated powder blue skies so that I could learn never to be afraid of striking out – and now every time I exercise, my legs want to run back there. Back to base. You don’t get summers like that anymore, not even perfect July sunshine feels as warm. You taught me to appreciate time and to understand that failure is simply part of success.
You let me into a world that celebrated curiosity without fear of being wrong. Packed rooms, wide eyes – little voices are the loudest, I know that now. You told me to never stop asking and to care for this life enough to question it. A lot.
It wasn’t just knowledge you held in your hands for all those years, it was my beginning and you worked tirelessly to make sure it was a hopeful first chapter. As for any bumps in the road – that’s what wet paper towels were for, right? I want you to know that you were never just a person standing in front of a white board. You activated my dreams, engaged my mind, encouraged self-confidence and you’ve inspired me permanently because of that. Which makes you a pretty big deal!
Today, I rarely hang my coat on a peg without thinking of you. I’m taller now, but still on tiptoes reaching for the moon…because of you. Your lessons didn’t stop because I grew up and you didn’t stop teaching me because the bell stopped sounding. Life lessons – not part of the curriculum but you went ahead and taught them anyway, knowing that one day I would depend on them. Now ask yourself again if you made a difference.
So from one coffee fan to another, thank you. A thousand times, thank you. You made learning feel like home.
[For the teacher who always dressed in purple]