Goodbye Westhill

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Westhill Academy

Tomorrow is my final day at Westhill and it’s a case of mixed emotions for me as I leave my longest post so far in education. There is so much that I will miss about the place and the people and several things I will be happy to wave goodbye to. While many would expect me to rip the place to pieces and have a go at those who I clashed with, I’m not going to give those people the satisfaction of being able to say “told you so” about me – instead I’m going to focus on the positives of my time out in the Westhill bubble.

At the dinner last night I decided not to make a speech as it seemed silly for me or Kate to say anything after only a dozen years of service between us when there were others who had been at the school for two or three decades and deserved all the attention. If I had made a speech it would have included the following:

The school has many unsung heroes that the place would not survive without – Doreen the tea lady, a wonderfully warm and fun person who would always stop to chat with a smile on her face, just the kind of person you need on some mornings; Dougie the Jannie is not only a great guy but is happy to help out whenever you need a favour; and the Library Ladies without whom none of the Red Nose Day or Sport Relief monies would have been raised – the 10k I did last year for Sport Relief was solely down to Gill Gourlay’s badgering of me to keep going; Kath the queen of cleaners is a joy to speak to and one of the best at her job with a spotless classroom each morning to come into. Without these guys the rest of us wouldn’t be able to do our jobs – so a big thank you to them.

My Pal Al is without question an underrated member of staff. Allen has been a great listener and source of advice over the highs and lows of the last six years at the school, his sense of humour and honesty is refreshing and I’ll miss him. Mr T has been part of my life as my teacher and then as my boss and I’m so grateful for the opportunities and trust he has had in me. Hilz and Chris in art have always been a great laugh and I’ve enjoyed both of their company over my time in the school. Rhonda in music and Yvonne in drama have always been supportive of anything I’ve asked them to help with charity events and I’ve been more than happy to return the favours. The Science gang are a great bunch and Mo, Scott and Gordon especially have always been great to chat to and good company. There are so many others that I could mention that have been great sports and good company over my time that there’s just too many to mention.

Thanks to the department who help to keep each other sane (most of the time). Such a great bunch of people to work with and have a chat and joke with – you need that at the stressful points of the year and they’ve been fantastic to work with and I hope to keep in touch with them. We’ve had our ups and downs but we made a good team and I hope I find the same camaraderie at the College as I’ve had at Westhill. While it might be wrong to single anyone out, Terry is one of the most honest decent guys I’ve ever met. He is a great English teacher and top bloke too, taking a daily barrage of banter in good humour it’s great to see him enjoying fatherhood as much as he is – he deserves all the happiness he’s found with his family.

To all the parents who have sat opposite me at parents’ night and said lovely things about their kid enjoying my teaching and the subject a huge thank you – you don’t realise that those words have kept me going through some of the tougher times in the job. I know I’m not everyone’s cup of tea and my teaching methods are not always as traditional as many would like but to get feedback that kids are going home talking about English in a positive way is always good for the soul. Too often the negative voices are heard in schools, but the amount of kids who have said they’ve enjoyed something I’ve taught them to their parents shows that I must have done something right.

Finally the kids. They are the ones I will miss the most when leaving tomorrow. Watching their eureka moments in class, having a laugh with them and the amount of great sports that have put up me and my nicknames for them and jokes at their expense have made the job worth getting up for. Even when I didn’t want to get out of bed because the depression was so bad I still wanted to go in and try to teach them something. I’m as proud as punch when they get the grades they deserve and as frustrated as them when they don’t – it’s like having an extended family of kids you are proud of and want them all to do their best. I love hearing how they are doing once they’ve left and many have kept in touch over the years which I’m glad about. They get involved in Sport and Comic Relief because they are passionate about making a difference and they raised over £40,000 over the last six years which is a phenomenal amount for a school.

You will never be universally popular as a teacher and I’m as loathed as I am liked but you’re not there to be the pupils’ friend. A good working relationship is a great bonus to have and I’ve met some amazing people on this part of my journey as a teacher – youngsters I know that will go on to be great assets to employers and the community as a whole; great academic minds, fantastic musicians and actors, sports stars of the future and wonderful people.

Will I miss it? Yes of course I will because it’s been an important part of my life, but the time has come for me to move on and try something new and challenge myself all over again. I hope to keep in touch with all the great people I’ve met and look forward to hearing about their next adventures.

Goodbye Westhill and Thank You.

JD

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