It is that time of the year again. It is a time when the streets, playgrounds, shopping centres and cafe bars on the island fall silent (well, almost!), and once again it is possible to obtain some kind of service from the Town Hall, banks and offices as staff, somewhat grudgingly, return to work after nearly two months of disruption.
The children are safely back in school and everyday life returns more or less to normal, until interrupted by the occasional fiesta and the next major holiday season. School holidays in Spain seem to go on for ever, and by the time that September comes, many parents have reverted from the often heard delusionary comment that “It will be good to spend some time with the kids again”, to “Thank goodness, they are back in school”.
Most parents are hugely relieved, and I know that many children are happy to have routine and structure back in their lives again too.
As with all teachers, my year used to begin in September, with planning and preparation playing a large part of the long summer holidays that teachers and the education system are often criticised for. It was always a time to recover, both physically and mentally, from the rigours of the previous academic year, but it was also a time when colds and flu set in for a week or two.
It was if the body knew that it could now take a break, since school was closed, which allowed all manner of disease to take hold and annoyingly interfere with holiday plans. In June this year, I recall seeing a Canarian neighbour and teacher, returning wearily from school during those last frantic days of the summer term, laden with a heavy bags of books, boxes and carrier bags. The weary smile and the sigh said it all, and I remember that feeling of exhaustion only too well.
I enjoyed teaching, and if I had my time over again I would choose exactly the same career. I recall starting each term with 35 or so anxious faces in their new classroom, dressed in new or freshly laundered uniforms, looking at me and wondering how it would all turn out. In turn, I recall thinking how small and unsure they all looked, and doubting that they would ever turn out as good a class as I had taught the previous year.
I was always wrong, and when the end of term came the following July, I remember how much I missed them; all the individual personalities and potential, and the discoveries and learning that we had all achieved together. These were special and exhilarating times; exhausting, but nevertheless very special.
A few days ago, a friend asked me if I missed going back to school in September. My response was “Certainly not!” However, when I take time to reflect, I guess I do miss the routine of setting up a new classroom, the smell of fresh polish on the floors, repainted classroom walls and maybe new carpeting or a new piece of equipment if the budget allowed.
I miss the fresh displays on classroom walls designed to welcome, entertain and intrigue new and anxious pupils, filling in a new class register, trying to remember new names, identifying the personalities that would challenge, entertain and infuriate me in the weeks and months ahead. I miss welcoming new colleagues and reassuring anxious parents.
I then have a reality check, and remember endless, and often pointless meetings, with school governors and parent teacher associations who would often take hours reaching a decision that my staff and I could usually make in minutes. I also recall helpful, supportive governors and parents who did their best for their school and the local community.
So, at the beginning of this new academic year, I wish all our youngsters and their teachers well. Learn well together, and make the most of your potential. As for me, I have many happy memories, but relieved that I am no longer part of it.
If you enjoyed this article, take a look at Barrie’s websites: www.barriemahoney.com and www.thecanaryislander.com or read his book, ‘Island in the Sun’ (ISBN: 9780992767181). Available in paperback, as well as Kindle.
© Barrie Mahoney