Today I am taking a trip to London. It’s my first trip on a train for a long time and I’ll admit, although I’m excited, I’m also apprehensive. Meanwhile, it’s end of term where I live, and even though I’m not in school as a headteacher any more, the children and staff I have worked with over the years are uppermost in my mind today. You don’t stop caring just because you’re not there or in their lives any more. I’m also a governor now so I get to see the world from another angle and feel really privileged to work with children and staff in this role. The commitment and emotional investments they have exerted over challenging times to ensure children feel secure and can progress is phenomenal. It’s been quite a couple of years, and today marks a huge transition for so many.
Transitions can be full of mixed feelings, and this is particularly poignant for Year 6 who are usually leaving a school for the first time, and the other children and staff who may be moving on with mixed emotions too. Even those moving year groups, or making adjustments ready for the Autumn term have a myriad of emotions and thoughts whirling right now, particularly during the uncertain times in which we currently live.
It can be sad, full of apprehension, and exhilarating all at the same time. for Year Six, seven years spent in the same environment is a huge chunk of life, where so many memories are made, lives shaped and a host of relationships formed in the mix. Moving out into the world can offer opportunities, new horizons and freedom, but is also tinged with sadness at leaving so much of what is loved behind and uncertainty at what the future holds.
I will never forget the pride in being able to share in so many children’s journeys, sharing milestones with families and sharing in staff achievements and the huge sense of pride in the young adults stepping into the world. It’s always wonderful to see or hear of their achievements as they navigate the world.
Having been a Year 6 teacher for a number of years prior to my leadership journey, the significance of this week is so poignant, and full of thoughts of leavers’s events, trips, signing shirts … and a fair few tears and smiles; all those photos that we collate from their journey with us, the memorable events that shape incredible individuals. In another life I would have been journeying to London with a group of excited Year 6 and visiting a museum of gallery and then going to the theatre. Amazing memories, if a little exhausting! I’ll never forget the shining faces along the row of a West End theatre as a group of Year 6, some of whom had never been to London and never seen a show before, experienced the opening scenes of a musical, or the wonder of discovering real artefacts at the British museum…and experiencing Chinatown for the first time.
I have so many lovely memories of all the small moments; laughter, sharing steps along the way, some of them are bound up in trips and visits, residentials and performances, and light bulb moments in class, as well as reviewing the growth of amazing individuals and sharing goodbyes with families. I have been privileged to share in so many lives. I know only too well the sadness of not being able to do things as we’d wish at the moment due to restrictions and how this impacts on rites of passage. Sometimes we can feel a sense of things left undone, but the world awaits and the future beckons.
I hope, as we reach the end of a year that is memorable for so many reasons, that everyone in school finds a way to celebrate and reflect. I know not all memories are happy, particularly over the last couple of years, but let’s remember some of the most challenging can be huge learning experiences. There will also be a number of unique moments to celebrate.
I will be thinking of you all as I journey out into the world today and on the path where I now am privileged to work with so many schools, and as a governor in one very special school. My journey into this world is less certain and challenging, but hugely rewarding and rich in my own learning journey. I have met such amazing and inspirational people who it is a privilege to work with, and I continue to grow and learn, staying true to my values and my belief that learning is boundless, we can find unimaginable treasure beyond our known horizons.
If you are changing stations on your journey, make sure to savour the moments along the way. I always used to share this poem at the end of the year. A wise man shared it with me and it is worth holding close. Thanks to Sir John Jones for this inspiration.
The Station by Robert Hastings
Tucked away in our subconscious minds is an idyllic vision. We see ourselves on a long, long trip that almost spans the continent. We’re traveling by passenger train, and out the windows we drink in the passing scene of cars on nearby highways, of children waving at a crossing, of cattle grazing on a distant hillside, of smoke pouring from a power plant, of row upon row of corn and wheat, of flatlands and valleys, of mountains and rolling hills, of biting winter and blazing summer and cavorting spring and docile fall.
But uppermost in our minds is the final destination. On a certain day at a certain hour we will pull into the station. There will be bands playing, and flags waving. And once we get there so many wonderful dreams will come true. So many wishes will be fulfilled and so many pieces of our lives finally will be neatly fitted together like a completed jigsaw puzzle. How restlessly we pace the aisles, damning the minutes for loitering … waiting, waiting, waiting, for the station.
However, sooner or later we must realise there is no one station, no one place to arrive at once and for all. The true joy of life is the trip. The station is only a dream. It constantly outdistances us.
“When we reach the station that will be it!” we cry. Translated it means, “When I’m 18, that will be it! When I buy a new 450 SL Mercedes Benz, that will be it! When I put the last kid through college, that will be it! When I have paid off the mortgage, that will be it! When I win a promotion, that will be it! When I reach the age of retirement, that will be it! I shall live happily ever after!”
Unfortunately, once we get it, then it disappears. The station somehow hides itself at the end of an endless track
Relish the moment” is a good motto, especially when coupled with Psalm 118:24: “This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” It isn’t the burdens of today that drive men mad. Rather, it is regret over yesterday or fear of tomorrow. Regret and fear are twin thieves who would rob us of today.
So, stop pacing the aisles and counting the miles. Instead, climb more mountains, eat more ice cream, go barefoot oftener, swim more rivers, watch more sunsets, laugh more and cry less. Life must be lived as we go along. The station will come soon enough.
Today I will be making more joyful moments, celebrating all the wonderful memories, and I may even have an ice cream!
Live your best lives and go forward with love, compassion, curiosity and courage. Most importantly, fill your moments with joy, and share your joy with those you meet along the way.