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Column: Mama Said with Emily Martin

When this column is published, it’ll be the end of the summer holidays and all the kids will be preparing to embark on the next year up with new pencil cases, new shoes and new teachers.

But right now, as I’m writing this, we’re just at the very start of the thing. The African plume heatwave is in full force (remember that day we all thought we would melt and die? Well I’m writing this on that actual day) and this 39 degree spell of fire weather has coincided with the first day of my daughter’s summer holidays.

Entertainment for the day is therefore limited to sitting inside, watching TV with the curtains shut and rationing the lollies. Things can only get better.

The last day of school has seemed a long time coming as over the past few weeks we’ve had a steady stream of sentimental moments designed to break us down.

Sports day and their little faces all proud and waving. School plays, more pride and more waving.

Coming home with a sunflower seed, a pot of soil and a note that said “rise, shine and hold your head high”.

I literally can’t take any more of it. By the end of term all of us parents were just a sobbing mess, throwing our arms around the teachers and telling them that we love them while the kids shuffled awkwardly. I don’t know, maybe it was the heat.

But as I sit here in the darkened living room, the sun blazing outside, I think maybe I do love those teachers. I mean, all teachers are brilliant (except YOU Mr George, I will never forget that board rubber flying at my head) but Reception class teachers are extra brilliant.

I wrote “thank you for all your hard work” in a couple of end-of-term cards, but what I actually wanted to say was this:

Dear teachers,

I don’t know how you’ve done it but since last September, you’ve taken a group of our flailing, hopeless and tiny children and taught them to line up, march into your classroom, hang up their coats and bags and kindly, gently wiped their tears away, sometimes before they’ve even got inside.

You’ve taught them to read and write, to count in tens and times by three. You’ve taught them about dinosaurs, creepy crawlies and the small matter of the whole of space.

They’ve learnt about music and sport, money and food. Where it comes from and how you pay for it. You’ve helped them plant seeds in the ground as well as in their minds.

They’ve made best friends and fallen out. And you’ve taught them to make up, to share and be kind to each other.

They’ve invented things, built things, programmed robots and produced stacks and STACKS of drawings, and stories, and sculptures made of egg boxes.

They’ve watched chicks hatch from eggs in an incubator and then carefully picked them up and held them. They’ve learnt little songs with actions and of course they’ve learnt everyone’s favourite life-skill, how to climb a rope.

They’ve learnt to stand up and talk in front of each other about things they’re interested in. They’ve learnt to cartwheel and go all the way across on the monkey bars. They’ve learnt to clear their plates and tidy away their crayons.

You’ve given them things to take home from the classroom walls, and their little class books full of photos of cool stuff you’ve done with them. Most of it we had no idea about because when we ask “How was school, what did you do?”, they’ve just been saying, “I can’t remember.”

And after all of that you’ve somehow found time to write school reports which literally must have taken you AGES.

Thank you doesn’t really cover it. But thank you anyway.

I don’t remember much about my first year at school, but I definitely remember my first teacher.


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