Today is the day...and that's probably a good mantra for every day...but today is the day I'm spending some time updating my website and getting underway with a bit of a blog.
Today is the first day in thirty years that I haven't attended a Teacher Only Day of some description, at some primary or secondary school around New Zealand. For those of you who aren't teachers, this is the day that takes place before the students start arriving. It's a 'here we go again' day that can fill you with promise or dread, depending on which stage of your career you're at. Goals are set, results bandied, percentages produced, trumpets blown. You set up your classroom, have more meetings, and prepare yourself for the real business. Everyone looks happy and relaxed, tanned and smiling.
This year it's different for me. I finished full-time teaching in May of last year after spending the best part of thirty years treading the boards - twenty of those in an art room. During those years I've seen the blackboard become a whiteboard, the advent of computers and the internet, handwritten reports, lovingly crafted twice yearly turning to tick boxes and comment banks that churn out with alarming regularity. Boards of parents running schools, friendly inspectors replaced by scary ERO and the end of an assessment system where half of all students were destined to fail. I've flown the flag for creativity in an often arts-hostile environment. Ken Robinson's disciple. Students have come and gone, some more special than others, but all of them unique. Having my own child made me realise more than ever that they are all someone's darling.
So it's Teacher Only Day today at the school where I spent more than a third of my thirty years. In a bizarre twist, the staff paddled past my house this morning in a great, green waka. Bonding. Not exactly paddling in unison, but there they were. I recognised the school haka first. Remembered those endless powhiris in the school gymnasium where all the men sat in the front row and the women had to wear skirts. I learnt a lot during my time at that school. About Catholicism and the mystery of faith. About myself. I met some wonderful people and taught some outstanding students who are now wonderful people. During that era I also lost my dearest friend, met my amazing husband, had my only child, and began to lose my beloved father.
It was the beginning of the end of a long chapter of my life. You can only row the boat so long and it's hard to keep the pace consistent. After a while you start going around in circles and it's time to get out. Today I felt strangely free as I saw them paddle past and realised I'm not on that waka any more. This blog is about the life I'm now living. The dream and the reality.