There was a real feel of finality at the School. It was the last day of term and not only were the classroom displays coming down, so was the School. The building work continued apace to the backdrop of tears, tantrums and transitions.
I haven’t had the end of term feeling for 20 years; it’s a difficult one to describe. For me, it’s like watching a film in which the hero gets dragged underwater. To test the scene’s plausibility you hold your breath too. Today felt like I’d held my breath until I was out of the School Gates; then I exhaled for England.
The last Assembly was good fun. There were different awards for the children leaving School. Zak was nominated in the ‘Most Excitable’ category; he sat nervously awaiting the result, with all the other kids that refuse to take Ritalin. The Assembly couldn’t have ended better, after an autistic child suddenly rose from his seat and shouted “you’ve been a great audience!”
I couldn’t resist it at the lunchtime break. While separating Zak from a playground scuffle I turned to a nearby Teaching Assistant and said ‘aaahhhh, his last fight’. Ironically enough it happened after a child asked if his shirt was from Oxfam. What goes around comes around.
The Yearbook made for good reading. Asked to describe himself in three words, Zak put ‘Better than Tim’. To the question “What will you be doing in 20 years?” Zak inevitably responded with “An Astronaut in Outer Space”. It’s his long-held dream. Unfortunately, having refusing to pose for the camera, Zak was the only silhouetted child in the Yearbook.
The verdict from Mrs Godsend was not good. As we watched Zak kick a ball around, she believed his future was bleak. She was clutching the card Zak had made for her. “We tried” she said sadly “we showed another side of him, but I think it could be a lost cause”. With 25 years experience I trust her judgement more than most.
I mentioned to Mrs Godsend that at Zak’s annual review, representatives from his new School, a psychologist and a member of SCAN were all missing. She told me how a child whose circumstances were similar to Zak’s, but whose parents were lawyers, had the full complement of people at his annual review. I guess it really is who you know. She also alluded to the fact that some children were envious that Zak worked with me. I was surprised by this, especially as Zak spent most of the term trying to escape me.
I gave Zak my farewell present; a book entitled ‘Astronaut Training for Kids’, followed by a goodbye hug. “Will I see you again?” he asked, “yeah of course mate” I replied “you’re going to fly me to the moon one day”. It felt weird watching him slope off into the sunset for the last time. For the last 7 months, this 11-year-old boy had been my pupil, my tormentor and my friend.
I could never have anticipated how distressing and demanding it is to work with a child diagnosed with ADHD, Autism and a Behavioural and Emotional Disorder. The process of writing the blog genuinely helped me keep mind and body together. Thank you to everyone that’s cast an eye over it.
I hope to continue writing in September when I begin my teacher training. If you’ve stumbled upon this blog for the first time, it all started here. The image below has lines representing the last six weeks of term. I ticked them off as I went along. Where I’ve dragged a pen through it twice it represents the days I would rather forget. The fact that there are only six is testament to the experience, hard work and kindness of my peers.