Beware the charms of Year 6

Awww Year 6! Spent most of time cooing over this lot today. So nervous and shy they could hardly answer my questions and I had to get the mini whiteboards out in order to get them to communicate (as they were experiencing some kind of locked-in syndrome). And they did…in tiny, shy writing that I could not read.

This got me thinking: why do secondary teachers love Year 6 so much? What is so special about transition day?

When I first started teaching I met my tutor group on transition day, I had been teaching for a year or so already and didn’t empathize with them at all. They all looked a state really. All dressed in disparate uniforms, shirts untucked, wanting to tell you anything that had ever happened to them – they mistook me for their new mum and I had a clear intention never to be that – EVER.

The thing is when you see someone everyday they grow on you, it’s not just work anymore (which is kinda annoying to an over analytical brain), you start to feel responsible for them everywhere and if they ever dare to raise their head around the school you feel you have a right to be down on them like a ton of bricks and they actually let you because (without realizing) you have become the school equivalent of their mum/ dad.

I adored my tutor group. I had them for the whole of their time at secondary school and I was devastated when they left. I spent a long time mourning them and found it hard that they didn’t mourn me (how dare they have lives to get on with?). I still talk about them a lot to anyone who will listen (as you can plainly see). I still have the little figures we all drew of each other above my whiteboard (they insisted on us all pretending to be penguins – ‘why not?’ I thought). They got me and you need that when you are slogging your guts out as a teacher – a special group of people where it’s not all about academia but just…hanging out. I realise I relied on them too much and now, after two years without a tutor group, I know I am a little closed off in my relationships with students.

Every year that I am a teacher I find it a little bit easier to accept that students aren’t grateful for the time I put into them – it’s my job after all but it is an emotional job and the loss of a tutor group is tough, it is hard not to feel like some of the people who know you best are leaving you. I blubbed when they gave me presents (yes, including a penguin soft toy) in their leaving assembly and I never EVER cry (at work).

From an entirely selfish point of view your tutor group are your cheer leaders, if any other kid around the school dares to say something negative about you they tell them to fuck off and actually you don’t know her. Some of them only listen to you (and no one else) and even when communication has totally broken down between them and their parents (and sometimes the police) they still allow YOU to lecture them like they are a small child. It’s heartbreaking and heart warming. As a tutor you are privileged to be a part of their lives at a time when most parents are fighting to gain an inroad.

Year 6 bring out the best of teachers because they see all that potential – the hormones have yet to kick in, they don’t have the day to day pressures of exams and feeling unsettled by having to get up and be someone different in a different room, in a different subject with a different teacher every hour (not such a mystery that Year 7 students plateau or make negative progress really, is it?). They seem pure to us, a new challenge and you can start afresh.

I am taking over a new tutor group next year and am dead excited about it. They aren’t going to be Year 7 but I don’t need them to be. I’m fed up with being a teaching robot, I have already decided that we are going to have the BEST time together and I’m not scared of being left anymore. Because it’s nothing personal and I get that now. I think…Ask me again in a year’s time…

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