Last weekend I went back for a music festival to the island where we had spent six and a half years. We left nearly four years ago when I sought promotion to a senior leadership post.
When we lived in Uist, I was variously a supply teacher, PT (Head of Department) of Support for Learning, PT Languages and Youth Theatre leader.
I consequently got to know lots of pupils over the years.
I knew at the time that I was blessed to work with them. They were generally co-operative, creative and resilient.
The classes were small and although we were on a remote rock in the middle of the Atlantic, we were generally well-resourced.
Of course we had some issues. There was a significant degree of rural deprivation. Some pupils found island life suffocating and frustrating. We had our fair share of family break-ups, health and mental health difficulties and bereavements. Alcohol misuse was a concern amongst young and old.
And we had the terrible trauma of a care-leaver who was murdered soon after leaving school in S4.
But we also had an amazing sense of community that was based around music, drama, ceilidhs, Gaelic and tradition.
The community was somewhat wary of outsiders at times but on the whole we fitted in.
Within minutes of arriving at the festival, I was confronted by three lovely young women. “Lena! Do you remember us?” At first, a moment of bluster, having been taken unawares and unable to place these beautiful faces… and then “Of course!! Caitlin, Sarah and ….. Jessie!” Two former Germanists and youth theatre die-hards and one of my first S4 French class and a Gaelic star.
Now, as if possible, an art undergraduate, a medic and a British Museum trainee…..All confident, poised and so very interesting.
I felt a burst of pride and a genuine sense of contentment.
And so the weekend continued. Re-union after union, tale after tale of children grown into young adults; lots having been inspired to continue with German, many carrying the baton of drama into their adult lives.
Several had not found school easy but are now achieving and thriving as grown-ups.
The highlight, perhaps, was dancing along to the Beinn Lee Ceilidh Band which rivals any of the modern-traditional fusion bands that you will hear today and was formed completely of former pupils.
I know that I didn’t get the full story or complete picture in every case. I know that not every past pupil will be in a good place.
But last weekend gave me a huge sense of affirmation that our job as a teacher is a privilege and potentially life-changing.
We can’t measure our success in a matter of months or a few short years. We need to take a longer- term view to really see the seeds we have sown grow, flourish and bloom.