Thursday, July 21, 2011

Class of 2011: Onwards and Upwards

The staff room floor...
Teachers always approach the last day of school for a group of Year 13 students with a certain amount of trepidation. Traditionally, it’s viewed as the Annual Day of Practical Jokes. This year, their last day coincided with the day of the Leavers’ Boat Party where the Leavers of Our School and Another Local Girls’ School enjoy a boat cruise along the Thames.

Before the night’s festivities, however, my school’s staff were greeted with several slightly surreal scenes: hundreds of partly-filled plastic cups of water in a staff-room devoid of furniture; a spectacular pyramid-shaped sculpture of tables gaffer-taped together on the lawn and inside several teaching rooms, a variety of computer items cling-filmed together.

It was all very good-humoured. I will miss this year group in particular, as their start as fresh-faced young men was also mine. Their metamorphosis into gentlemen was brought home when I arrived at the local pub for an informal drink. Every one of the boys was wearing an evening suit and looked impeccable.

This good humour continued through the night. Boarding a boat at Putney pier it became apparent that it was not just our School Leavers (and staff!) who had made an effort to look their best: the girls ensured the limelight was not stolen by the sharp lines of a well-cut tuxedo.

Quick consumption of drinks (including those of the alcoholic variety) was followed by a very pleasant two-course meal. London’s landmarks along the Thames provided an excellent backdrop to the sharing of embarrassing school stories, anecdotes of times gone by and musing about the future.

The DJ provided a range of suitable music to get our feet moving. The enthusiasm (perhaps fuelled by a certain elixir) with which certain songs were embraced was impressive. This was even more so when the boat suffered a power failure and plunged the celebration into darkness. Undaunted, our boys continued singing party anthems, clapping and taking the crowd with them.

The Head Boy continued this undaunted spirit by giving out the Leavers’ Awards. Each one was accompanied by his wry, humorous take on his peers. These awards, organised and voted for by the boys themselves underlined the strong sense of community present amongst our pupils – due in no small part to the positive environment staff create.

Other highlights of the evening included: a Kilt; a cowboy Hat; a teacher’s smooth dancefloor moves (no not mine) and the Girls’ School Leavers remarking on how wonderful our staff were.

This evening not only gives the Leavers an opportunity to dress up – it also represents a chance for boys to say their goodbyes: to each other and to the staff who have nurtured them. It really is about their moving on to pastures new – the call of life beyond the cosy walls of Our School must be heeded. The ‘special relationship’ between staff and student that makes Our School unique was palpably present on the boat that night. I’m sure each boy will take fond memories of their time with us as they move onwards and upwards.