Yesterday, I secured my first ‘proper’ job as a teacher. It’s been my dream since circa age 5, so I’m a little bit delighted. And having my future safe has allowed me to sit back and breathe a little today and to think about all the children I’ve already taught, all over the world and realised that they have taught me more than I could ever teach them.
To my gorgeous Peruvian chiquitos, thank you for your glorious smiles, your ‘fan-mail’, your requests for my autograph. Thank you for your boundless enthusiasm, your spirit, your determination and eagerness to learn, despite the system. You came to school every single morning with laughter and energy, pulling your mini suitcases with pride and your chatter visible as cold puffs in the frozen morning air. You bigger ones raced up the stairs, swinging your cases up with the vigour of your youth, while you little ones lugged them up, one huge step at a time, eyes fixed firmly on your next obstacle, perseverance getting you to the top. Thank you for the moment when we sang ‘Go Bananas’ and you loved it so much that you refused to go when the bell rang for break – instead you stayed and wrote the strange English words on the board and sang it again and again. Thank you for your curiosity, your questions, for being excited when it was my turn to teach you. I hate that you have to study in those concrete classrooms with the tables fixed to the floor in rows, with the one tatty map on the wall, the teaching from textbooks that you receive. But I loved sharing the best bits of your culture – the morning snack of hot porridge or papas rellenas to combat the morning chill, the rousing assemblies in the playground as some of you proudly marched with the flag of your country, the way you all ran out of school at 12:30, now in the full heat of the day, some of you running alongside me, asking me about England and telling me about your lives. I wish I could do more for you and one day I hope I can – if not for you then for Peruvian children like you – and I miss you every day.
To my Argentinean teenagers, I need to write to you and find out how you are all doing. Did you get places at university? How is your enterprise project going? What music are you into now? When I was with you, it was Rihanna. You girls played it over and over on the tinny speakers of your mobile phones as we cut out letters and designs for the new displays. You wanted to know what the lyrics meant and it led us to talking about domestic violence and respect for women. Some of you were loud and vivacious, some were sweet, quiet souls. Some of you boys could be exasperating but you were also utter gentlemen, finding me a chair or offering me coffee. You shared with me your passions, your hopes, your dreams, your fears. We had so much fun every day and you always came so beautifully dressed, so optimistic and willing, no-one seeing you on the street would believe what your home lives were like. I hope to come back and see you one day – I hope it won’t be too long.
And to my children in England, from the little ones to the primary-school leavers, you are all just gorgeous. In many ways, you have no idea how lucky you are, but how would you? You expect that your teachers will do their best to engage you, to enthuse you, to give you a wide range of opportunities and activities. And you should not expect any less. Nor should any child. But in so many other ways, you are just like children all over the world. You have a unique and simple perspective of the world which is beautiful to behold and you come up with such wonderful, zany and brilliant ideas. You see things that grown-ups miss and you are so full of life – you little ones just buzz with energy and you older ones have just the start of a swagger, showing that you are ready to move on to the big world of secondary school. You make me laugh and energise me – time with you makes the hours spent doing parperwork worth it.
I can’t wait to start my new career and I thank each and every one of you for helping me get there. Travel will always inspire my teaching and teaching will always inspire my travel and I hope to explore and educate in many more countries and cultures.