Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Farewell, Albury North

It is 9.10am. The school bell echoes around an empty playground. Sunlight glints off unbroken puddles. A flock of galahs makes its way, unhurried, across the deserted playing field. Where rubber balls bounced, where shoes scuffed, where rucksacks were flung, silence reigns. Yesterday was the last day of term. And I feel sad.

For, in this year of so many adventures, Albury North Public School has provided my happiest moments. I had the privilege of working as a teacher's aide in kindergarten before moving on to work with the kids in Year 6 (below). These young people made me smile every day. They welcomed me instantly into the classroom, as did their teacher, Michael Fayle.

Working in the school gave me a feeling of belonging - something which had been lacking during my first six months in Australia. Yes, we'd visited some amazing places, but it was only when I 'joined the staff' at ANPS that I ceased being a tourist and truly became an Albury resident. I loved the challenge of helping young people learn. They taught me plenty in return. And my involvement wasn't confined to the classroom, either.

I was a guest judge at the school talent show.

I watched the Year 6 students practice, and perform, their graduation dance.

I made friends. Every one of these young people had a different story to tell and I wanted to listen.

Walking across that empty playground, I knew how much I was going to miss Albury North Public School. To spend two terms (with separate classes), to build relationships, to learn, to joke, to play, to share, to laugh, and then to walk away, will be one of the hardest things I've ever had to do.

Rachel's exchange brought us to Australia. Alongside vice-principal Adrian Fury, principal Paul Smith (above) and so many others, she has shone. Quel surprise. I can't begin to write her story - she will tell that herself. But it has been in the most unlikely place - the classroom next to Rachel's - where my year in Australia really came alive.

I will always be grateful to Paul for taking a punt on me and inviting me into his school. I couldn't have asked for a better teacher to work alongside than Michael Fayle (above). And I will remember the wonderfully indefatigable Albury North students even when we're on the other side of the world, and they've moved on to high school.

Our time here is almost up. Of course, it will be a thrill to renew acquantainces back home and to catch up on the year we missed in England. But there will always be a special place in my heart for Albury North Public School and the people - young and older - who helped me create such fond memories.
Oh, that our paths should cross again.

Thank you - and goodbye.

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