Last week was one of the busiest I have had in a very long time. I know this is subjective - as people can feel all kinds of busy with varying demands upon them. But I'm sure, in its own way, my 'busy' was very busy last week. I'm still recovering!
After working for two terms in a local primary school, the end of term madness had kicked in. Students had parties and sports days, reports went home, parents meetings and training sessions continued, teacher assessments and test results were published while teachers moved - lock, stock and barrel - to new classrooms. Children carted home folders of work and carrier bags full of christmas cards and old newsletters while stock cupboards (some of which had not been spring cleaned in a number of years) were emptied in to endless binliners. Chaos ensued. Furniture removal companies have nothing on a bunch of teaching staff who have a finite number of hours to get a job done. We're not talking displays, labels, planning, classroom organisation, teaching resources or motivational posters (all made by theirs truly) as that comes later during the summer break. This was just the end-of-year loose ends, furniture shifting and stockroom moving shinannigans.
As school staff tend to be up for most challenges, this bunch just got on with it. We were our own cheerleaders. We kept our spirits up while becoming more and more dishevelled. Even the new headteacher rolled his usually pristine sleeves up. And so we battled on, full of positive pushes to keep fighting the fight.
Thick with dust and sneezing rather spectacularly, one staff member carrying furniture cursed her choice of stacked mules. Outside, the still, sticky heat made the children dozy and even the ever popular loomband making was too much effort. A few hard liners still attempted football with faces shining red until supervisors stopped their sticky fun.
As is the way with all moving days, domestic or business, suddenly it all seems to get to a point of no return. We had been at it for hours, days some of us. The place was in turmoil. Sticky and grimy, sense of humour failure was rife and even the most docile of teachers were getting a little bit snippety. Yet, while our cheerleading may have become quieter, we were still pushing through. We waved the children off at 3.15 wishing them safe and happy holidays. Then the real work began.
I had just trekked what felt like a good half mile with 90 exercise books - an unwelcome delivery to my old class's next teacher who I found surrounded by piles of library books, story books, tatty atlases and dictionaries - when I rested against a nearby windowsill. Either I'm getting older, or fatter, or both, but I'm sure I had more stamina back in the day.
The deputy head, her usually tidy demeanour a little frayed round the edges, strode down the corridor towards me cradling an A4 paper box and we smiled at each other wearily. She tipped the lid off .
"It's still alive," she smiled. Looking up at us from deep inside was the most beautiful housemartin, all irredescent greens and blues, its little head cocked to one side and its wings still.
"What do we do?" she asked. "I'm no good with birds."
It transpired that after saving this tiny creature from an almost certain lunch date with a cat, our Deputy, who was 'no good with birds', had regularly checked on the poor thing through the day. The bird had sat quite happily in her stock cupboard, in said box although it had been expected to keel over at some point during the day. However, now that it was perky and almost certainly not on its last legs, we needed to do something.
My suggestion was to give it to my dad who is, by his own admission, a bit of a twitcher and knows alot about dying birds after a life time of saving them from the jaws of various family cats.
The caretaker, himself also a bit of a BirdMan, suggested we take her to the highest point we could find. He shared with us that housemartins need to take off from up high so they can fly with the wind beneath their wings. I'll save you the Bette Midler tribute that ensued. We were a little amused though.
It's safe to say I've never been on the school roof before. Climbing a number of rickety steps to the loft then up to the roof, the now five strong group trooped their way up, up, up. I had a vision of Brian Blessed cheering me on as my vertigo kicked in.
Up on that roof, the bird was lifted up on to a cable and without a moment's hesitation, off she flew, the wind catching her and lifting her away. She was gone so quickly, some of us even missed the moment she left us and we scanned the horizon desperate for a glimpse of our tiny mascot.
On that roof, we all quietly stood. Away from the chaos of the corridors and the end of term turmoil, we had saved a life.
And it felt good.
However busy, however important our Things to Do list might be, it is always crucial to keep an eye on the bigger picture. The people we work with, the lives we come across will always benefit from another's kindness.
In the words of one of the greats, I'll leave you with this last thought:
Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get better. It's not.
So be sure when you step, Step with care and great tact.
And remember that life's A Great Balancing Act.