Yesterday, the day of the Christmas function when all the people leaving the school give their speeches, was almost the perfect day. Today, for some unknown reason dictated to us by the state government, our employer, we have to go into work until midday. So as of midday today, Frogdancer Jones will be free to spend each day as she chooses. Wow.
But let me back-track a bit.
Wednesday was another day of meetings. The first 2 periods of the day were free, so I took the time to clear out the last of the things on my desk, including the desk drawer that I haven’t emptied since I moved onto this desk 17 years ago.
I felt like an archaeologist, working through the layers of artefacts at a burial site. I had 4 pairs of scissors in there. I don’t know why. 20c in a little paper bag, which was some long-ago change from a purchase at the canteen. Paper clips too numerous to count, lots of rubber bands which I took home with me, except for one very limp and exhausted looking one. I showed it to Adrian, saying, “I wonder how old this one is? It’s probably been here for the full 17 years!”
The best find was my ID cards. It wasn’t the complete set, but it showed me with long hair, short hair, fluorescently-dyed hair and they years when I shaved my head bald. (I did that in front of the whole school to help raise money for The World’s Greatest shave back in 2007. I loved the look so kept it going for well over a year.)
Then it was time for the Art meeting, which was really a lunch. Helen, who as well as being the head of department was also the woman who travelled with me to North Korea in 2018, ordered the most scrumptious lunch from a Thai restaurant. Every single dish was delicious.
Speaking of dishes, as a parting gift the Art dept/Helen gave me this beautiful serving dish. As I always say, if you want a great farewell gift that’s aesthetically pleasing, get a job in the Art department!
After lunch, washed down with a couple of glasses of bubbly, it was time for the English meeting. I didn’t bother taking my computer – I took Jenna’s quilt, a needle, thread and scissors and sat down to continue hand-sewing the binding. Persephone sat down next to me to have a quick chat, which was great because I was able to thank her for taking that long holiday 17 years ago, which is how I landed the initial contract to work at the school.
When she left, I took my quilt and a bowl of snakes – I love the green ones especially – over to the year 9 meeting and asked if I could sit with them. They had their computers open and were working on the first task for next year. Persuasive speeches. I sat doen, settled myself with my stitchery and asked Cath if I could do anything to help.
“No Frogdancer, that’s alright. You do you!”
I gave some suggestions and opinions a couple of times as I listened to them, but mostly I kept inching my way slowly around the perimeter of the quilt, feeling interested in the talk that was going on but feeling thankful all the same that this part of my life was coming to an end.
At 3 o’clock Sam came out of the room where the year 12 team had been meeting and came over to see what the year 9 team was doing.
“Don’t worry Sam,” I said, waving the needle merrily at him. “I’ve been here supervising for you, making sure they were working hard!”
The next day was Thursday. The day I’ve been looking forward to ever since I started work at the school. The staff Christmas function, where the speeches are made.
I LOVE public speaking. Just love it. Give me something to talk about and a spotlight to stand in and I’m a happy woman. Over the years I’ve seen many farewell speeches. Most fade into the mist of time, but some live on in the years afterwards, for both good and bad reasons.
I was determined that my speech would be good. I have my pride, after all.
The trouble is, I’m a bleeding-edge sort of teacher. I don’t meticulously plan out my speeches, just like I don’t meticulously plan out my lessons. My gift is spontaneity. And the gods of spontaneity never let me down.
Still, I started to give this speech a little bit of thought, especially after one of my English faculty colleagues tried to psych me out. After my speech on Monday, he said to me in front of a few others who I respect from the English department, “You know Frogdancer, your speech on Thursday could go one of two ways. You’ll either hit it out of the park or it’ll fall flat as a tack.”
Although inside I was thinking, “WTF?!? Why would you fucking say this to someone giving a speech you dic****d?”, while outside I was as cool as a cucumber, saying, “Yes, I agree with you. It’ll be interesting to see which one it is.”
I’m not the brightest person. I had no idea that it was a warning shot across the bow.
Two days later, on Wednesday night, as soon as I got home from work I started planning my speech. When I do this, I don’t write things down. Instead, I walk around and around, muttering to myself as I try out different stories and scenarios. As they become clear I slot each anecdote, joke and message into a clear, coherent pathway. Then I make dot points. It takes time, but as I mutter and pace, it all starts to emerge as a coherent whole.
Ryan25 heard me and came into the room, asking who I was talking to.
“The whole staff,” I said. “I’m writing my speech.”
“Oh”, he said. “Thought so. Have fun!” and he left me to it. He also cooked dinner so I’d be free to keep working on it. He’s a good lad.
As I walked and muttered, a gradual pattern emerged. I knew going in that I wanted to be funny, but also to have a middle section where I got serious. Then I’d end with a funny section, a bit like most of my lessons. Reel ’em in with humour, get your point across and then leave ’em laughing.
Gradually, a few ‘must haves’ emerged, so I grabbed some paper and jotted down dot points. Nothing more than that. I wanted to speak directly to my audience, not read to them. At around 9, the perfect ending to my speech came tumbling from my mouth.
“YES!” I cried. “I’m a genius!” The last dot point was made. I ran through it, muttering but standing still now because I knew that tomorrow I’d be standing behind a podium with microphones. It was all good. I knew that basic pattern of what I was going to say, I knew the stories I wanted to tell and the running jokes that went with them and I had a kick-arse ending.
The speeches I give have rhythm and pace. This one had running jokes weaving through and a clear thread. I expected a clear space to deliver it, like every other person in the 17 years of speeches I’d enjoyed.
I was ready.
But yeah. It’s late on Friday and to be quite honest… I’m a bit pissed. (In the Aussie meaning of inebriated: not the other meaning of being angry.)
Lets pick up this convo tomorrow. Lots to tell.
But this meme will give you an indication –
Someone tried to scuttle the speech. Not in a major way, but enough to try and derail my focus and make my speech fail. Seriously? Are we in grade 3???
Anyway, I’m tired. I’ll pick this up tomorrow. I’ll keep telling what happened on Thursday, but real terms – it’s Friday evening. I’m free!! I’m retired! But I still need to fill you in on the almost perfect day Thursday was – my send off from teaching.
I’ll pick this up tomorrow. It’s a good story so stick with me. 🙂