Tucked away, nestled high above Onchan suburbia and flanked by lush and boundless emerald greenery, is Ashley Hill School. It’s one of the 32 primary schools our Island has to call its own. The building itself, built in 1971, is not without its charm but slightly ragged. Yet the surrounding beauty more than compensates for that. Not to mention, enterprising teaching philosophies that are the cornerstone of what is termed ‘The Ashley Hill Way’. Their core values include ‘honesty’, ‘respectful relationships’ and ‘curiosity’ to name but a few.
Just as a house is not a home, a school is merely a building without the people. The cleaners, teachers, canteen staff, headmasters, teaching assistants and children of all ages – ranging from cherubic, not-long-foetuses to cocksure, nigh on adults, all give a school its heart.
It’s all too easy to cast your mind back to those early days, those days that feel like yesterday and today all at once; a sweet and strangely sad nostalgia; a montage of an old, not yet fully formed version of you will play out: The resonant chime of the school bell; the hushed whispers and mutterings moments before assembly starts; the stentorian boom of the impassioned teacher, and the uninhibited, infectious laughter of best friends; all that helped forge your very sense of self.
So, here we are, on International Women’s Day, trying not to become too dewy-eyed and to, instead, focus on the task in hand: To celebrate impressive and unheralded women.
However, there was a very slight spanner in the works. When Gef approached Ashley Hill Headmaster, Peter Lewis, about the possibility of profiling one or two key female staff members, he had the following to say:
“I’ve spoken to my colleagues and they’d love to be involved. However, whilst they’re extremely flattered by the approach, being the modest characters that they are, they would like to push forward the team element of working in a school. We wondered if a group, including support staff, could be involved in the article”
Such selflessness and lack of ego are, surely, prime ingredients in the make-up of the archetypal ‘good teacher’. We all had that teacher, that one who got us. And perhaps it is only now, as we hurtle through life at breakneck pace as wearisome adults, that we truly appreciate the significance of the good teacher(s). They can instil confidence where once there was no belief; they encourage but critique also, giving time to make mistakes and accepting that it’s ok too, as long as we learn from them. They believe in us and sometimes, that’s all a child needs to achieve special things.
As a Father myself, it is a miraculous yet subtle thing of beauty to watch your own child develop – to read books with you or to converse and laugh. It is akin to hair growth – it doesn’t seem to happen until one day you suddenly notice it. When your kid begins reading for the first time, it honestly feels like sorcery of the highest order. I remember when my eldest boy Hunter read his first book…*sighs wistfully*
“Spotttt….ruuuuns…ffffast!”, he stuttered, shyly.
“BURN THE WITCH!!”, I bellowed like a maniacal Brian Blessed.
Thankfully, my wife was on hand to inform me this was perfectly normal in his stage of development. So, I reluctantly put my pitchfork back in my trusty pitchfork cupboard.
The responsibility on a teacher’s shoulders is colossal, particularly in this era of history where both Mum and Dad are working long hours, chipping away haplessly at the unbudging monolith that is your average mortgage. It’s arguable that the burden is ever greater now on the average school teacher. Plus, kids really listen to teachers, in my experience. I’ve spent 6 years trying, lucklessly, persevering with pointless pluckiness to get my two boys into football. Let’s just say when the three of us have a kickabout, the most common sentence uttered is “No don’t throw it, mate”.
One of the pictured staff of Ashley Hill said the best bit of her job was “working with children everyday, seeing them blossom” and another – “the moment when it clicks for a child”. I don’t name either individual due to aforementioned modesty: Not one of the women workers of Ashley Hill wishes to be named individually. This is absolutely a group collective, working together in unison, very much like an army of ants who, in between foraging for wasp eggs, teach your kid the 3 x table.
In today’s social media-infused pressure cooker of blistering opinion and tribalism, how restorative for the human soul is this overt display of humble, genuine, humility.
On International Women’s Day, let’s celebrate not just the teachers of Ashley Hill School but teachers all over the Island and further afield. It is a role that is thankless so perhaps it’s time we were thankful. I leave you with some of the standout quotes from the females of Ashley Hill school, unsung heroines that help our sons and daughters in scarcely fathomable ways. They don’t do it for thanks; they do it because they care (and maybe the holidays. Fair play).
Who are your inspirations?
“My Granny – she persevered through everything and has never given up”
“Florence Nightingale – she knew there was a better way to care for the sick and injured”
Words of advice?
“Be prepared for the unprepared”
Best part of the job?
“The fun and adventure of working with children”
“Helping children develop as thinkers and learners”
International Women’s Day?
“Celebrating successful all women”
“Happy. Strong. Independent”