Packing up my classroom

It’s a funny feeling packing up a classroom you have inhabited for a few years for someone else to move in. Over the last 24 months I have built a space with the children I have worked with to try to reflect the way we worked, and disassembling that seems very strange.

Some things that are taken apart were there by design, some just seemed to evolve. Some things worked really well, some never quite got there, but they all contributed to our learning in some way. The best laid plans, adjusting things as you go, and some genuine mistakes, both good and bad in results- it seems that is just how learning works.

As I said to my class this afternoon, I have never learnt more from a class of children than the group that left me today. They have pushed me to think in so many ways, and shown me just how powerful children’s interests and motivations to learn can be.

On Tuesday afternoon, we had some time for them to finish off various projects they had been working on. At the end of the day a group told me they had a surprise, and explained that myself and our teaching assistant needed to leave the room. We were guided back in to them singing the ‘Wedding March’ (apparently they thought it was just ‘announcement music’), and sat down at the front to be presented with cards they had made, and treated to speeches from many of the class about their appreciation of their time in year 4.

As teachers we are used to groups of children being sneaked out by a TA to make us cards, each drawing a picture that is assembled by an adult and laminated into a sanitised version of their appreciation. The intention is good, but it isn’t entirely their intention.

What struck me about this was that adults had nothing to do with it. They had swiped the card they needed from a store somewhere, decorated it in secret, and organised the collection of everyones signatures before presenting it to me.

The fact that they did that means more to me than any shop bought present, because it shows they have developed something I always aimed for. I can’t take all the credit, they have had great teachers before me, and many wonderful families that support them, but one thing I have tried to do is give them the permission to be themselves, and contributed to building their confidence to make things happen.

This feeling was all the more powerful as today sees me leave my classroom in a broader sense. In September I move to Plymouth University as a Lecturer in Education. A big change, but one thing I know will not change is my ambition to help learners to develop their own futures. Whether directly in the form of working with soon to be teachers and those in schools, or indirectly by the effect they have on the learners they work with, I want to make a difference in the best way I can.

I have in mind some plans, I am sure I will have to adjust them as I go, and I know I will make some mistakes, with both good and bad results. Two years ago I couldn’t have imagined I’d be here. I can’t imagine where I will be in two years time, and that feels good. What I don’t need to imagine is that I will be learning, because that is what I am about.








32 responses to “Packing up my classroom”

  1. Steve Wheeler Avatar

    Oliver, we very much look forward to welcoming you as a member of academic staff here in Plymouth in the coming year. Your enthusiasm and wealth of experience will be a real asset, and you will no doubt influence many teachers positively at very the start of their careers. See you in September 🙂

    1. oliverquinlan Avatar

      Thank you Steve. That is really nice of you to say so and I am really excited about joining you. Exciting times ahead!

  2. David Mitchell Avatar

    I have been waiting for this post from you Oliver! I think everyone will agree when I say that you are something else! You speak with wisdom, knowledge, experience and in a manner that is reflective, genuine and thoughtful. I have done a little bit of work with students and I have to be honest, I have been infected with the same bug that you have! One day, I’d love to work with bigger sponges. Plymouth is an AMAZING place and the University… Well with Prof Steve Wheeler, Pete Yeomans and the students there make it a place with a buzz! I wish you every success in the future. Plymouth University are lucky to have you!

    1. oliverquinlan Avatar

      Thank you David for your kind words. I am really excited by these new possibilities. You are right, it is a great team to be joining and I am looking forward to learning from them too.

  3. Dughall McCormick Avatar
    Dughall McCormick

    I am delighted for you, Oliver. I have always been staggered by the wisdom you have demonstrated as an educator relatively new to the classroom.

    David is right, you will bring so much ‘juice’ to those sponges! The best learners I have ever been lucky enough to work with are trainee teachers and you will be perfect in your forthcoming role.

    I wish you all the best and look forward to hearing more about your inevitable success!

    1. oliverquinlan Avatar

      I am always humbled by your kindness and support Dughall. Thank you.

  4. Angela Page Avatar

    I vividly remember the day I packed up my last face-to-face classroom in late 2000 before moving into distance education. My students (7-9 year olds) were asking, “will you need this when you go to …?” and ‘helping’ in such a beautifully bittersweet way. I still have their handmade farewell cards after all these years – they have survived many culls of my teaching resources over the years and will always be something I treasure. All the best for you next career iteration!

    1. oliverquinlan Avatar

      Thanks for sharing this reflection Angela. I have the cards too, and a wonderful record of our learning on our class blogs. I know I will return to both many times with great memories.

  5. Tony Parkin Avatar
    Tony Parkin

    This came as news to me this evening…and I now sit here smiling as I read… though admit I started with heavy heart as I thought ‘Here we go – another loss to teaching’!

    The post says everything about why on this occasion the loss is good news. If only a small percentage of the students that pass through your orbit pick up your approach and sensibilities then teaching will be immeasurably enriched.

    I still look back with fondness and pride on experiences with the children that I taught whilst teaching. But I also know the amplification factor if you can indeed affect and influence the lives and work of the next generation of teachers.

    I do think we now have the best generation of younger teachers (and trainee teachers) that I have ever encountered through a long career. It is so reassuring that they are to be taught and inspired by other teachers like yourself. Thus is the torch passed on…

    1. oliverquinlan Avatar

      Thank you Tony, I am so pleased your reaction turned positive. It has been a tough decision, and I know I will miss working with children every day. However, it is a privilege to be able to affect even more children’s lives in my new role. Thank you for your support, it is very kind.

  6. Paul James Avatar
    Paul James

    A thoughtful and heartfelt post, Oliver. When classrooms provide security and room to grow and fail and be supported, as I’m sure your’s did, children and young people flourish. Your students have done you proud!

    Good luck in your new career at Plymouth. A move into teacher education is something I’ve been considering. I hope you will continue to blog and share your experiences with your readers.

    Best wishes,


    1. oliverquinlan Avatar

      Thank you Paul. I will of course continue to share here and in other places. I couldn’t have got this role without having done so… but that’s another blog post in itself… =)

  7. […] on to new things Packing up my classroom < moving on to new things, Packing up my classroom | Oliver Quinlan Packing up my classroom < moving on to new things, <a […]

  8. Jo Badge Avatar
    Jo Badge

    Congratulations Oliver – having followed your blog over the last 18 months, you have been one of the people that has inspired me to enter to teaching myself, so I know that you will be a brilliant lecturer in education! Good luck and enjoy Plymouth – my in laws are in the city so I know it well, a beautiful place to l live and work.

    1. oliverquinlan Avatar

      Jo, that means a lot, thank you!

  9. Daniel Needlestone Avatar

    Best of luck to you, great to read about your wonderful send off!

    1. oliverquinlan Avatar

      Thanks! They were so great, I will miss them a lot.

  10. Julia Skinner Avatar

    Ah! So that’s where you are going!
    I feel very honoured to have shared perhaps not the same stage but the same conference with you Oliver. I’m so glad you have enjoyed your time in the classroom because that is what you will remember when you are supporting those joining our profession. Look after them because they are precious. Have a good holiday & maybe our paths will cross in the future – I hope so!

    1. oliverquinlan Avatar

      Thank you Julia, it was an honour to work with you too! We will of course keep up the links, and I hope to see you again soon. You are doing amazing things!

  11. Julia Kossowska Avatar

    Congratulations Oliver! I was quite taken aback at the thought of you leaving Birmingham. You are an inspiration to many, including myself, thank you! It’s just great that we still hear more about what you are doing in your new role. I look forward to continuing to be inspired and challenged.

    Wishing you all the very best!


    1. oliverquinlan Avatar

      Thank you so much Julia, that is very kind. I am sad to be leaving of course, but I hope to keep in touch with what is going on in the city. Enjoy your summer.

  12. Neil Hopkin Avatar

    Great news Oliver, you will have a super time with Steve and Pete and also make a valuable contribution to teacher training. You continue to be a source of inspiration to many and we all look forward to following your developing ideas with interest. Good luck and best wishes!

    1. oliverquinlan Avatar

      Thanks Neil, that means a lot. I have no doubt I wouldn’t be at this stage without your input and support, so thank you.

  13. Karen Horne Avatar
    Karen Horne

    Oliver, although I am not surprised, my initial reaction was one of sadness. However, you will continue to be an inspiration for me and many, many more and I just want to say thank you. Good luck with your new venture and I look forward to reading many more inspiring blogs.

    Don’t eat too many cream teas though!

    Karen x

  14. Dan bowen Avatar
    Dan bowen

    Congrats Oliver,

    Good luck in new career move. change is always good and will refresh you and give you an even wider context for your great work.

    Even thoguh at this time of year it is sad in so many levels remember that everyone needs a change to keep moving forward.

    Good luck


  15. Andy mellor Avatar
    Andy mellor

    Good luck in your new adventure! Moving on, especially when you have established learning in such a deep and profound way is really hard. The thing that is critical now, is that the obvious quality of relationships and quality and love of learning which you transmit to your pupils is transmitted through the trainees you work with to their pupils. Good luck and stay in touch!
    Ps I’m trying to develop a set of resources for itt at university of Cumbria and edge hill so would be more than happy to share these with you for university of Plymouth.

  16. Tom Barrett Avatar

    Wow great news Oliver – what a great opportunity for Plymouth Uni to have you as part of their staff! I wish you all the very best of luck. I am in no doubt that you will have a huge impact in your new role – just as much as you have as a classteacher – and continue to inspire us all.

  17. Kevin McLaughlin Avatar

    Many congratulations Oliver. What your school loses another educational establishment gains. Your students many not be under 10 any more but they will be just as inquisitive. A teacher, no matter what age the students in the classroom are nor where it might be, should always be ready to inspire. You are that teacher.

  18. José Picardo Avatar

    Many congratulations on your new post and best wishes in your new post next September. Plymouth is shaping up as a fantastic place to learn how to become an educator.

    All the very best.

  19. Pam Thompson Avatar

    Hi Oliver. Congratulations on your new role. A great loss to the primary classroom but such a positive win for student teachers and Plymouth Uni. It’s wonderful to hear that the UK is producing an inspiring generation of new teachers and you will surely add to that. I have enjoyed reading about your teaching experiences and our brief connection via blogging.

    I wish you all the best at Plymouth Uni.

    1. oliverquinlan Avatar

      Thanks Pam. It was great sharing with you and your class, and my class got lots out of it. Let me know of class blogs and places you are posting things for the next year, it would be great for me to continue to follow them. Thanks for your kind words.

  20. Hannah Jones Avatar

    “one thing I have tried to do is give them the permission to be themselves, and contributed to building their confidence to make things happen.”

    My teachers did that for me, for which I will be eternally grateful.

    I am sure that you can inspire a new generation of teachers to hold this at their core too.

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