A tribute to a great friend and teacher

This is the first time I have ever been nervous writing a blog; I’ve thought about it for months, wondering whether to write it, and how I can possibly do it well. I hope, for those to whom it has personal meaning, you find it a fitting and helpful tribute. I want to share some of my memories my great friend, Sinead Rossiter, who passed away from a stomach lymphoma in December 2014.

I first met Sinead in 2010 when she started her post as fellow year 6 teacher and deputy head at Bradshaw Hall Primary School. She was an infectious character, full of life and so uninhibited by the stresses and strains of school. Sinead had the most distinctive of qualities: a genuine enjoyment and appreciation of the children in her class. Sounds odd to say, but whilst maintaining an iron-will to ensure that every child achieved their best, Sinead never lost the ability to enjoy her time with every child and make them the best versions of themselves.

That was lesson number 1 (of many) that I learnt from Sinead: driving standards, having time to build deep relationships and enjoying the moment aren’t mutually exclusive – in fact, quite the opposite. And having time for people wasn’t limited to the children in her class. Sinead made time for all of her colleagues too, on a personal and professional level, having a profound ability to get beyond life’s trivialities and get to know the person that lies behind the professional face.

I will also always remember Sinead for her undoubted eccentricities. Sinead had Cystic Fibrosis and wasn’t expected to live into adulthood. A lung transplant in her 20s gave her far improved health and, I believe, an amazing perspective on life. She was truly uninhibited, brilliantly so. I remember her telling me about how once, late in the evening, she needed something from the local corner shop so went in her pyjamas. She spotted one of our colleagues in there and didn’t want to be seen so hid in the aisle behind bemused shoppers! Now this eccentricity used to come in particularly handy for me when it came to putting on the end of year leavers’ assembly. Mrs Rossiter was the perfect target for micky-taking, with no shortage of ‘parody-able’ habits: her constant range of shoes, that she was always eating, the catchphrases, the constant use of candles…

As a teacher, Sinead was highly effective. You couldn’t help but want to know exactly why she did so well. Teaching was one of her passions, she studied it and talked about it, pedagogically she was strong and she prepared well for lessons. But it was, in my opinion, her remarkable ability to connect with people that really defined her success. As John Hattie might remind us, teaching is essentially a human profession carried out most successfully by passionate individuals, teachers who can relate to and care for their students. In my most pressured times, it’s the aspect of teaching that I am quickest to forget, but that which I would do best to remember.

There are so many individual memories that I could share, and qualities that I could describe, to pay further tribute to Sinead. It has taken me a while to adjust her not being at school, but I know that my loss is nothing in comparison to that felt by her loving family, and particularly her husband who she idolised. It would be contrived of me to say that I will try to carry her legacy on: I can’t, because she was totally unique, and in ways quite different to me. But I know that I am a better teacher and person now for knowing her, and for that I am massively grateful.

Sinead knew her life was likely to be shorter than most, and had a personal faith that gave her great strength. She accepted her CF fully, and knew it made her who she was. She was also massively appreciative of the amazing medical support that she received throughout her life, support which enabled her to be healthy and happy. Sinead would often remind us to treasure life and ‘smell the flowers’. Hers was a short life, but a life thoroughly lived.

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