Teaching is not a job you can half-do.
And there is a cost to giving your all to an all-consuming vocation so I'll start by thanking my wife and family for their support over all my years in the classroom, as they have been awesome.
Most teachers want to make a difference in kid's lives but you need to be passionate, enthusiastic, and believe in and have faith in your pupils so that you direct their journey of discovery in the best way possible.
Over the years, I have seen the challenges to classroom teachers increase enormously, primarily because decision making in education continues to be made by people with little or no educational background or classroom experience: people with no practical idea about how the likes of new entrants or young adolescents learn. Buzz words abound and "reinvention of the wheel" is common.
Today's teachers are expected to be psychologists, parents, health workers, guidance & behavioural counsellors, coaches and motivators to name but a few! Some children are blessed with loving, caring homes and parents who encourage and support learners and learning, while others less fortunate arrive at school with little to assist them in their learning journey.
The job has become heavy with accountability, with endless paper trails everywhere.
Accountability and change are good but, over-accountability and change for change's sake can take valuable teacher time away from the very students we really ought to be accountable to.
In my early years as a teacher, we were trusted to work hard and plan well: to be professional. There was a high trust model then.
But in my later years there hasn't been time for that all–important lunchtime playground interaction with students, an essential element in building rapport with young learners.
But let me reflect on some great moments. I am proud to have been told that my 1990s outdoor camps are regarded as "legendary".
At Camp Okataina one year, I was out with my wallaby-catching team, complete with 12 volt battery and spotlight, and we spotted a likely juvenile wallaby. Those boys didn't move a muscle until the order was given: "Get it boys."
The pursuit was on, both boys and wallaby, leaping and bounding. As I held the spot as steady as I could, one of my boys disappeared before my eyes. I blinked to check - no, he'd disappeared alright.
As I got closer I heard a small voice below me calling, "Mr H, Mr H". Parting the bushy undergrowth I looked down to see my principal's son (he'd be in his 40s now), frantically reaching up. I grabbed his hand and hauled him out of a 2m deep drain, soaking wet from the underground stream, only to have him ask 'where's the wallaby, where did it go?' and he was off again.
Be assured, lots of planning went into those camps, but there was never a Risk Management Assessment System (RAMS) analysis form to be seen anywhere. Health and safety is far more intense these days.
I have loved teaching a range of students and having that opportunity to make a difference in their lives. It has been a privilege and, after 43 years and contact with 32,000 students, I have no regrets.
I've enjoyed wonderful moments in teaching in eight great spots.
I was principal of the remote Puketitiri School set in Hawke's Bay high country sheep farming territory with an incredible community spirit. Everyone pitched in to provide the extra curricula subjects for the senior pupils.
They brought in sewing machines, wood work equipment, held cooking lessons and tutored our school band. They organised working bees to restock the woodshed for the pot belly stoves and the senior boys took turns chopping the kindling. School was the centre of the community.
I have loved seeing passionate young teachers coming into the profession. I have no doubt, teaching is likely the most important job on the planet.
I'm saddened to notice that after three, maybe four years, young teachers head overseas for their OE and then on their return, their training and talent is often lost to other vocations. Perhaps teaching is becoming too difficult to be sustainable?
I now begin the new chapter of my retirement: (clues: boots, boat, fishing rod).
As well as my family I must thank all those great kids from great families I have come in contact with and apologise in advance if I don't recognise you now that you're in your 40s or 50s.
Developing rapport and relationship with your students is essential in teaching and the icing on the cake for me is being approached by ex-students with fond memories of having been in my class.
I was so proud to pull up at a service station recently when an (initially) unfamiliar burly young mangave me a friendly wave and yelled out "Hey Mr H, I remember you …. 'cos you believed in me."
• When the final Term 2 bell rings at Whakatane Intermediate School, environmental science teacher Graham Henton will call time on 43 years in the classroom. He was just 18 when he began three years training at Hamilton Teachers College in February 1975.