Friday, 31 January 2014

A day in the life

This post was originally written last year in March. I'm not quite sure why I didn't publish it at the time. I think originally i had written far too many details about a students personal story and felt I better edit it.  Well I've only just found and reread it (six am saturday morning baby asleep on my legs) and it seems fine now so here you go. I'm not sure it conveys exactly what I was trying to get across but hope it gives some insight into the day of a teacher.  

I finished year nine parents evening last night at 8pm, went back to my classroom and tidied up the days mess so I could get straight to work this morning when I arrived at school.  I've got a big meeting/assessment on Friday and I had allocated myself an hour and a half before work today to give it some serious thought.

Packed up and out the door by 8:30pm and home after 9 making it an even 15 hour day. Nice.

I'm up at 5 as normal and in work by 6:30am. My plan was to work till 8am on Fridays assessment then in my free first period sort out resources and materials for my period three year 11 class (marking yesterdays work, photcopying, printing images of their work from my phone, making a set of powerpoint slides to emphasise a piece of work that they were working on). All of this work is done at a sprint pace in between answering emails and I find myself jogging across the playground back from the reprographics dept.

First lesson was at 9:30. Year 7's. Decent class but as always at this stage of the project really needy with their work. One girl arrives late. She has a note as there has been an incident. It turns out she's been cyber bullied. She's obviously upset so I have a decent chat with her about it and she seems a bit better afterwards.

In the lesson I'm circling around the room helping them with their sawing and filing and replacing Coping saw blades as fast as they can break them. Two students cut their fingers (hilariously minor cuts) but they want plasters. I stop the class and say that nobody is allowed to cut themselves anymore. It's now banned. This is a nice bunch of kids and they get the joke and laugh.

Break time is half an hour and in that time I have to tidy away the year seven stuff, finish sorting out my year 11 work and lay out their folders, print my lesson observation forms, answer the half dozen emails I've had in the last hour, check with my NQT (Newly Qualified teacher) who I will be observing period four to see she has all she needs, make a coffee and sort out cover for my period four lesson. I'm starving but no time to get to the canteen. I get back to my room with coffee as the pips go and my year 11's arrive like a scene from a George Romero film.

This lesson is a serious drain on my energy levels. I'm having to drag them all kicking and screaming towards the end of the course. I'm around the room constantly cajoling, pushing, helping, being Mr. Enthusiastic. I've talked about this lot previously in this blog and although their behaviour has improved, it's fair to say they are not well endowed with creativity. Trying to push creativity is hard work.

12:08pm and I finish period 3 with a tidy up and sort out of my room as a cover teacher is using the room to take my year seven class. It's not great leaving anything out that I don't want to lose during a cover lesson. I'm conducting a formal observation of my colleague five minutes ago so sprint upstairs with the forms. I watch a great lesson, taking extensive notes to be properly written up and discussed later.

1:08pm Lunch. In the 30 minutes we get for lunch I need to tidy up my room after the cover lesson, lay out the students work and get some extra wood for their project, answer my emails, make a coffee and get some wood for the after school DT club that happens on a Wednesday and have a brief meeting with another teacher about whether or not they should go for a head of department job. I run to the kitchen to microwave some lasagne brought from home while the kettle boils. I'm on top of things enough to manage to check my phone for messages while I eat my lasagne with a spoon.

Period five with another year seven class is a struggle. Sadly the lunchtime coffee hasn't made a dent. I'm getting tired. I get through it but not before losing my rag at the end of the class when the kids make a shocking attempt at clearing up and try to take the piss. Before the lesson is even over I have a student waiting for after school club at the door. Not even time to have a piss.

For the past few weeks I've been making a stage set for drama with this one really keen year 9 student. A fireplace on one side, a chest of drawers on the other and a moveable door frame. I've got quite into it and the student has become pretty good. It's looking excellent but it's been hard work and I can't just leave him to get on with it as I'm teaching him every step of the way.

I have 8 students in today and they all want things. So I'm helping them while also making this door frame. I feel like I'm going to die if I don't get a coffee but I can't really leave to make one.

I send the younger ones out at 4pm and a year 10 student of mine and the year nine lad stay till 4:50 when I send the year nine lad home as I need to check my emails and think about the next day.

The year 10 boy is in my classes and he is really talented in the subject. He arrived  from Afghanistan with no English but now can speak pretty well. He is genuinely one of the nicest people you could meet. I ended up chatting with him for half an hour about how he came to the UK.

It's quite an unbelievable tale and I felt myself close to tears speaking to him. I'm not going to go into it on here but essentially he arrived clinging under a truck after a four month journey.  He hasn't seen his mum or his brothers since. As he is leaving he says "Sir my face looks like a boy but inside I am an old man"

He leaves and I realise I had to have my car into the garage by 5:30 to have an MOT done tomorrow. I have my bike in the boot to cycle home. I pack up and sprint to my car and race to get there but in the normal five minute journey there is loads of traffic and by the time I get there it's shut.

I look at my phone and there are about a thousand messages.

I didn't get all that I needed to do today done and so I'll add that to my list for tomorrow.

Alarm set for 5am.


At around about 3pm today I found myself, as I often do on a Friday afternoon, staring at something uncomprehendingly. In this case it was my keys.

***Backstory alert***

The process of uprooting a department like mine and moving years of accumulated tools, resources, materials, projects, folders and assorted piles of shite is complicated, chaotic, stressful and confusing. Add in the fact that the new facilities we have moved into are half finished and some of the stuff works, but you have to just get on with teaching anyway as they build around you, then you can get an idea of what January has been like. To make things extra confusing I have been handed an obscene amount of keys. The handover of the new building from the construction company in charge and the negotiations for alterations has been tense and bad tempered and clearly fitting a single key barrel for a department is beyond the abilities of those concerned. For my classroom alone I have eight separate keys. Eight. Then you include my office, the dt and art team base, the two technicians room keys, the construction workshop, the catering kitchen x 2, the textiles rooms, the cad room, the graphics room, not to mention machine keys, coshh cupboards and so on and so on and zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

***end of backstory***

So generally at the end of the week I am frazzled mentally. School has a particular way of making your brain dull and fuzzy that I have rarely experienced sober. I've asked and other teachers feel the same. It's as if the interaction with the constant white noise of teenage student activity and behaviour, eventually polishes your synapses as smooth as a pebble in the Mediterranean sea.

At 3pm I'm looking at this in my hand:

I'm staring at it for a good while...

Then I realise that I'm not actually trying to figure out which one I need. I am instead actually trying to figure out what they are.

The weekend my friends has come in the nick of time.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

More language

Some new phrases have popped up since I last posted here.

"Certy" or "Certified" is quite common at the moment for things that are guaranteed good.

"Ham" I can't quite believe this one is real but apparently if something is ham then its good.

I also love the words used to describe skunk or really strong weed as compared to bush or standard strength grass:

"Loud" as opposed to "mute".

As in "man you've got the red eye" "Yeh bruv been smokin that loud."

Language note.

Just before the last holidays I was chatting to a year 11 student and asked what he was up to over Christmas and new year.

"Sir I'm going to sleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep"

This is generally the reaction of a lot of the kids about the holidays. They are knackered and they want to sleep for a very long time. This particular way of saying it though cracked me up. The kids at my school have pretty poor literacy levels as English is often their second or third language. We recently got some shocking statistics about the low reading ages of our key stage 4 students (7-8 years old anyone?) This manifests itself in little tricks or cheats to explain things without using actual words.

By extending the word sleep to about 20 seconds it signifies just how tired he is and how long he will be in bed without needing any extra adjectives or any other words for that matter. Needless to say myself and my colleague Mr.S have appropriated this into our daily banter.

"I need a cofeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee" being a fairly regular cry.


Stupid amounts of time has passed since I wrote anything on this blog.

Obscene amounts of things have happened.

I am now a head of department.

My department moved into temporary buildings for a year and are now back in to proper classrooms and new facilities.

I am also now a dad.

All of these things mean that writing anything in my spare time has become a challenge.

I don't have any spare time.

Why am I writing with this annoying spacing of lines? Who knows. I'll stop now. So how to sum up the experience of being a head of department in a secondary school. Well it's a dreadful, dreadful thing. The role of the so called middle leader, as far as I can see it, is to cram two full time jobs into one and spend your time adding things to your to-do list. A list that, even if I work an eleven/twelve hour day (most days), I find has grown in size rather than shrunk. Every single day.

It's mostly meetings and bullshit passed down from up on high by those who no longer teach much at all but need to be seen to be coming up with new initiatives to justify their fat pay cheques. I'm not going to whine about it any more though. That's yer lot.

The truth of the matter is that I actually really love it. I love being head of department and I love being a teacher. I just don't like having to do both at once.

I'm stretched so thin you can see through me. I may tear. Watch this space.

All in a days work

More images of the contents of my pockets after a hard days graft.