Sunday, 22 February 2009


Question: Is it better to have a really dull half term holiday where you potter around a bit and mark a few books every day, and plan some lessons, and worry about work? Or an amazing week off, full of fun and late nights and a nagging feeling at the back of your mind that you should be doing some work, which only becomes reality on Sunday evening just twelve hours before you're back in work again?

Answer: At this point on a Sunday evening it doesn't really matter... that sinking "back to work" feeling is all pervasive...

Sunday, 15 February 2009


One of the problems of working with children is that you often default to their juvenile behaviour: maybe it's peer pressure. Or maybe when you're surrounded by the intensity of being a teenager it starts to sink into your pores by osmosis. It does mean though, that I found this headline at the BBC amusing in an Ali G style way, before I realised that I'd probably be first up against the wall if it happened here: Shock as Tanzania teachers caned

In one of my classes this year I have a couple of boys who come out with some utter rubbish, but they do make me laugh. I've given up trying not to laugh at them, and they do enjoy the attention it brings: they aren't really as stupid as they appear. Quite frequently the whole of the relatively small class and I are laughing uncontrollably at some idiotic comment that one of them has made.

But there's not just the humour that degenerates. At a recent family gathering I was told how cutting I was being about certain topics, and it wasn't something I'd noticed I was doing. But when I thought about why such nastiness was dribbling from my lips, I realised it was probably reactionary from the frenetic nastiness buzzing around me during the day... somehow I had picked up on the back-biting comments as being the norm. But it was good to have that moment of self-realisation, so I could try to make myself grow up a little more.

Bad weather season

I made it through the wilderness.... and the snow.... and now it's half term! We were most unfortunate at my school in that we only had the one day of closure because of bad weather, whilst colleagues at my previous school were gloating and gleeful at having the best part of a week off. Note to self: must look at topography more closely when choosing next school.

Having snow outside and trying to contain kids inside is one of the worst experiences I'd ever had, until the last lesson of the half term where I'd foolishly made the wrong choice between covering for an absent teacher or accompanying a class down to a talk by an outside speaker on something so deathly dull I can't even recall what it was. The pupils just wanted to go home, not be bored to rebellion by somebody talking at them for an hour, so it was no surprise when they started messing about, eating, fighting... but very wearisome for me! Every time my eyes glazed over in a bored stupour I had to jerk myself awake to chastise some child for trying to throttle another or for snapping their chewing gum loudly. I don't remember any degree module on babysitting duties such as these.

It was an anti-climatic end to the half term, which had eclipsed some of the genuinely lovely moments of the day. In the morning half of my Year 11 group was missing as they had been yanked out of class for a mass telling off for some sort of vandalism, so I was left with the nicer element of the group. We couldn't really get on with much without the naughty missing members, however tempting it was, and so we were generally chatting about careers and what they intend to do next year. I discovered one of the quiet girls really wants to be a doctor, so we were looking up details about courses on the class computer, which felt like a genuine way to actually help somebody for a change.

Then there was a touching moment during a Year 7 lesson, where I'd cunningly disguised my laziness by calling the lesson an exercise in "thinking skills". I'd handed over the decision making to the pupils the lesson before: they had to present a topic in any way they wanted to. It meant I could sit there and just observe, perhaps pondering what I might have for dinner or something, as they practised and rehearsed. A couple of groups made cartoon strips; several groups made up little plays, but one boy wanted to work on his own and made a puppet show. Now I do worry about this boy, as he is so earnest but the rest of his class seem to tease him all the time, although he just seems obvlious to it all. But when he presented his puppet show the other children all gathered round and were genuinely oohing and ahhhing at his presentation, quite enraptured. It was lovely to see. And of course, it meant no marking for me from that lesson!