Friday, 18 January 2008

TFI the weekend

Between the first and last bells of the day, there is no time to stop and stare at school. Even before the first bell we await the senior management in our daily staff meeting, wasting precious minutes while the children begin to swarm the corridors outside. But thanks to the cascades of rain this week and rivers where roads used to be, I was late one morning and went straight to my room to register my form group before they started running riot.

But before I could even register them I was summoned outside to talk with the head of year about a pupil, and suddenly we were surrounded by other staff and pupils who all wanted to talk to one or other of us about something, an actual queue of people waiting their turn to ask one of us a difficult question. I was still in my coat and still hadn't registered my form when the bell for first lesson rang. Like autobots, at the sound of the bell all the teachers dispersed without a further word, the pupils started spilling out of classrooms into the narrow corridor, and almost straight away I had a new queue of Year 8s waiting to come in for their first lesson.

Sweeping papers off the front desk to make space for the class, I searched for my planner whilst barking instructions to sit down and get books out. It was then I spotted the solitary worksheet on my desk, which I should have duplicated before school, and which was vital for the lesson I'd planned. I silently screamed, strode to my cupboard at the back of the room, pulled a face filled with pain to the darkness within, and snatched up some textbooks, flicking through them in panic to see what I could teach off the cuff for an hour.

And so the day went on. There was no let-up even at lunchtime, as every time I tried to take a bite of sandwich I was interrupted by somebody wanting something. My last lesson needed the laptop and projector - at least here was one I'd properly prepared. Worksheets lay in neat piles ready for distribution, and I cranked up the laptop in the lesson before so everything would be ready.

Except it wouldn't be as simple as that, would it? For some reason, the laptop went into a coma and wouldn't wake up. I tried everything. Some of the kids tried everything they knew. It was then I knew it was doomed. I dispatched a child to hunt down some alternative equipment, which was brought back on the cusp of the bell.

Penultimate class out, final class in, and I was still struggling to set up the equipment. I set the class something to do which should have been very straightforward and lasted them five minutes, which would have given me the time to sort out the change of laptop. But instead, there was fuss. Fuss-fuss-fuss as only thirty eleven and twelve year olds can at the end of a wet day. Everytime I stood up to catch breath from connecting wires I found five or six children at my heels all wanting something that could have waited.

Then the lesson proper started. Still there was fussing. I felt what little patience I had receeding, but struggled to hang on to it like someone after one too many glasses of wine trying to hold onto sobriety. But there's always a straw to break the camel's back. And that one little straw was a child who called out at the wrong time... and suddenly and uncontrollably I exploded, shouting at the class to stop fussing and just listen!

I immediately regretted it of course, but at least they fell into stunned silence. And once my storm had passed, very quickly after all that, we were back to sweetness and light and no hard feelings. But I ended the day feeling mean as well as still stressed.

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