Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Shades of the prison house

Yesterday I was asked if I could go back to work for a few days - English teaching, not babysitting *Biff Science - but declined the offer. I'd just been contemplating how joyous life is at the moment, and the thought of incarcerating myself, even for a few days, appalled me. It wasn't always like this. But when I look at the faces of my former colleagues, see the strain showing in someone young enough to have a further 20 years in the job, I know it's not just age speaking to me.
So what IS wrong with teaching these days? I was very good at it - let's not have any false modesty here! - but to do the job properly takes an amazing amount of energy at the best of times. And most teachers have maybe one class a day who will give them these best times - and another four who will drain them of the will to live. Twenty seven pupils. Smallish room, stuffy with the smell of wet anoraks (this is Argyll, after all) and worse. Kids without any visible means of written communication - pencil, pen, jotter. The bore of having to point out that such lack is unacceptable, day in day out. (If you simply pass them some tatty pencil and tell them to get on with it you're reinforcing bad habits, apparently). A computerised registration system (on a PC - not a lovely Mac) which crashes every time you try to access the next class list while the newly-arrived class gradually forgets why they have come and settles down for a gossip/fight/let's-fire-spitballs-at-the-ceiling session. Do you realise we haven't actually got on to the lesson yet? Haven't even taken the damn register? (Must take the register - if you forget, that'll be the day some kid skives off and gets run over when they should be safe with you)
Finally the required screen surfaces and you restore quiet. The register is done and submitted. It's perhaps ten minutes into the lesson and you haven't taught a thing. The child in the corner has started to moan quietly - and if you're a supply teacher you won't know why this is happening. The classroom assistant is off ill - "you can manage without her today, can't you?"

Nope. I'm glad I'm sitting here now writing about it instead of doing it up the road. Later I shall go up the glen and cut greenery for the Advent Wreath in church. After that I shall look at some music I shall be singing at the weekend. The Christmas cake is in the oven. I should be sorry for the people who will have "Please Takes" today because I'm not working - and I am, because an extra class can be the last straw when you're knackered - but not THAT sorry.

And there's a Parents' Evening tonight. My cup is full!

*Biff Science - the wonderful self-description of a class who are not sufficiently accomplished to take a Standard Grade class in Chemistry, Physics or Biology, but instead study a General Science course.


  1. lesley10:37 AM

    how right you are, Christine... even as a part timer I notice the difference. At the moment I have been asked to do extra hours as we are a member of staff is awful. My time is much more valuable to me than any money I will earn.
    Enjoy your time.. you have deserved it!!!

  2. A number of years left before I can join you, Christine. Was at the parents' night last night! Jealous - me - no!

  3. How much do I recognize myself in what you say Christine ! it's the same stuff in France !

  4. Eric - am I not right in thinking that "Please Takes" - covering for absent colleagues - don't happen to the permanent staff in French schools?