2.0 Back to School: The Second Lap

January is here. Term two has arrived with a thump. Christmas gave us all, weary from testing, marking and smiling, a well-earned respite from children, colleagues and the classroom’s confinement.

Time to breathe.

But I’m back. By popular demand no less. Season Two. The season that was never planned. My adventures living in a van and teaching away from home were only meant to be for a term, but happily I’ll be blogging till the end of the academic year. Moving from the confinement of the classroom to the confinement of the van at night, after night, after night.

If I’m to make it another two terms living in the van and away from home it occurs to me I need a list. Something to live by: a code no less. It’s the new year and that’s what you do because, as Shakespeare’s Beatrice says “We must follow the leaders.” Though I’m probably a little late to this party, and of course the lists of others are already underway.

  1. Only follow routines that are good for me.
  2. Don’t make a habit of parking in the same place two nights in a row
  3. Don’t let the kids get you down
  4. Don’t let teaching get you down
  5. Don’t swear at children just because the van’s suspension rocked and swayed in the wind last night preventing my Fitbit from recording a restful night’s sleep
  6. No alcohol in the van
  7. Go to the gym more than not at all
  8. Take a walk around school at the end of the day
  9. Not so much fish and chips
  10. Or pizza

After Christmas I need to check my health. Long days with no exercise has had its toll. I’ve already started Point 8. I met two of my kids on my last circuit round school at the day’s end, (timed nicely to avoid the cleaner’s hoover and incessant chatter mid-marking), I asked them what they were up to.

“Twat laps, Sir.”

That’s what they said. It’s not quite what I heard at first, so the word ‘twat’ was said quite a lot before I caught the thread. I’m sure it’s all on cctv: a teacher, a perplexed look on his face, and two kids repeatedly saying ‘twat’ at him.

“What’s a ‘twat-lap’ then?”

“Just walking, Sir.”

I guess there’s a root to this new term and I apply Assessment Objective 2.

“So, I understand why it’s called a ‘lap’, (a homonym btw) but what about the prefix to what you’re doing?”

“Well, we’re idiots aren’t we sir; we’ve got nothing better to do.”

“Come on,” I challenge, “use your Assessment Objective 2 language.”

They sigh:

“The negative connotation to the word ‘twat’, while also being a derogatory reference to a woman’s bits, now means ‘idiot’ or ‘fool’, but is more visceral than this and suggests a sense of uselessness through the sexist allusion to a woman’s lack of power.”

“So what is a ‘twat-lap’?” I ask again and also point out that ‘a woman’s lack of power’ is a stereotype and not necessarily an acceptable truth in today’s society.

“It’s a waste of time, Sir.”

Now we’re all on the same page and I feel I’ve mined enough language analysis out of our encounter, I wish them well and continue on my lap; I need to hit my Fitbit’s goal of an undisclosed number of steps before I return to chatting with the cleaner and trying to mark 30 test papers. My lap is entirely purposeful.

The big freeze looms and on INSET day, our first day back, my teacher’s chair which swivels and is black leather, is a block of black ice. I grimace and suck it up, staring at one email after another. Thankfully, the turkey curries my good wife prepped and froze are sure to keep me going. I mark as late as I can before the caretaker visits to ask how long I plan to stay tonight. Every night for a term I’ve left at the same time, but he still asks.

I have to finish this lot of papers, prepare breakfast for tomorrow, clean my coffee mug, fill the kettle in readiness for the team tomorrow, check I’ve covered all the day’s admin, tidy, heat my turkey curry in the microwave, pack up and log off.

“Twenty minutes?”

“Right-o.”

The routine in the van is no less mundane. I work as late as I can to reduce the time in the van. There is nothing leisurable about it; certainly nothing worthy of Instagram or Pinterest. Yet.

Those days are Halcyon dreams to come.

Now, where I park up, I am truly alone. There are no other campers, they have all hi-de-hoed so my hidey-holes are dark, vacant and quiet with no other neighbourly excitement but the midnight owl’s shrieks and dawn chorus to disturb me.

The term ahead promises assessments, tests, quizzes and chocolate rewards. It promises tears and tantrums; the fire alarms have already been attacked and lunch time lost as some form of protest. But there is a golden promise there too: the promise of summer achievement and like gluttons we push on towards brighter days.