3.3 Preparing the Next Course

Next course please. Yes. More of the same.

The exam season is almost at an end.

For us, in English, it is. Done. Dusted. Just the ‘dar-dar-dar-DAH-DE-DAR-DAH-DE-DAR’ of the approaching Imperial Cruiser to wait upon now.

August’s end. The end for some and new hopes for others.

Now’s the time to crank up the pressure on Year 10. Put the scare into them. I’ve had a year of Year 11s only partly engaged in the hyperdrive to GCSE success. The stalwarts who stuck with it will be fine, but I despair for that kid who delighted only in leaning back on his chair legs and the other who can pull all topics round to inappropriate sex references, or entertain with his random stories of finding sheep on the front porch in the middle of the night. It was entertaining, but my blood rose. I remember it rising.

I took year 11 on from another, mid-journey. But my Year 10s; they’re all mine. From start to finish. Strike while the iron’s hot, and it’s hot now.

I lay out the year ahead and provide appropriate anecdotes of success and failure helped by the past ten years of memorable howlers:

  • The kid who turned up late, out of school uniform, and was turned away. Probably a good thing due to his obvious intoxication.
  • The kid who was late, still in bed and only came in because the head of Year went and fetched her.
  • The one who just wrote “I don’t know” on a 30 mark question.
  • The other who answered every 26 mark question when only one was needed. This is not as uncommon as you might think.
  • The one who put their lack of written material down to the invigilators’ squeaky shoes.
  • And, lastly, that kid who just drew pictures over the 12 pages of the exam booklet.

“This won’t be you.” I declare. Reassuring myself more than anything else.

Our little horde face a multitude of hurdles. They’re carers; mum’s ill ; dad’s ill; they’re ill; they have jobs; they work on the farm and dad relies on them to be out at 6.30am with the sheep; they don’t have access to the internet at home; they take their brothers, their sisters to school and sometimes get them ready in the mornings. They have social commitments.

In the week of my rant I’m given one bottle of Prosecco, one bottle of cab sav and a box of posh chocs, but the card of thanks is the thing I love the most, especially from that quiet one, the one you gradually begin to think must hate you. Small successes. Some acknowledgment. The child who looks back and recognises the A Level Lit decision came down to our little year 9 class many moons ago. Gold.

The season of sweat and tears is almost entirely over and early lunches will be gone. Come exam season we move lunch to midday causing major issues of fatigue for the last two periods of the day after a pasta lunch. Eyes flutter and we, pupil and Titan, struggle in equal apportionment. But now that is over and we go back to the default settings. Pupils and teachers, alike, can look forward to just one more hour of breathless wonder before the home bell sounds.

Then.

Roll on marking time. Books. Mocks. Printing. Emails. Phone calls home:

“Is your child feeling alright at the moment?”

“Why d’you ask?”

“Maybe because they were late three times in the morning and haven’t done their homework for over a week.”

“She had homework?”

“Yes. There is an online facility that you will have been made aware of at the start of the year so that you know when homework is set, what it is and when it is due.”

“We don’t have a computer.”

“Do you have a smartphone?”

“Yeah.”

“There’s an app.”

So many things are filtered from this conversation. I probably change the filter at least once, maybe twice during the course.

It’s not easy. The pulls on the threads of time come from every direction. Ours and theirs.

We ask: where does the learning really take place?

We have them for at least 30 hours of the week. There are 168 in a week. With an average 8 hours sleepy-time that leaves 112 hours, less 30 hours in school: 82 hours, or 3.41666667r days a week of time outside of school.

So when year 10 ask (because they’re good like that) what they can do to prepare now, for next year, I say: 1 hour. Give up one hour a week.

When you’re eating dinosaurs, you have to do it one bite at a time.

Plus they take ages to cook.

—————————————————————————————————————————

If you are enjoying this journey then please follow through WordPress, sign up for email notifications when there is a new blog post. You can also find me on Twitter @tin_teacher or on Instagram through Tincanteacher

Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to get in touch and share your responses to the adventure my wife and I are on. Mental health is a rising issue for many and this blog has been, in many ways, a life saver, as has the feedback.

If you missed the article in The Guardian you can find it here:

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2019/apr/16/teacher-live-back-van-personal-story-anonymous#comments

3.2 Glue Sticks and Stalkers

These roads aren’t suitable for the likes of you

The season speeds on and at the start of the week I race on over to school. The alarm goes at 5.30 am.

It’s my warning alarm.

It buzzes and I silence it. Squash.

At 5.45 the next one goes and I begin to roll towards the edge and, by 6, I’m out.

Showered and changed by 6.15, kissed and blessed by my wife.

At 6.20 the toast pops, Sky News whirrs in the background and at 6.30 a.m. I’m driving.

At the beginning of this it was much darker in the mornings and the darkness seemed to punctuate the day; dark at my day’s opening and dark at its end. This endless light is unnatural now and the lack of demarcation by orbit and axis only confuses.

Thirty minutes into the journey I encounter difficulty: road rage.

I cross a roundabout and a dark shadow tries to creep in alongside my passenger side forcing me into oncoming traffic. I trust to the 2 tons of tin, sound the horn and continue onwards. He flashes and beeps furiously. Between this point and the next road I have another 30 minutes to contemplate my manoeuvre, but find no complaint. For 30 minutes he follows, sometimes at a distance, at others he laps at my exhaust. Finally I find an opportunity to pass the lorry in front and put some serious tonnage between us. My paranoia eases and I plough on until there he is again.

I eventually come to the dual carriageway and put pedal to metal and race to my next turn off, fighting off the paranoia. I turn. All is safe. He is nowhere to be seen.

Ten minutes in, he’s back.

The route I take to school isn’t one many others would follow and the fact he’s been with me now for the last 50 miles is perturbing.

I know the road and plan. Various tv theme tunes intrude and I pull off. He passes.

Paranoia.

Ah blessed paranoia.

I rejoin the road and there he is. In the lay-by. Waiting.

I mentally note his registration and Mad Max-like, sans bondage apparel, throom on by heading to the next rise and the farm entrance that I know is there, but, hopefully, he doesn’t. It works. I pull in but he doesn’t see. I watch him pass and rejoin the road. He gradually disappears into the horizon and I cruise into work.

I still park out of view of the road though, just in case.

The entire night I imagine a banged up Vauxhall rolling into my nightly hidey-hole, engine roaring monstrously, lights on beam.

It reminds me of how vulnerable I know I am, know that I feel, but dismiss for the sake of a restful night’s sleep. Four walls, in my dreams, are castle-like with sentries at every corner.

The next day the routine pulls me back in and the kids delight at every turn. My GCSE group seem to be getting it. Up till now thorns of terror seemed to envelop us, but we’re there and it’s time. A perfect storm. My midweek point ends with glueing and sticking and one boy telling me he can fit his ears into the glue lids. My eyebrows raise:

“I can. I can get my ears inside the glue lids.” He assures and proceeds to interpret my raised eyebrow as the starter’s pistol of challenge.

He can.

Both of them.

Comfortably.

These last months all we’ve been interested in is testing children to our prescribed diet of achievement, but today there’s room for recognising and acknowledging the bizarre too. Our measures are those of the adult world, theirs’ are their own and they are unique for it.

The next day begins with a lovely email from the PE department. I haven’t seen the missing high jump pole they are missing, but I’ll keep my eyes peeled.

My last night, before heading home the following day, I disturb hidden lovers in the night’s choice of park up. A Mini, not a Vauxhall.

I roll by and park up as far away as I can, but that’s it for them. They head off sheepishly. There’s a lay-by up the road. I’m sure they’ll be fine.

In the night I hear strange sounds and imagine tapping. The Vauxhall driver. Thankfully, it turns out to be the blackouts on the window and the suckers detaching. I spit and reapply.

I’ll be home tomorrow.

—————————————————————————————————————————

If you are enjoying this journey then please follow through WordPress, sign up for email notifications when there is a new blog post. You can also find me on Twitter @tin_teacher or on Instagram through Tincanteacher

Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to get in touch and share your responses to the adventure my wife and I are on. Mental health is a rising issue for many and this blog has been, in many ways, a life saver, as has the feedback.

If you missed the article in The Guardian you can find it here:

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2019/apr/16/teacher-live-back-van-personal-story-anonymous#comments