Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Freaky Friday and the Fridge Repair Man

It really does take me about a week to ‘recover’ at the end of the school year. I doze off in the middle of the afternoons, forget what I was meant to be doing and find it hard to concentrate. Fact – teaching drains your mental and physical energy.

You still get those annoying people who give you a patronising smile and mention ‘all the holidays’. I’ve gone past the stage of wanting to inflict irreparable physical damage, I just stare at them and say ‘try teaching’, and there are never many takers.

I read an article in the TES a few years a go about a power station manager who had a sort of mid life crisis and decided to retrain as a teacher. He got a job in a “challenging” inner city school. He only lasted a year. In the power station he had 10 under managers and 400 staff, every decision he made was implemented almost instantaneously and there was only one main target – producing electricity.

Teaching was entirely different, a large percentage of the children didn’t want to be there and he had to devise strategies to keep them involved and interested. There was the paperwork and the host of different targets to meet and fulfil. Also the job never ended at 5 pm. With a sigh of relief he returned to the sanity of the power station.

At the end of term you usually stagger over the finishing line and collapse, but it always important to keep going right to the tape – my best marathon time was 3 hours 25 minutes, it helps if you can avoid walking the last few miles – it’s agony.

Every year the pressure seems to increase, we’ve had reports, ‘optional’ tests, reading tests, spelling tests, SEN reviews, observations, performance management interviews and Key Skills to highlight, the list really is endless.

Still, there’s ‘Life in the Old Dog’ yet. The other week it was Friday the 13th and the talk in the class was that Freddy Kreuger was going to pay a visit on ‘Freaky Friday’. That morning I snook into the ICT room and loaded up pictures of Freddy (nothing too gory you understand) onto every PC. There were shrieks of laughter when the children turned the screens on.

At this moment the Head walked through and inevitably the class snitch grassed on me. The newspaper headlines from the GTC hearing flitted through my mind, ‘Sick teacher downloads horror pics!’ Fortunately he saw the funny side of it.

At the end of the year there’s the sadness of seeing the Year 6 depart with that part bravado, part fear of the unknown (secondary school). I wonder how some of them will fare? We’ve got three boys who are still at Level 2, Eric spends his spare time getting chased by the security guards at the shopping centre. His ambition? To be a policeman so he can ‘arrest people’.

We’ve got our ‘Golden Girls’ as well, who should make it to university, they’re bright and intelligent, and they always come up to me at playtime asking for questions, ‘we’re bored off our cake sir!’ That’s apart from the time when the hunky student teacher was in, I didn’t get a look in then.

The Year 6 teacher always gets the pick of the presents, a tiny compensation for the worst job in primary. They’d all written notes and letters. James typed one on the computers extolling the virtues of his teacher and ended with, ‘I will miss you like a dog’ and a picture of two cute puppies. The thought was there…

I’m musing on all of this when there is a knock at the door, the memory kicks back in, the fridge repairman has arrived, one of those long delayed tasks I’d postponed indefinitely. I open the door and we take a mutual step back, it’s Peter my pupil from my first class ten years ago.

I only just recognise him with his smart blue uniform and he’s shot up. I usher him in and it’s obvious he has been well trained because he sucks the air in thorough his teeth, shakes his head and asks me, ‘who did this last repair?’ As he dismantles the fridge we talk about old times and I fish out the old class photo from the bottom of the drawer. Gazing at the cherubic smiles he goes across them, ‘drugs… had a child… lost the plot… drugs… left home had a baby… trouble with the police… expelled.’ Only Peter and one or two others have survived.

Peter shows me the fridge manual and starts a long and detailed explanation of the problem, looking at my glassy expression he breaks off and smiles, ‘this is weird, me, teaching you sir!’ As he departs we shake hands and I realise that I’ll always be his teacher.

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Thank you for making me feel justified in my zombie-like behaviour in the last week. The non-teachers just don't understand what it feels like, do they? And like you, when the "holidays" are mentioned by my non-teacher friends, I give them my best teacher look and asked them to spend one day in my classroom to see if they can handle it!!
Love the blog...will keep reading for sure!
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