Thursday, 13 December 2012

A Week In The Life Of A Bog Standard Teacher

Now is the time of year that those who are thinking of doing a PGCE next September are spending a fortnight in a school observing things as part of the preparation for the course. We have a few in our school, and I pity them. I've therefore decided to write a week-long diary so that if they search for "Typical Week For A Teacher" in a well-known, or even not very well-known search engine, this might appear to warn them off. Please remember that I don't teach in an inner city school, I teach is a pretty well-to-do town in a leafy county. I am also not making any of this up!

I've got some planning to do today which should take a couple of hours, plus I want to spend some time with the family (wife, children etc.). They will probably have to wait because I don't want to get caught on the hop with a "drop-in" from senior management, which is bound to happen if I put this planning off.

I did the planning and spent the rest of the day barking at my daughter and wife because I know I have to go back to school tomorrow and try to get "above average" progress out of a load of pupils who genuinely care for little other than gossip, where their next cigarette is coming from, and social networking sites. All my planning since I got my current timetable has been to try and create interest in my subject with kids who have no interest themselves and are supported fully in this attitude by their parents.

I have 4 lessons today, two with Year 11 who have mocks starting soon and are currently fairly keen, although having said that during one of the lessons the guy sat in front of me talked all lesson about computer games various other irrelevant stuff despite my attempting to persuade him that perhaps those conversations weren't the most productive. He's a nice lad too, intelligent, nice parents who should do fairly well in the summer but won't get what he should do because he will leave everything to the last minute, which rarely works.

My other two lessons are with bottom sets, one in key stage 3 and one in key stage 4. These will be constant battles to stop them talking, essentially playing musical chairs until we find a seating arrangement that is quietest. In fact the musical chairs in key stage 3 lasted longer than normal and my classroom isn't a hexagon, so all the people I wanted to sit in corners (ie. as far away from the people they wanted to talk to), I couldn't. The key stage 4 lesson was actually worse where they all think that qualifications are irrelevant because they have "work experience", to the tune of pot washing in a cafe, selling weed in the local park etc. You ask them to get on with some work and they look at you as though you've just torn them away from a close relative's funeral. The teaching assistant was equally baffled as to what to attempt, so I said she could go and help some people who actually wanted it.

Meeting after school to discuss all the students in my house who has "cause for concern", The list was lengthy, although I know that we actually get off quite lightly. Nine of the names that cropped up were from my tutor group, and that doesn't include my Year 11s, many of whom are being mentored separately. It all boils down to the same thing: "the kids mess about in lessons (not just mine), and when their teachers ask them to do some work they turn on them". The meeting was not a happy one and consensus seems to be that behaviour is on a very slippery and steep slope at present.

I arrived at about 7.45am this morning and am now leaving at 5.15pm. I still have a bit to do when I get home.

I woke up at 2.30am and eventually got up at 4.15am having attempted to get back to sleep but my mind distracted by various work issues, mainly centred around a boy in my tutor group who I also teach. He can be unpleasant, but hasn't really been recently. I did get a snotty email from the school's head of special needs the other week regarding him though, and I need to feedback to her on his recent performance in my lessons, which include attempting to talk to seagulls in the playground, annoying/distracting as many people as he possibly can, and shouting at a bloke walking past the school. A far as I can see the only thing that's wrong with him his that he's a sociopath, but I've not doubt that he's been diagnosed with some form of special need as his parents try to excuse their inadequate parenting with medical certificates.

Not many lessons today due to Year 11 mock exams, which is great. I do have reports to write though, and various other things to get my teeth into, so it won't be a tea and chat day, I will be sat at my desk for almost all of it. I may even have a look through some exercise books and write a formative comment along the lines of "Well done Johnny, your method for doing this is excellent, but next time, to push you on to the next level, why not attempt a question like this...". The kids won't read my comments, but Ofsted will think it's wonderful, and that's the main thing I'm told, as we are expecting them soon.

Quite a nice day actually due to the mock exams and even the student who ruin every one of one particular class' lessons wasn't in today, so superb. Spent about 3 hours marking, but it's out of the way now so I don't have to worry about it any more. Tomorrow will be worse, so I made the most of today! I still arrived at 7.45am and left at 4.45pm plus did a couple of hours in th

I teach every lesson on a Wednesday and it's hard work! II woke up but as most teachers will tell you, being away is more hassle than going in when you rubbish. What many don't realise is that a sick teacher still has to get up and plan all their lessons, which isn't easy when you know that the person covering is unlikely to be a specialist in your subject.

I made it anyway, and got a bonus free due to mock exams. Only got sworn at once and had a massive struggle trying to get a couple of classes to do something was like extracting blood from a stone, mainly due to a couple of snowflakes coning down early on.

I got in as usual at 7.45am and left at 4.45pm but have marking to do when I get home which will take a good hour and a half. I will probably cook dinner for the family and then settle down to it after that.

Four lessons today, but two tests thanks to the fact that we have to track every student and therefore they do an exam paper every half term. This is so that we knbow how each child is progressing, but puts pressure on teachers to fit the entire curriculum in, but on the other hand at least the kids get used to exams and the types of questions that are asked. It does add marking pressure on to teachers, but we can get the class to mark their own for some of it - in a different coloured pen of course, to avoid cheating!

What is the main thrust of this though? You guessed it, Ofsted. As time has gone on it does appear that everything that schools and teachers do is geared to what Ofsted would think rather than what's best for the children. In general Ofsted are trying to do the right thing, with little success, and seem not to have grasped the fact that there are only 24 hours in a day and a teacher has to have a bit of time for sleeping and eating. Take, for example, out new marking policy, all based on what Ofsted expect to see. We have to mark every book fortnightly, which doesn't sound too bad, but not when each book has to be checked and the3n around half a page covered with some praise, a tip on how to move onto the next level, plus a challenge question for the kids to have a go at. Marking a set of books takes between an hour and 90 minutes, and at my school each teacher has around 6 classes. That's 9 hours per fortnight, which is all your free time at school. Add to that the lesson planning as well as other paperwork a teacher has to do, meaning that in order to get by you have to work at least a 9 or 10 hour day during the week, plus a bit at weekends.

Started at 7.45pm and left at 5.15pm, plus did a couple of hours in the evening. I forgot to mention that I had duty (unpaid) before school, during break and after school.

Five lessons and lunch duty on the playground. Ok, so I get paid for the duty but I didn't choose to have it on a day when I have no free periods - I was stitiched up a bit by the guy who organises it and isn't a teacher. There you go.

The day went as usual with a mixture of apathy and abuse, and that was just from the staff! In all seriousness it was a pretty miserable day where one student, who has already been told that they should think about applying for another school before he forcibly has to find another school told me to "F Off" and was generally vile. As well as that I got a volley of abuse from one of my tutor group who had a detention, not set by me, but another subject area. I was just the messenger, but had to take it as that's just how it seems to work with students from a certain background who are essentially untouchable discipline-wise.

This time of year as we near the end of the longest term of the school year, the children are tired as are the staff. It's dark and cold and thoroughly miserable. One comes to accept the fact that the students will get a bit tetchy and so will the staff.

Started at 7.45am and left at 5.15pm. I've decided to leave the work I need to do for the weekend. A couple of hours should do it.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Performance Related Pay - A Heads' Bully Charter

The "Heads' Bully Charter" is a comment I read by author Michael Rosen (follow him on Twitter, he's a genius on @MichaelRosenYes" and he's absolutely correct.

All those who work in the private sector will be sitting there wondering what the problem is - they've been doing it for years after all. The difference is that they work on sales, teachers work on attitudes and aptitude/willingness for pubescent teenagers to learn. Gove, in his wisdom, says that this will encourage hardworking young, good teachers to join the profession and encourage poor teachers, whose pay will stagnate, to leave the profession. Once again it's the talk of porr teachers that is amusing, because you will never find anyone argue that poor practioners should not leave the profession (if it 's still considered that) but those "poor" teachers are the best of those who applied. Get rid of all the "poor" teachers and there won't be enough people to teach. Plus, "poor" teaching is generally an opinion of a headteacher.

What you have to remember is that headteachers often don't teach at all nowadays and haven't done so regularly for years. Those wishing to become a headteacher are weird in the sense that they have entered teaching and then opted to do as little as possible, if any at all. I have been the victim of a headteacher who has prejudged my lessons based on the fact that they don't like me or don't understand the banter that occurs in a healthy classroom. The very same headteacher also told a new head of department that they would see an inadequate lesson when they observed me despite having no idea what I was doing. This same headteacher will control my pay soon. How is that fair?

Now I would never describe myself as a brilliant teacher, but I have had enough decent feedback from parents, students and colleagues to know that I'm not rubbish, but Gove's plans will allow a headteacher who isn't keen on me as a person to freeze my pay indefinitely unless I move, which I may be forced to do.

Once again the unions are objecting, but due to the various policies Gove have introduced since he came to office, the unions just seem like moaners. It's been a very clever campaign from Gove as he essentially outlaws unions and isolates teachers more and more.

The bloke has been and will be a disaster for education in this country, mark my words.