Sunday, April 29, 2018

Four and a Half Days

I forgot to take my heart pressure tablets yesterday. I needed them!

The article in the “I” was about a school in Northampton proposing a four and a half day week. Yes, Friday afternoon off. The headmaster said it was all about time for teachers to collaborate and improve the curriculum.

The Secondary schools in my city adopted the four and a half day week this session. Some schools had been doing it already. The Friday afternoon was about cost cutting I think. The council could  make a saving by switching off lights and heating a few hours earlier. It wasn’t something teachers opted for, although clawing back that Friday afternoon might now be a challenge.

The hours we teach haven’t changed. The pupils get what they are supposed to get. We start a little earlier in the day and finish a little later. They’ve pinched a little of the lunch hour too. It is a rushed four and a half day.

The argument against was presented by one woman not happy with the idea of finding money for childcare. One man did the maths and insisted that 9.5% of his children’s education would be cut. He went on to say that it was all about teachers needing more chill time. He pointed out the already long holidays and ended up with the challenge – “They should work in the real world and then they’ll realise how lucky they are.

Is that not a man that knows no teachers? Is that not a man that has no idea what happens in the classroom? Is that not a man that really doesn’t know about the average 60 hours a week teachers do to keep their heads above water? Is that not a man that has to take a holiday in school holiday time when every travel agent on and off line increases prices significantly?

Let’s start by saying that I have worked in the “real” world. It wasn’t all that it was hailed to be. I admit it was an office job, filing paper and occasionally updating how-to manuals. I loved the politeness of it all – people saying “Thank you” and opening a door for me. That’s not something teachers get a lot of. It was also me and my own desk and any encounter with another human being was entirely voluntary. That’s not something teachers get a lot of either. It was, on this one occasion, mind-numbingly predictable and not the least bit challenging. I’d been in teaching before then for a few years, worked abroad, come home to changes in the way schools operated, had a body clock that insisted it was time to get married. I took a break and office temped for a while.

It might have been someone’s real world but it wasn’t mine. Put me in front of a classroom of pupils, something to teach then – I quite like the Martin Luther King unit some of them are doing at the moment, and I thrive. I shine. I perform. I inspire. I laugh sometimes. I cry sometimes. I argue. I challenge. I mark stuff. I shift known a trusted Microsoft power points into the google drive and spend hours after school trying to make the links work!

That’s what I do. That’s not what “my clients” do. They play with their mobile phones on their laps and snarl at me when I tell them to put it away. They write down a single word, maybe two or three, if pushed, to answer a question that needs a paragraph. They flaunt the uniform rules and wiggle gem encrusted bellies and crop tops at me. They complain about the heat, open windows, close windows, open windows, close windows. They borrow pencils and don’t return them and get declare “Well, I just won’t do any work then, will I?” when you tell them there’s no more pencils left to borrow – not that having a pencil in the first place meant they would to any work. They watch the clock and they sigh.

And why are they so rude? Because the man who did the maths and worked out that his child might be losing 9.5% if his family’s education doesn’t talk about teachers with any respect in the home.

I say to that man – you couldn’t do my job that’s why you pay me to do it.

BY all means step into my world and be me for a day or two.

You are right of course – I am lucky. Who would not want to be there when the penny drops and the child knows something they didn’t know a moment before and you made it happen?

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