Monday, 4 March 2013

Ofready, Ofsteady...

So i've been a little quiet this week. It is understandable. My darling school received the phonecall at almost precisely 1:34 on Tuesday afternoon. THEY were coming. A solid number of teachers then spent the next twenty six minutes until the end of lunch running around and telling all those who didn't (or did) know that we were all definitely up for it this time. What I hope to present to you below is a blow by blow account of the unbridled horror. I cannot promise to tell you everything, but I can promise that most of this is true, more or less; that these things happened; Someone really did forget their laptop.

It began, as I have said, on Tuesday lunchtime.An emergency meeting was called. Students were told that it was a great opportunity for them to show off how good they are. Staff scoffed as they delivered this second hand message. They peered at the note with disbelieving eyes and then locked their eyes on classrooms of fighting, biting children lighting cigarettes under tables and telling fables of weekend hazy drunken sexual exploits in night-clad parks or dark corners of train stations and abandoned parents' homes.

When the meeting began, the hushed whispers of the brand new auditorium knew that the inspectors would not give a crap about the plush, school branded seats or last weeks brave version of some contemporary British theatre. It was the best attended briefing in some time; the audience including even the more disinterested office staff who, simply put, don't care about the teaching and instead devote their mornings to actually doing their job.

 A question piped up from the front of the gathered staff. The voice was a response and the stimulus was the powerpoint.The powerpoint, as they are so often, was a wall of text, only separated by the ominous black spots of bullet points. The voice was a little angry, a little despairing, and well known. Many people sank in to their own private miseries when they heard it. Those that didn't were rewarded with a one-of-a-kind diatribe at the insinuated late night. Her words were dripping with disdain. 'And when are we meant to print off this data? I am going out tonight.' It was a beautiful moment. It was a beautiful point. Her point was solid, the list of tasks needing to be done by the next morning was longer than the complaints list for the curriculum reform. The point was silenced with a wholeheartedly unconvincing 'well it should have been done already'. We left the briefing tired and worried. NQTs could be seen attaching themselves to veteran teachers like marsupial babies, attempting to suck from the nipple of experience any shortcut that might get them home before the TV with swearing in began.

At this point I would like to interject with a comment. I feel, like parachute troops or McDonalds workers, we should get little stars on our name badges for survived OFSTED inspections. That would be nice.

We were there late. Whether it was fabricating data, printing things directly off of SIMS, or writing lesson plans impressionist in there beauty, we were there late. It was about 7:30 when the pizza delivery runs began. English made the bid early; They sent an NQT to sort it out. You could see the poor twenty-something jogging around the school trying to sort out the order before the finance department went home, presumably because he had been told if it wasn't paid out of petty cash then his credit card was next in line. The plethora of toppings that arrived was manna from heaven. Suddenly everyone loved the English department, a fact that would be repeated the next evening when preliminary reports showed teachers being sprung badly for not including literacy.

Most left the school around nine. There were emergency meetings scattered across the whole site, with members of leadership running in a way akin only to poultry with missing braincases. I am sure what they were doing was important. After all, to a man (or woman) they had important looking folders under their arms, and anyone carrying a folder and walking quickly is always doing something important. Especially if it is a red or green folder.

Despite the abandonment of the school site at nine, it was the war stories the next morning that truly uncovered the horror. It does not hep that I have spent the last two weeks almost solidly watching Band of Brothers followed by The Pacific, but people's stories were that of the warrior.

'I was up until two last night and got up at half one. I actually got minus thirty minutes sleep.'
'My lesson plans were so bad that they have had to file for emotional sickleave.'
'I feel like I am no longer human.'
'My body is half caffeine.'
'I've forgotten my laptop'

Oh, Wait. That last one actually happened. He walked in to the staffroom with the sort of wild eyes that only come from a lack of sleep and knowing that you are totally, irrevocably, screwed. The poor kid is an NQT, going through his first OFSTED. It was with admirable haste that a more senior teacher sent him straight to IT to borrow another and the process of rapid reconstruction began. Oh, alay, the beatiful fear seen that day in eyes as wide as caffeined plates rewriting plans from obsolete dates and just fabricating data in the hope of no observer later.

There was more coffee than I have ever seen. I saw one teacher resorting to the sort of sports drink you would not want to be drugs tested while using. Later in the day they were visibly shaking. I'm not sure they knew what day it was. It worried me that I had slept. I felt behind the drag curve; My thin context folders belied my preparation. I had made a choice at about eleven the previous night to just get some good sleep in order to actually be able to teach coherently. The auditorium for morning briefing stunk of the black stuff when they walked in. It was instantly them and us. They tried to introduce us in a friendly way. They used all the right words:

'We are not here to make you look bad.'
'We are excited about working together.'
'We are here to find positives, not negatives.'

You could taste the embattled smirks from the crowd. The battlelines were drawn cordially but with blood. It was as if an officers salute had taken place and now the men would be sent to fight. All I, hidden in the shadows of the sound desk at the back of the room could think was 'Who wakes up and thinks 'I want to be an OFSTED inspector when i'm older''.

Noone, That's Who.

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