Saturday, 23 January 2016

You work until when?

Hello everyone.

This is hard for me to say.

I am a teacher.

And I work until Five.

Shock, Gasp, Horror.

Oh. Wait. You ONLY work until five?

Yes. I only work until five. in fact, I stay at school until five, and then, give or take, I go home. What makes this particular situation slightly more unusual is that I teach until five. Every day, except for Fridays (where we pack up at 3:40) I get into school about and have a working day all the way through until five, at which point, almost simultaneously, the entire staff of the school legs it. And when I get home, what do I do? The same things that the rest of my school's staff do:

Spend time with their family.
Go to the gym.
Watch a bit of sport.
Play with the dog.
Watch the collected works of Wes Anderson.

You get the picture, and the picture doesn't include any work whatsoever. My school specifically has a 'don't take work home' policy. HA! I hear you cry from the future, but what if you HAVE to get that marking done. Well, if it isn't done in PPA time then the marking isn't efficient enough. And what about planning then? If it isn't done in PPA time then it's overplanning, not planning at all.

I know that this is beginning to come across as a sort of vague utopian satire, that in a second I will wake up from my little long-houred school but, actually, there is no volta here, no reveal. This is a piece of writing in defence of a few small things, and promoting a few small things. I live in an idyll, as far as education is concerned. A state-funded, non-selective idyll; A studio school.

By Tuesday, every week, I have taught every student in the school. All 80-odd of them will have passed into my judgement and out again. Now, yes, we are in our first year of opening, and so we are at half capacity, but the entire size of the secondary school will never exceed 300 for years 10-13. I know every child in our school's name, and they know mine. And I talk to them, every day. I spend time with students.

In our timetable, SLT have been really careful to place enough time for staff to do all their work on site. Right now, I am in the 2-hour PPA period that I have first thing in the morning 4 days a week. I get a lot of stuff done in these periods, not least all my marking, planning, and then have a wander around the school, watching other teachers teach. Often, I just sit in the back of other teacher's classrooms and do my marking, or I just watch their lessons and learn something. I am not a mathematician, but I am getting better, purely by the amount of maths lessons I now watch. Because, once again, I have time.

There is, of course, a flipside that some are already guessing. If you keep the kids until 5, when do they do their homework? Here. They do it here. They have timetabled independent study periods where they have to do their work. They get it done on site, in periods supervised by teachers, which means that students can ask their teachers for help. Then, at the end of the day, the students get to go home, and not do homework, and not panic about not understanding their homework. Parents don't have to panic about not being able to help their students. Then, inadvertently, arguably, and even more adverbially, the best result is that students' books are kept at school, in big boxes. All of them. It is next to impossible for a child to lose their book, or 'leave an essay at home' because the book should never have been there in the first place. We have so much control here, and that enables us to do amazing things like taking kids on trips, and getting in outside speakers every single week.

What we are learning is that above everything else,  If teachers have time, have space, fell valued, feel supported and are therefore happy, then amazing things happen. Most importantly, the experience for the students is unique and incredible.

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