Teaching – that’s the job where you rock up with a coffee just before the kids roll in, impart a bit of your extensive knowledge, have a nice chat in the staff room at lunchtime about how you are going to spend your 13 weeks of holiday a year, and then saunter out of the door at 3pm each day. Right?
Well, maybe back in the ‘good old days’ but not anymore. Nowadays it is like a multitude of jobs all rolled into one – let me enlighten you with a list of just a few.
The Health and Safety Inspector – in these Covid times, you are the first line of defence, ensuring regular handwashing, sanitisation and segregation, all whilst trying to communicate with your peers and parents through a face mask.
Of course, the requirement for open windows also means you are on wasp and spider control as well, regardless of your personal thoughts on the creatures.
The referee – both literally and metaphorically. From which year group has the use of the playground football pitch that day, to intervening in disputes around whose turn it is to hand out the reading books that day.
The mediator – linked to the above. This though involves both trying to be fair in the perennial “He said, she said” disputes between classmates, but also trying to diffuse tensions between the teachers and support staff. Reminding people that we are all ultimately here for the children is a useful tactic, but there will always be someone feeling they have too many break duties in December.
The politician – often to the fore when it comes to Parents’ Evenings. Of course, we all have favourites, though we are not allowed to admit this. How do you convey the clear picture in the allotted 6 minutes per child, and find the constructive points about little Johnny who seems to think the school day is just an extended audition for his future comedy routine to be performed on Britain’s Got Talent?
The ‘Jesus’ – apt for this time of year, though not quite feeding the 5000 with a loaf of Mighty White and a can of out of date sardines. You start the term with a fully replenished stationery cupboard and all the printing credits you could need, only for 16 pencils to go missing in the first Maths lesson, all the whiteboard pens to squeak to a halt the lesson after and pennies left in the class budget to restock. Making a little go a long way and being creative with resources become a key skill for the modern teacher.
The triage nurse – you expect this in the playground as the kids bomb around with nary a care for personal safety, but when a child comes up to you in the classroom with vivid red blood pouring out of a finger vaguely accusing a pencil case for the incident, you need to be able to magic up a wet paper towel, whilst you dig out the first aid kit and consider what exactly is going to go in the accident book for that one….
The juggler – you map out your medium-term plan, you have it clear in your head how each of the subjects will flow and you think you have Plans A, B and C sorted. You then realise that the old adage from Mike Tyson that “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth” has never run more true. Of course I can magic up a reading corner and build three more types of formative assessment into the daily timetable. Of course I can aggregate pupil data in seven different ways by 5pm today. We all just need to be a abit more Mike, and roll with those punches.
The performance artist – from leading a Bear Hunt, to investigating an alien invasion in the classroom, to making ‘cat food’ out of orange jelly and chocolate cake (try it, its really effective!) and eating it in front of class, you set the tone so need to be the most enthusiastic in the class every day.
All of the above combine to mean your brain is quite juiced by the end of the day. It is very easy to think of break times and lunch hours as extra preparation or marking time and to not take any time for yourself beyond a quick wee (which is a treat beyond compare after a long morning). Being told during training that too much talking and insufficient hydration can lead to conditions such as spasmodic dysphonia (not nice, nor useful for a teacher) mean it is important to self-care and not think you’ll just grab a bite after the children have left.
Making sure you always have a drink and snack to hand, and trying to avoid chocolate and caffeine as staples mean looking at places such as https://greenpress.ca/ for inspiration and stock. Again, the cycle of planning for the next day based on misconceptions arising during the day’s teaching means there is a temptation to over-rely on takeaways and ready meals during the week. Looking for the best probiotic diet plan can help keep your body as sharp as your mind needs to be.
The above list is simply intended to spell out the multi-faceted nature of the profession nowadays, rather than being a downer. From experience to date, there are few more rewarding things in life than seeing a pupil grow in confidence in a particular subject, take pleasure in getting an answer right, or develop the tools to express their wonderful imagination on the page. Those of you who have been there and done it and got the t-shirt, whether via apex legends hoodies or just metaphorically will know where I am coming from. Every day is different, and the weird, wonderful and life-affirming things you see and do outweigh the increasing administrative burden – though a few more whiteboard markers in the classroom wouldn’t go amiss….
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