Monday, October 29, 2012

School! Why?

So, here we are again!  Sitting at the front of a class – albeit an empty one – hearing the sound of chattering children echoing down the corridors.

The timing of the school day is a little more civilized than that which I had to endure in the School on the Hill, here it is nine-to-four with an hour for lunch and a mid-morning break with eight forty minute lessons.

As a total luxury I have the first period in the day as a chance to orientate myself and get any photocopying done that I might need during the day.  Everything looks to have been set out for me to take the Geography classes that are the timetable of the lady whom I am replacing for the next three days.  Everything looks in place and I am waiting for the first thing to go wrong.  “Events, dear boy, events” is the normal way of life of any school so it is not “if” but “when” that makes life exciting!

I have decided, in a half-hearted, backward-looking homage to what used to be, to go for a swim after school.  I have rather let my determination to swim every day become an aspiration rather than a reality so this is one way to get back on track and feel virtuous again!

It is an odd feeling to be back in harness, because there is nothing in this particular school environment which seems out of place.  As the language of the school is English I am looking at walls that have posters entirely in that language.  Yes, there is a section on Barcelona, but next to that is a section on the London Dockland development and next to that Manchester and The Salford Quays!  A home from home in academic terms.  It feels the same as a British school, it looks the same and it even smells the same!

I am confidently expecting my OU teaching material to arrive when I am here in school: it would seem like a poetic realization of my frustration in not getting my hands on them until now.  Especially as I have been informed that the official start of the course is November the first, which is in four days time - and counting!

My first class are now with me and they total five pupils!  I have done what every competent teacher should do with a new class and given them the opportunity to cut and stick paper.  They should be mine for life now!  Oh, and in lesson one things did start to go wrong.  The kids had done the work set for the first periods and when I went to photocopy the next set of work the photocopier decided to start eating paper.  Situation normal!

I think that the real problem with these three days is going to be one of boredom and finding something to do without obviously appearing to read!  Typing, however and whenever you do it always looks business-like and worthy – whatever rubbish you are actually typing.

I now have twenty minutes before the next class and I have to consider that I take this miniscule class another twice during today.

I am not convinced that I am going to be allowed to follow the timetable of the lady whose classes I am taking, as her timetable for these three days is somewhat sparse in places.

The second class is now in front of me and they are a year 11.  The numbers are still encouragingly small but these are a little more feisty than the previous class.  These I have after break as well and they look as though they might be something of a problem.  Well, a problem in terms of this school which is not the same as being a problem in the UK in most of the locations in which I have taught!  They have now settled down and are working with only a few of them attempting to whisper their way to insubordination.

Again, there are twenty minutes until the break when I can get a much-needed cup of tea!

The cup of tea was a problem; I should have gone with my gut attitude and brought my own mug in together with a tea bag.  As luck would have it, however, the tea-machine man was there and he kindly went into the insides of the machine and made it give me a cup of hot water, someone else gave me a tea bag and I stole some milk.  This must be better done tomorrow.

I should imagine that I am going to experience a whole range of teaching in different classes as it is perfectly acceptable to expect a supply teacher to fill-in the timetable with other classes rather than have the luxury of a free period or periods.

I am now with my last class which has been bought with the loss of a free period – and that is the sort of bargain that I expect to be subjected to for the rest of the week.  Tomorrow should be especially interesting as I have a supposed afternoon of nothing.  I did notice one of my colleagues in the staffroom today moaning about a bad stomach and I confidently expect her to be absent tomorrow – so that’s my afternoon seen to!

As I have only twenty minutes left of my first day I suppose that I should attempt some sort of evaluation of the school.

There is a generally positive atmosphere and the pupils are polite, or at least interested in what you have to say.  In the penultimate lesson of the day I reverted to type and managed to whip up a class of Year 7 into a sort of frenzy when I went into overdrive about The Big Bang Theory and attempted explanation of Einstein’s theories.  Not, I might add what we were supposed to be talking about but, what the hell; the teacher isn’t coming back and who is going to check over my approach to geography!

I was visited in one class by two kids that I had taught in the school on the hill and, after their greetings, they demanded that I stay.  A pleasant incident to brighten the day!

As the time gets nearer I am beginning to strengthen in my resolve to go for a swim: it replaces one form of tiredness with another and is an altogether satisfactory end to the day.

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