Monday, 16 June 2014

The Secret Life of Teachers

It's been over 5 years since I hung up my drywipe marker pens and left my last teaching job to go and have my baby.  I was always going to start teaching again when he was six months old, but I did not reckon on having a child who refused to sleep through until he was three.  After that, I just didn't want to pay someone else to look after my child while I spent all my time and energy on other peoples kids.  He's at school now, and I am often tempted to go back to it because I loved it so much.   I still wake up with amazing lesson plans pinging into my head - something that only fellow teachers will understand.  But at the moment, something's holding me back, and I won't return to teaching unless I'm 100% certain that I want to, because it demands complete commitment.

During my NQT year, I wrote (anonymously) about my experiences as a new teacher, and I revisited some of these pieces recently in a fit of nostalgia. I thought you might like to read one of them, if only to give you a sneak peek into the secret lives of your child's teachers.  Well, new teachers anyway. (Disclaimer:  I did get better at it):

7.30 - Arrive at school in poor shape after staying up half the night to catch up on marking and waking up face down on a pile of assessment with a highlighter pen stuck to my face.  Survey classroom and wonder why it looks like 30 hyperactive seven year olds have rampaged through it with a leaky vat of PVA glue,several handfuls of twigs and leaves and most of the contents of Hobbycraft.  Then remember that this exact scenario happens on a daily basis.  At some point I will get around to tidying it.  Maybe even before I retire.

7.35 - 8.30 - Photocopy stuff, suppressing urge to photocopy arse on whizzy new photocopier.  Wrestle with newfangled interactive whiteboard.  Set up for first lesson.  Sharpen every pencil in the vicinity and wonder where all the yellow pencil crayons can have gone.  Make list of possible yellow pencil stealing culprits.  Realise that must get life.

8.35 - Hear Teacher Next Door exclaim about the UNHOLY STATE of our shared art area.  Remember, with horror, the paper mache/banana skin/bobble hat incident of yesterday afternoon and slink into cupboard to hide.  Teacher Next Door is super organised, efficient and neat.  I am basically this person:

8.45 - Interrupted from cupboard dwelling solitude by Deputy Head, who's come to check that I'm up to date with my maths assessment folders.  Yep. Right. 100% on it.  I'm completely up to date with those.  

8.50 - There are maths assessment folders???

8.55 - Get kids in from playground.  Ahhhh, look at them.  I properly love my class.  Best class in the school.  Dodge large sand covered splodge of sick on the way in.  Caretaker has been busy.

8.56 - Child from my class jumps straight into sand covered sick, shouting "WAHEY!  SAND!"

8.57 - Follow jumping child around spraying Dettox apple scented disinfectant everywhere he has been.  Make him hold his shoes up to be sprayed too.

9.05 - Have to take register in the corridor as nobody can breathe due to apple scented disinfectant spray.

9.12 - Child having asthma attack.  Self having asthma attack.  Inhalers all round.  Mental note to complain to makers of Dettox.

9.20 - Have put register down somewhere and lost it.

9.25am - Long suffering secretary pokes head around the door, concerned as to the whereabouts of the register.  Locate it under a child.  Send it to office.

9.35 - Send a child to the office to get register back as have accidentally marked someone absent who was "having a big poo."

9.40 - Jesus. 9.40 already?  Was supposed to start Numeracy 20 minutes ago.  OK.  Here we go.

9.41 - SHITSHITSHITSHITSHITSHITSHIT. Supposed to be teaching division on a numberline today.  CANNOT for the life of me do division on a numberline.  Makes no sense whatsoever.  Meant to ask someone to talk me through it but forgot about it due to all the cupboard hiding/maths assessment drama.

9.42 - Is OK.  Will set them off doing a division activity with giant packets of Skittles (the sweets, not bowling pins) while I discreetly search Google for a crash course in Year 3 maths, teach self division on a numberline, then get the class to check their answers using my newfound knowledge.  I can style this one out.

9.45 - Swear everyone to secrecy about the Skittles as PSHCE coordinator has spent a lot of time and effort getting us the Healthy Schools Quality Mark and my life will not be worth living if she finds out that I've been teaching Numeracy via the medium of confectionary.

9.55 - "Now I'm going to teach you a brilliant way of doing division using a numberline.  So, you..."

9.56 - Recorder club starts tuning up in the classroom across the corridor from mine. Noise like nasal passages are being cleared through a rusty pipe with a microphone on the end while a cat is repeatedly kicked up the arse.  Pained expressions on everyone's faces. Doubt anybody can concentrate on division on a numberline now; I certainly can't.

10.01 - "So if you use the chunking method, then..." Recorder club now attempting to play the Wallace and Gromit theme tune and I'm pretty sure I just felt a bit of blood come out of my ears.

10.05 - Recorder club summoning Satan himself from the fiery bowels of hell.  Kids rocking backwards and forwards, muttering "make it stop, make it stop" and making eerie twitching movements. Give up on division on a numberline.  Sod it, lets all sit on the carpet playing maths games and eating Skittles.  We'll try again this afternoon.

10.25 - Break time.  Am on playground duty.  Worst bit by far about being a teacher.  Some sort of polar wind going on outside.  Also, token kid with head stuck between railings and someone puking into a bin.

10.50 - Back inside.  Literacy.  'Ways to start a story'.  Love teaching Literacy, especially writing.  Brilliant lesson - everyone engaged, on task, happy and doing some fantastic writing.  Smooth as silk.  And that's a similie. Or is it a metaphor?  Back to Google for me.

12.00 - Lunch time.  Boot class out into the playground and peg it to the staffroom to bagsy first go on the microwave.  Shovel down soup, then back out of staffroom, giving two thumbs up in reply to question about how my maths assessment folders are going.  Bugger bugger bugger.  Wonder where they are.  Wonder what they look like, come to think of it.  Perhaps they're in my cupboard.  Oooh, what's this underneath that pile of display stuff?  Will just pull it ou...GAAAAAAAAAHHHH.

12.30 - Classroom set up for afternoon lessons.  Start marking Literacy work.  Will have good hunt for maths assessment stuff later.  SENCO sticks head around door.  Had I remembered that all IEP reviews are due in tomorrow?  Had I buggery.  Add that to mountain of never ending tasks to do tonight.  Now, where were the IEPs again?

1.00 - Kids coming in from playground.  I am in the cupboard sniggering to self because I've had a funny episode and decided to hide and jump out at them and shout "BOO" when they're all sitting down and waiting for me.  Finding self hilarious.  Ahhh, this was why I became a teacher.

1.05 - Register saga all over again.   Same child as this morning engaged in process of having a poo.  I have concerns for his bowels.

1.10 - Science - Rocks and Soils introductory lesson.  "What do we know about rocks, everybody?"  Oh.  Sweet FA.  There's a surprise.

1.15 - 
"I know about rocks!  I know about rocks!  If you call for rocks when you're in trouble, they'll help you and do things for you."
"Riiiiight.  Are you thinking of Labyrinth?"

1.20 - 
"Rocks are scary.  Because they can have faces and shout at you and the Nome King comes out, and..."
"Return to Oz?"

1.25 - 
"Does anybody know anything about rocks that isn't from a 1980s fantasy film?"
"OK then."

1.40 - Observational drawings of rocks.  Have cunningly only provided pastels in rock-like colours, to maximise chances of getting pictures that actually resemble rocks.

2.00 - Child has found a blue pastel on the floor and lent it to half the class while I was doing my teacher thing with my focus group on the other side of the classroom.  Blue rocks it is, then.

2.25 - Time to rehearse for our class assembly.

"If we forget our lines, do we have to go and stand in the bin?"
"Errr, no."
"Can we stand in the bin if we forget our lines?  Please oh please oh please."
"Fine. Whatever. Go for your life.

Kids are bloody weird.  They have strange obsession with standing in bins.  They love it.  Any opportunity and there they are, being in the bins. Weirdos.  They also desperately want to be prodded with the massive pole that I use to open the upper windows.  "Please poke me with the poking stick" they all say, as I open the windows.  What is up with kids?  I am going to be screwed when Ofsted come.

2.30 - First child gets in bin.

2.35 - Bin is full of children.

2.36 - Can't work out if they genuinely don't know their lines or if they're pretending because they want to get into the bin.  Feel like abandoning all attempts at a class assembly as it's beginning to seem like this half term's antics would be better summed up by everyone watching us all sitting in bins, eating Skittles and poking each other with sticks while someone attempts to play Frere Jacques by farting into a recorder.


2.45 - Assembly.  We are last in because I made them all go back to the classroom and walk down the corridor to the hall again without tapdancing this time.

2.55 - Children are singing beautifully today.  Feel a little bit tearful because their voices are so wholesome and sweet and they look so earnest when they sing.  Also because I can see the deputy head and the Numeracy coordinator whispering to each other and looking in my direction.  I think they're on to me re: the maths assessment.

3.00 - 20 minutes until home time.  Know I really should attempt to speed-teach division on a numberline at this point, but it's story time and it's our favourite part of the day, and we're just getting to the really good bit in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  We'll have another bash at division tomorrow, minus the recorders.  For now...20 minutes of book related bliss.

3.20 - Wave kids off to their parents.  Everyone all smiles.

3.30 - No staff meeting tonight.  Tra la la.  OK, really must find that maths assessment stuff.  And the IEPs.  And my diary.  And tomorrow's planning.  And...

3.35 - Will just have a biscuit, though.

3.40 - Reappearance of a child due to lost school jumper.  Haha, good luck with finding that.  Classroom is veritable bomb site.


4.45 - OMG, do not believe it.  Have found maths assessment files.  Right,  Now, easy does it, I'll just sneak out of the classroom and creep down the corridor and if I'm lucky nobody will see what I'm carrying and I'll have them done and on my desk first thing tomorrow morning and nobody will be any the wiser.  OK, sneak, sneak...

4.46 - Colleague walks past and makes a gesture at me which clearly says "are you coming to the pub for a gin and some chips?"

4.55 - IN THE PUB WITH COLLEAGUE.  Gin and chips forever.

6.30 - On bus going home and planning work for the evening.  I've got that Literacy marking to finish, lessons to evaluate, IEPs to update, tomorrow's planning to check, a resource to make, art stuff to cut out, data to input.  Oh, and that maths assessment.  Which I have left in my bastard classroom.  Guess I'd better go and put myself in the bin.


  1. This was absolutely amazing reading! Made me cry with laughter :) I'm applying for a PGCE this year or next... this makes me feel good about it :)

    1. You will love it. Well, you'll love it AND you'll hate it and you'll be absolutely exhausted, but you will mainly love it. Even on the worst days, the kids always make you laugh.

  2. Absolutely love this, hilarious, and very VERY true.

  3. Have just been laughing out loud! SO true... every bit of it!!!

  4. I have taught for 30 years...count them 30... and I had the same problem all my life. I spent more time filling in assessments than teaching the kids. I loved teaching, but the paperwork finally drove me away.

  5. oh my goodness, those little children must have LOVED you so much. The idea of them all vying to stand in the bins made me so nostalgic for the times when my own ones used to beg to go to sleep in their football boots and I laughed and laughed about the Maths Assessment Files!

    I am SO glad to have met you at the Brit Mums!

  6. This is wonderful and exactly portrays why I both did and did not want to go into teaching! In the end I sort of slipped in by the side door and did environmental education at any school mad enough to employ me!

  7. Hilarious! My NQT year was pretty similar. Totally agree there is far too much paperwork & assessment. Not missing that part of it!

  8. Utterly brilliant! I used to teach English GCSE and this has brought back memories! Thanks for linking up this fabulously funny post to #brilliantblogposts A+ to you lady! Ha!

  9. One of my best friends was a teacher (still is but has been on mat leave for almost 2 years pretty much!) and this reminds me of her early days when I used to turn up to her school on a friday afternoon to spend the weekend with her, I imagine I didn't really help much by taking her straight to the pub ;)

  10. This might have been your nqt year but I've been teaching year 3 for 7 years and its still like this!! Thank you for making me laugh till I cried.