Andrew sat motionless for several minutes, staring vacantly out of the window past the netball court and beyond the football field, whilst on the desk in front of him a pile of books remained unmarked and unloved. He took a long hard look at them. Moments later his gaze shifted to his open drawer, out of which he picked up a pen. Absent-mindedly he began to tap the table with it until, looking down in disbelief, he found the page in his planner was dotted with unsightly graphite specks. Ripping it out and venting self-disgust as he did so, he screwed it up into a tight ball and aimed it at the bin in the corner of the room. “Yes! Get in!” he cried, punching the air as the paper sphere hit the far side of the metal with a clang and dropped neatly in. A pleasurable moment but short-lived. He looked back again at the waiting books clamouring his attention.
Andrew relished his time at university, playing rugby for the varsity team and fitting in with his studies as many extra-curricular activities as he could, swimming, football, cycling, yet still managing to come out with a 2.1 degree – although sometimes he wondered how that had happened. But for all his studying of great educators’ theories, schemes and ideas and with all the inspirational and motivational session work he did and theses he wrote, he did not expect the teaching profession to be so gruelling, so time-consuming and contain such soul-destroying, mindless paperwork nobody in a million years was ever going to look at.
He screwed up his face in unspoken argument with nobody-in-particular and explained to that person how irrational it was to make already-beaten-down teachers jump through hoops like circus dogs. And to those ignoramuses who glibly thought that he had ‘long holidays and finished at half past three’ well come on, get real please! Even some of his friends envisaged him sitting comfortably on a table spouting words of wisdom to eager beavers who would rather be nowhere else but there listening to him speak. Those friends not close enough to see the real picture just thought he swanned around drinking coffee all day, carrying enough books to make it look like he was busy.
In truth it seemed such an age since he had any time of his own: every evening spent in preparation or assessment or both, and weekends not much different. Last summer he managed a fortnight in Spain and found that even whilst watching the waves come onto the shore, splashing and dunking delighted bathers with its foam, he was planning the next term inside his head. As soon as he returned to his tiny bedsit the computer came out of its hidey hole and he started to type, surrounded by papers strewn all over the floor, until he made some semblance of a long-term plan, middle-term plan, weekly plan and umpteen lesson plans. Planning, planning, planning! It threatened to take him over again, like some sort of alien monster, and he felt the bile rise in his throat.
Yet another dreaded inspection was looming. Why just teachers, he wondered. They didn’t inspect doctors, dentists or solicitors, so why not leave poor educationalists alone and let them concentrate on educating? Too many people in power who thought they knew how to teach just because they themselves had been to school once upon a time. They ought to come and try it out for themselves some time.
In those heady college days, he never anticipated the feeling he experienced standing in front of students who absolutely did not want to be in front of him, with no inclination or intention of learning any of the knowledge he had to offer. Students who deemed him some sort of lovable tyrant. He never dreamed that he would have to find ways of dealing with so many children who had the kinds of medical, mental and social problems they warned him about in lectures. That’s not going to happen to me he thought in those days. Then, he felt invincible: able to conquer all – even the most trying children – and win them over with his understanding ways and charm.
Well, all that was now in the past. Andrew took a deep breath, reached over and peeled the first book off the towering heap. Welcome to reality.
Before long, a grin began to creep over his face and he cocked his chin. Well, Susie had listened to him at least. Quite a neat little essay really. Had all the salient points in it. Not bad, not bad at all. Result! Ewan’s book was even better- he’d gone into even more detail, included metaphors and even a simile or two. James’ characterisation of the protagonist in his story was spot-on, making him soar in Andrew’s estimation.
Andrew sat back and reflected. Oh well. It seemed that all his blood, sweat and tears had been worth it in the end. Perhaps it wasn’t so bad really, this teaching lark, at least not when you get job-satisfaction like that.
Inspection? C’mon… bring it on!