Thursday, 28 April 2011

2 Many Teachers

I'm currently in the unusual position of actually having regular daily work. Until the end of May I no longer have to live with a mobile phone next to my head or wait until the morning to find out what the day holds. When I originally signed up to this gig I was lead to believe I'd be mentoring Year Eleven students needing help with their English in the run-up to the fast-approaching GCSE exams. On arrival on Tuesday, I soon discovered this was certainly not the case.

I've worked in this particular Hackney school on many occasions so know quite a few members of staff. When the HR person normally in charge of me was otherwise engaged and seemed to have done a disappearing act, I sought out the English department. Having covered quite a few English lessons in the past, the Head of Department was well aware of me and promised to locate my new home once she'd dealt with tutor time.

Entirely clueless as to what I'd been employed to do, the ever-helpful English Head finally sniffed out my indirect employer and I was told where to report to. Ascending to the fourth floor, I was met by two others who greeted me and appeared equally bemused – one of which I'd previously worked with in another Hackney school and both, also temporary staff with the same agency. It seemed I would actually be teaching and “managing” the school's most challenging children who'd been withdrawn from the normal school timetable and were in and out of exclusions.

Day One:

Although school begins at 8.40, in the “Learning Centre” pupils arrive at 9.30 and leave at 2.30, forty minutes before their peers. All lessons are out of sync with the normal school bells and students are collected and deposited at reception by a member of staff. Today “Lower School” have decided the three day week means they're entitled to a longer Easter holiday and no-one has showed. Five Year Elevens arrive, however, but a few hours later three have done a runner and we are down to two pupils and three members of staff. Just before 12.30, it's time for one of the pupils who is on a personalised timetable to leave and I look around the room in disbelief – by now, with the addition of two LSAs, there are five members of staff and only two students. There is very little for us all to do so two of us tidy and organise this shambolic room that looks more like a dumping ground than a classroom.

Day Two:

No Year Elevens show and only one Year 7 decides to make an appearance, despite phone calls home the day before. We've already sorted out the room and I went around all the departments the day before trying to collate resources for each subject to help to try and deliver a balanced curriculum. There's very little to do. The “Learning Centre” regular seems to manage to busy himself elsewhere while two of us team teach, taking it in turns to have a break or teach our only punter. Both English specialists, we struggle through a session on cells, laughing hard when we came across an amusing Youtube video.

As the day progresses, yet another Teaching Assistant comes to take refuge in this peaceful corner and we move on to Geography. Finishing up with some literacy, we decide enough is enough and allow our diligent student to do an Internet search for "The Walking Dead" – a show he's already enthusiastically given us blow-by-blow accounts of and I'm familiar with. Just as we're rewarding our out-numbered worker, the new Head walks in to see him reading zombie-related material displayed on the SMART board and to comment on our three to one ratio. We're just glad she didn't appear a few hours earlier, when despite instructions to the contrary, our 11 year-old pupil started playing graphic zombie death scenes on the SMART board.

Day Three:

Today's a busy day. The same Year Seven pupil arrives fifteen minutes early and two Year Elevens arrive on time. Now there's one teacher to each pupil and every now and again Teaching Assistants come to say hello. After yesterday's surprise visit, we hope the Head Teacher doesn't decide to come in when we're watching The Ultimate Zombie Survival Guide (, although this time it really is work-related - pandering to our future leader's tastes, we're making a hypothetical "non-fiction" leaflet based around this subject matter. With the royal wedding taking place, the first week is over. Now we have to hope there's a steady growth in student numbers working in the centre so the school might continue to somehow justify the need for us until the end of May.

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