1+1=3

This morning I shall finish procrastinating.

It’s time, I feel, to tackle what is weighing and waiting to be done.

I had thought I would do it on Friday night but I knew I was kidding myself. Friday evenings are not for doing work. That, surely, is a universal given.

I did think I would begin on Saturday. Jump right in and just get it out of my way. But. There was shopping. There were washings. There was cooking. A little bit of taxi service. And a lot of, ‘But it’s Saturday. It’s the freakin’ weekend.’

So, I didn’t.

The worst thing about being a teacher is the volume of paperwork that has crept in over the years.

No, that’s not the worst thing.

The worst thing is the number of subject areas that now have to be taught. And planned for.

My speciality is literacy and numeracy. Every aspect of the two, woven into interdisciplinary learning. You know, plan a theme, incorporating many facets of learning. Drive your lessons through that. Easy peasy, once you know how.

That’s no longer good enough.

As a result of the neglect of some sections of society, and a political scene that will not tackle the root causes – or cannot- it is now incumbent on primary school teachers to incorporate, within their remit, a host of subjects that parents used to do. Some of them still might. But, just in case they don’t, we have to.

This term I will have to make time for the kitchen in school. Yes, the children will be learning how to cut up bananas, make smoothies, try their hands at washing up and, hopefully, keep their fingers intact in the process. They will be charged for this. I’ll have to pay for it first and then collect the money from them. That’s not going to happen. Not doing that. I should go to the shops, buy a variety of fruit that they probably won’t like or eat and then hope they reimburse me? Nope. Cheek.

In addition to exploring the wonders of the kitchen, perhaps using one of the microwaves that now sit on the worktops of what was once the teachers’ conference room, some bright spark suggested that the children would benefit from running five miles per week.

An area in the playground has been duly measured, to the mile, and the panting of both teachers and children can almost be heard, through my window on the ground floor, as they bust a gut not quite belting round the yard. I don’t think I’m going to be doing that. I don’t run. Now and again my nose does. But that’s usually because I’ve not been careful with my fruit consumption and have succumbed to a trivial cold. Bring on the vitamin C. I can peel an orange because my mum taught me how.

Health and wellbeing is the thing, you see. Not content with having teachers supervise teeth brushing – I mean, have you ever! – we should take on the role of parental responsibility in every field.

There is now toast on offer in the morning, a couple of days a week. Why not every day? Don’t children need breakfast every morning? Why not serve dinner too? Get the kids into their jammies, a bed time story and the parents can pick them up around nine.  A good twelve hours at school should solve all society’s problems.

What else? Ah, yes, drug awareness, massage (no fecking kidding!), and the thing that is pending this week for me and mine. The showcase.

On Friday coming, the whole school, together with parents of the children in my class, will gather in the hall while my children take to the stage and perform some highlights from the book study we have been working on. I spent last weekend writing parts for them all and burning music to a disc. It’s been a while since I’ve done that – the disc part – and there was some swearing involved until I remembered.

This week, all the work that adorns my walls from the topic, will be removed to be displayed in the hall for the perusal of the parents. Then it will have to be put up again in my class because, in a week or so, we’ll have visitors – pretendy inspectors from the education department will descend to see if we know what we’re doing.

Quite frankly, I’m no longer sure I do.

Once upon a time, my job was to make sure that the children in my care could read and write and count. I was good at that. Still am, if I get the chance. We’ve always taught P.E., Drama, Music, Environmental Studies, R.M.E., Social Studies, Art, Science and whatever else escapes me right now. But, the focus was always numeracy and literacy. The essentials.

The time now available to do justice to those subjects is being eroded by the additional responsibilities that were once the privilege of parents.

I made lasagne and crusty bread with my two youngest recently. All of my kids can cut a banana and know which buttons to press on the microwave as well as how to turn on the cooker and make something for themselves. I’ve always been under the impression that that was something I had to do so that, one day, I could wave them goodbye knowing they wouldn’t starve or set themselves on fire. So far, so good. Touch wood.

In the interests of not procrastinating further, I will end with one last thought. Why is it that the only subjects the children are tested on is numeracy and literacy? Simple arithmetic, that a moron could work out, but not, apparently, the powers that be, (bit worrying that), makes it plain that less and less time is available for the essential PRIMARY subjects. I’m a primary school teacher.

As wonderful as I am at integrating the essentials into multi subjects – and I’m really not too shabby at that – I’m no wizard with time. There are only so many hours in the day to achieve planned aims. There are just too many aims now.

I shall now go and spend the rest of Sunday planning for the current term and trying to bend the parameters of time. Someone’s got to do it.

P.S. (still procrastinating) I just discovered, this week, that my salary, for doing all of the above and then some, has been eroded in the region of £13,000 in the last six years. So, that’s nice. Very motivating.

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18 thoughts on “1+1=3”

  1. Yes, I noticed that momus, and the one thing that was really missing from those children from home was…respect. Of themselves, let alone others.
    I’m afraid this world of do gooders (and I’m talking the powers that be), has spared the rod to create a generation that not only doesn’t care, but takes great pride in venting their negativity with such a lack of wisdom to be frightening.
    You do put in the hard yards momus, but as well, are taken to task on such rubbish that it must make you feel is it really worthwhile. And I think that generation of teachers with many years of service are about to just ‘go home’, retire into solitude and let them rot in their own mess. Trying to climb up a cliff face using a cotton thread that they give you, would make for a long, slow burnout. Brave yes, in trying to get that sanity of life to them, but at what cost…to you and the children.
    And that my friend, makes me very sad.

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    1. I’m telling you, Mark, it’s really worrying. I could write a paper on the subject but, no matter how many reasons I can come up with for the changes, I keep coming back to the political will absent to address social problems. It’s not easy to think how they could be addressed, given the knock on effect of one problem onto another, but a huge start would be to reassess social values and where worth is placed. I’m afraid I’ll be long gone from the chalkface before that ever happens. It does make me think, however, of homeschooling any grandkids I might ever have!

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      1. Now that sounds like a plan. We may have many varied views on life, but at least the young kids relate to immediate family.
        Maybe they could do the right thing and pay mum or dad’s to stay home and be that certainty in a child’s life and have them do the teaching until they reach a point…say 7 or 8 (that’s when their attitudes in life lock in, anyway you’d know the point they need higher learning), and then send them off to school. At least the social skills may be better and have their attitudes in a much better place, minus the powers that be that think they know everything and only create more problems.
        Complicated, but not impossible I think 🙂

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    1. I keep wondering about the qualifications of those who initiate the changes, Leslie, and whether their motives are the same as teachers’. I tend to think not. Terrible to admit that I have dissuaded all of my kids from going into teaching. I’ve loved my job but it’s not what it was. I guess, from your comment, that it’s not just here that teachers are scunnered. :/

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      1. Increasingly teachers here are merely testers. Every piece of the curriculum is geared to helping students pass state tests. It became a soul-sucking experience. There was little room for exciting teachable moments. Much of what I taught was heavily scripted because heaven forbid that we interject something outside the scope of the tests.
        I never recommend teaching as a career. And that’s just sad because I loved having my own class and working with children.

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  2. And what’s more I had my payslip yesterday and, thanks to an increase in NI (now taken from gross pay) and a derisory ‘pay rise’, I find myself £30 worse off. Still, I’m told it’s a vocation. I couldn’t agree more with you, Anne-Marie, and I too am tired of having more shovelled on me whilst being reminded that I am doing a crap job and that any success that the children have is, in fact, because any tests that they may take are ‘too easy’. Always the scape goat, eh.
    Remember the old car sticker: ‘if you can read this, thank a teacher’. It would appear that politicians can’t read. That’s private education for you!
    Nearly there, so try to keep your head up.

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    1. Same here, Chris, and the GTC came off this month so not pleasantly surprised at all. Talk about giving with one hand and taking with another. We’re not even issued payslips any more. We have to print them off in school and the site can only be accessed from school or a library!
      Five hours on the plan yesterday. Almost finished. Then a new set of boxes to be ticked. This used to be a pleasant term. :/
      And I really hate moaning!

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      1. Me too, but sometimes it seems to take over! GTC? It’s gone down here. Always seemed a bit pointless as they took the money out then refunded it! Our payslips are now sent by Royal Mail – apparently it’s cheaper to post 40 than to deilver them to school as a job lot. Oh well, let’s try to have a pleasant term!

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    1. Thanks, Paul. I really hate moaning about my job because I love it in many ways and know folk have it harder. But I do get sick of people talking about ‘all those holidays’ and ‘you only work till three’. I wish. :/

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  3. It’s so awful to see your vocation change in such a dramatic way over the years. I have huge respect for teachers, as a number of amazing teachers have changed my children’s lives.
    Two of my gang are seriously dyslexic and for them at times, due to over emphasis on testing in primary school, they felt ‘stupid’. Thankfully that system is not part of secondary school and they have done very well.

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    1. National testing was done away with a few years ago here, Tric, but schools still carry out assessments. They should be used to measure progress, identify any difficulties and allow teachers to plan accordingly. They have their place if used for the right reasons. I’m sorry to hear that your children were made to feel ‘stupid’. That saddens me, Tric. It shouldn’t happen. I’m glad, though, that they’ve gone on to do so well.

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  4. Gardening was a biggie in my children’s primary. I agree the focus should be on numeracy and literacy with some time of course for other subjects and artistic endeavours but smoothie making. – best done at home.

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