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.

Hands Up!

Hands up if you’ve ever brushed your teeth in school…..in a classroom…..with every other child in your class?

Wait, let me count. Hands right up……That would be nearly none, I’m thinking. Very close to zero. And, quite possibly, a what the hell is she talking about? Yeah, me too.

Why the hell has it become the case that teachers have now become responsible in many schools for the dental hygiene of the weans?

And I don’t mean teaching the children about the benefits of good oral hygiene, how necessary it is to reduce intake of sugary and acidic foods to allay the onset of dental caries. Neither do I mean carrying out a little project looking at the composition of the tooth from enamel through to nerve. Nor looking at the dental formula for canines, incisors and molars. Nor looking at a model of the human tooth while identifying all the ways to keep them healthy and avoid the dreaded filling or extraction.

No. I’m talking about 30 odd toothbrushes, in a handy plastic covered box, distributed each day to every child who then lines up to have a little bit of toothpaste squirted on it by teacher. Then have the whole toothbrushing experience timed for two minutes while Miss issues appropriate instructions.

If there is anything that gets my gag reflex going it is being in the same room as someone brushing their teeth. I don’t quite know why but it is akin, for me, to having someone scrape their nails down a chalkboard. I shudder. I suppress as best I can a salivary onslaught that threatens to induce vomit.

I witnessed this little spectacle recently and tried with every fibre of my being not to boak at the sound and sight of so many engaged in what I think is quite a personal task.

I use an electric one so I hear its gentle buzz rather than the sound of a brush on teeth. But I can’t even be in the same room as my kids when they brush. I did it in the early days and even brushed them for them when they were young. But that’s a bit like changing your own wean’s shitty nappy. Can do.

My main point here, however, is less to do with this nauseating practice than it is to do with the fact that parental responsibility is either being hijacked or abrogated and I’m fed up with teachers being asked to carry the can for every task that was once the responsibility of parents.

There is so much more that I could write here. And I intend to.

I’m looking at education in a different light these days. Have been for some time. But it’s coming to a head. Rising, as it were. A bit like the bile I feel rising in my throat every time I attend another meeting where we, as teachers, are informed of the latest piece of nonsense that is now ours to carry. While I question, ‘What about literacy and numeracy?’

As it happens, I consider myself something of an expert on multiple aspects of education. But I never signed up to be a feckin’ dentist.