Last August, I wrote about my hopes and fears ahead of Scottish schools reopening, at the conclusion of our first Covid-induced closure. Some 11 months later, it is with cautious optimism that I am trying to push the coronavirus out of my mind in favour of the more wonderfully mundane concerns that once dominated the minds of teachers in midsummer.
After the trials and tribulations of the past 18 months or so, I find these minor woes to be almost comforting as they flitter through my mind. I share them with you in the hope that, first, you will take comfort in knowing that you are not the only one, and, second, that you might just enjoy an epiphany of self-awareness and remind yourself to enjoy your summer.
1. Ill-fitting clothes
If ever teachers earned a decadent summer, it was surely during the 2020-21 academic year. I, for one, am proud to share that ice cream, doughnuts and pizza have been regular dietary staples for me since June – and that’s just for breakfast. I have not yet worked up the courage to see whether my teaching attire will tolerate such an indulgence (surely blazers ought to be more elasticated) but I remain ever hopeful as I reach for another slice.
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2. The inevitable 15 minutes of password resets
Each and every year, I give myself the same instruction: “You MUST write down all of your passwords before the end of term and store them securely.” Unsurprisingly, I fail miserably at this time and again. I would like to publicly apologise in advance to the incredible office staff at my school for their astonishing patience in the face of such an avoidable blunder. I can hear my anxious phone voice now: “Oh, hello! I’m terribly sorry but I need a reset for the registration system, the school emails, Google Drive and probably anything else you can think of.”
3. The two-month-old milk
I can’t possibly be the only one worrying about this. The milk in the staff fridge was definitely still a quarter full in June. There may even have been some cheese in there. What’s certain is that, regardless of government policy, I will be wearing a face mask on the first day back, if only to spare my peers the sight of me wincing as I rush to open windows and dispose of the mutated organism that has undoubtedly grown over the summer (I have similar concerns about the banana that I’ve left in my desk drawer).
4. How do you teach again?
Every year, I convince myself that an army of microscopic neurosurgeons have entered my brain during the night (most likely through the ear or nose) and chiselled away at the part of the brain that makes me a half-decent teacher. The ensuing fear and insecurity can be crippling, yet it only takes me, on average, about half an hour on the first day of term to rediscover my footing. It’s usually around the time that I meet the new first years that I realise how unjustified my doubts were: those young people are infinitely more petrified than I could ever be in a school, and they look to us for reassurance about the transition to secondary school.
It is on that thought that my trivial qualms turn into excitement about the prospect of the new school year, which, here in Scotland, is not far away now. Young people have been through the most horrendous of times and, for all of my insecurities, I am determined to do right by them when the new academic year starts in August – but not before one last doughnut.
Glen Fraser is a secondary teacher in Scotland