I packed up my office this week, and prepared to move all my stuff to my new school. It didn’t take long. Everything fitted into the boot of the car in a few supermarket bags for life, and thankfully I didn’t have any staples to remove from display boards.
Life as a headteacher has some struggles, but few that compare to the upheaval of moving classrooms. I’ve been very fortunate: only rarely have I had to change classroom, unless I was moving school. In between times, I was able to plant my roots and save my summer holidays for more exciting activities.
That said, I made up for it in 2013: our school was being extended, and so for most of the year I taught part of the week in my classroom and part in another small room on the other side of the school, which we jokingly referred to as “the dungeon”. Then, as the year drew to an end, I had to relocate to the newly built wing for a few weeks, while all of my classroom chaos was put into storage. It was several years later before I finally saw all of those things again.
Teachers on the move
For others, things are not quite so easy. I know that my wife, during a decade of teaching, moved classroom almost every summer. Plenty of teachers this summer will have found themselves packing everything up for the umpteenth time, as a new room awaits. And it’s a lot harder than sticking a couple of diaries into a carrier bag.
The problem with teaching is that you accrue all manner of material over a year. Some of it is precious personal belongings; some will be school documents and resources that need to move with you; some is probably just the same box of junk, which should have been ditched years ago, but never gets sorted because of the constant moves.
What’s worse is that a change of room can often mean a change of year group. Then comes the unenviable task of separating out what needs to relocate with you, and what needs to remain for the new teacher in your classroom. Whole-school policies have to be constructed on the hoof about what happens with scissor blocks and paper trimmers.
And then there’s the timing. In theory, it would make sense to move everything after term has ended, but who’s actually going to do the legwork then? Carrying a few mugs and a pencil case is one thing, but what of the stacks of books and resources a teacher so often collects? Even taking the opportunity for a good clear-out is no guarantee of being able to travel light.
In larger schools, it’s probably not a straight swap, either. Margaret has to move into the ICT suite for a couple of days while Jack moves into her old room, freeing up the Year 3 classroom for Judy, before Margaret has any hope of getting into her new Year 5 base. And you can guarantee that, when she gets there, someone will have left half the staples in the display board.
(Who are these heathens who just staple up new backing paper atop years’ worth of staples?)
Then it takes you well into the start of the holiday to track everything down. There’s little hope of being able to relax over the summer until you’ve found the tray labels you so carefully prepared. It can easily be a week into the holiday before you’ve got the room looking just how you want it for September. Just in time for the cleaners to come in and move all the tables for the deep clean.
Michael Tidd is headteacher at Medmerry Primary School in West Sussex. He tweets as @MichaelT1979