A day in the life of ... David Nicholas

In the South East of England, this design and technology teacher performs a balancing act, juggling his job, his duties as a union representative and caring for his elderly mother

I wake at 7am, get up and change my mother's nappy. She had a stroke four years ago and I am her carer. She is 79 and I am 51.

In addition to full-time teaching, I do the shopping, cooking, laundry, DIY, gardening and financial planning for the two of us, as well as liaising with healthcare professionals. By 7.40am, I have showered, dressed and prepared Mum's breakfast so that she can eat it when she gets up. Outside waits Andy, my friend, work colleague and, for this week, car-share chauffeur. We live not far from one another and work in the same secondary school in Guildford, Surrey, 25 miles away.

We arrive at school at 8.15am. I am the union representative, so I start the day by sitting in the staffroom for 10 minutes, drinking a cup of coffee, in case any members wish to discuss something urgently. If I can occasionally help a colleague by giving them the benefit of my years of experience, I am happy. As inspectors have recently declared our school to be "outstanding", the principal is happy, too.

Next I head to my tutor base. I hope that 10 minutes will be long enough to read important emails and delete the rest.

At 8.45am, the main event starts as my tutor group arrives. I check their uniform as they walk in. Like most 15-year-olds, they are usually trying to test the boundaries.

We spend 15 minutes reading silently. I have been told that if I read, they will all join in, but I find that watching them like a hawk is a better tactic.

I head to the school workshop, which is my real teaching area. I am an engineering graduate and I teach design and technology. I must be doing something right as my entire examination class passed their GCSE last year and 65 per cent gained an A or an A*, which will no doubt represent the high-water mark of my teaching career. It is all downhill from here.

I greatly enjoy teaching a practical subject but lessons are intense, take meticulous planning and require excellent class management skills. Vigilance is needed to ensure everyone's safety. As such, I am something of a disciplinarian, making sure that the mind of every student is fully focused.

At 11.05am, I return to the staffroom for a 20-minute break and a coffee. I sit in what is known as "testosterone corner", where we discuss the important issues of the day - usually sport. We also have "oestrogen corner" - women desperate to have a baby - and the self-explanatory "post-menopausal corner". Today, the women in oestrogen corner coo over a colleague's newborn. About once a year, a member of testosterone corner ends up marrying a member of oestrogen corner - very romantic.

Another lesson down and it's lunchtime. After lunch, the Year 10 students arrive. These 14- and 15-year-olds are quite knowledgeable and are at the end of a long project, making small tracked vehicles, so I do not need to give much direct instruction. I monitor progress and offer a little one-to-one help.

At this time of year, my oldest students have finished their exams and left school so I finish the day with a free period. At the end of school, I head to the playground: it's my turn to make sure that no one is run over by the buses. And after that - because today involves a special treat - we have an hour and 15 minutes of staff training.

Mum, who was also a teacher until she retired, has had a long day on her own by the time I get home at 5.45pm, but the tennis has been on television all day, so we chat about it over a pot of tea. I tuck Mum in after she has taken her evening medication. I am reassured by the sound of her snoring.


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