Many of us will have some slightly disturbing memories of a stag or hen weekend, where we ended up in situations that we would not wish to share with our class.
Perhaps you recall, with a wince, that drinking game, the night out on the town where you all dressed as nuns, that other drinking game, perhaps a small intervention from the local Prague police, another drinking game, the incident in the nightclub.
And then we’d be back to our sprightly paracetamol-powered professional best on Monday morning in front of our classes. (“Did you have a nice weekend, Sir?” “Er, yes, I think so.”)
Such events are obviously thin on the ground at the moment, although lots of lucky teachers are currently indulging in the next best thing: the TAG weekend.
The only real difference between a stag and a TAG weekend is that the TAG is essentially devoted to marking instead of drinking, as we now desperately try to deal with all those extra assessment tests that we have set our GCSE and A-level classes.
Think of it, if you will, as a pen weekend rather than a hen weekend (only a marginal distinction). Oh, yes – and the only other difference is that you spend most of the time on your own. But, apart from that, the weekend itinerary is pretty much identical.
Exams 2021: The TAG weekend itinerary
The Friday evening welcome
Arrive at your bespoke weekend destination (home) and give yourself a warm welcome (put the coffee on).
This classic weekend ice-breaker comes into its own once again. In the TAG weekend variation, you go and cart all your crates of weekend marking from your vehicle to your chosen workspace.
Time for your first big “session”. When you feel yourself starting to wilt, throw in a few marking games to keep yourself going. Try “marking roulette” for instance, where you place imagined bets on how many marks each student in that night’s pile is going to end up with.
At the end of the evening, tot up how many millions you would have gained or lost.
It may be only 8am but it’s not too early to sink a couple of cheeky little scripts over breakfast. No one’s looking!
Time to treat yourself, with 15 minutes of relaxation in the bath, focused exclusively on scrubbing, moisturising and lovingly manicuring that precious marking hand. Because you’re worth it.
Then it’s off for your park mark. This is rather like a “park run” but without all the needless running.
Instead, you have agreed to meet a few colleagues enjoying a similar TAG weekend for a working picnic: assessing and moderating together, and breaking off occasionally to have Ofqual-inspired philosophical debates on the meaning of life and on the true meaning of a grade 9 – other than its being “better than a grade 8”.
Back at home, order your favourite pizza. Alternatively, opt for any other food you can eat with one hand while still marking with the other. It’s going to be another long, crazy session.
Try out a few cocktails tonight. To your crate of Year 11, add some Year 13, and then lob in some Year 8 homework you took in (like a fool). Then shake the crate for 10 seconds. And there you have it: the classic “Markerita”.
You will be suitably off your head by about 10pm. Time to print off an image of some hate figure in the public eye (in education or otherwise), glue it to a large ball or balloon, and go to bed therapeutically clubbing it along the floor with some suitable piece of sporting or kitchen equipment.
Sunday morning: archery
Find a large board – AQA, Edexcel or OCR – and take aim carefully. Before a Sunday of yet more reckless, hardcore assessing gets under way, send them a pointed email politely asking why you are doing all this extra work for them unpaid, while they continue to charge your school.
Ask them this: shouldn’t it be the other way round this year? Shouldn’t they be paying you?
Stephen Petty is head of humanities at Lord Williams’s School in Thame, Oxfordshire