A day in the life of ... Alison Wood

22nd November 2013 at 00:00
In the Scottish Highlands there are lochs to sail and mountains to climb - and that's just on the way to work. For this art teacher, the natural beauty at her feet makes for an invigorating resource

Ben Stack's conical profile looks clean and sharp from my bedroom window today, apart from a wisp of cloud caught on the summit of the mountain. The sea loch below our house shows a steady southwesterly breeze. It will nudge me into school, so I decide to walk in.

Muesli for breakfast. After that, I take mackerel out of the freezer for tea, pack a rucksack with "art teacher" attire, put on walking gear and set off to join the only road that enters Kinlochbervie.

I arrive at Kinlochbervie High School five minutes before the morning staff meeting and keep my walking clothes on: I'm sailing with 11- to 14-year-olds for the first two periods.

The depute headteacher hands out his surplus home-grown cucumbers. We are reminded about Modern Languages Day tomorrow, and I jot down notes to relay to students in the following 10-minute support group.

Down in the craft, design and technology room, the students come in, walk out the back door to the boat shed, grab their wetsuits and go off to get changed. A few moments are spent tightening up their buoyancy aids and checking the rigging of their dinghy sailing boats.

I put on oilskins and a buoyancy aid, then get into the safety boat along with a senior student who's studying maritime skills. I quickly discover a hole in my wellington boot. We pull out along the mooring line into the peaty waters of Loch Innis. Engine down, then we're off to get into position.

Pairs of students launch their dinghies and work together to man the rudder and the sail. Today, the steady, easy breeze is unthreatening; the water is creamy, having had all summer to warm up. Students experiment and I see their confidence growing. A few boats capsize and are righted with squeals.

A sail flaps relentlessly, so we take the safety boat closer: the boom has unclipped from the mast and the two students can't fix it. We go alongside and I nip into their dinghy to put it right. Before long they're happy again. The bell goes for break, so I head back into school, swapping safety-boat duties with another qualified member of staff.

After a quick change into art teacher clothes and a slurp of tea, I enter my classroom, chucking my boots under my desk.

My six students watch as I give a demonstration of reverse applique, a textile technique involving joining together layers of different coloured and textured fabrics by freestyle sewing on the machine. When the first students finish, we discuss the still-life painting of the Scottish Colourists, primarily Samuel Peploe and Francis Cadell, before they respond individually to some critical-analysis questions.

A waft of chocolate pancakes and bramble jam enters with the next class, who carry lidless ice-cream tubs containing sweaty baking taken too early from the cooling rack.

The lunch bell goes. I change back into my walking gear, cursing the leaky wellie as I don a soggy sock. At reception, I meet another teacher - clad head to toe in Lycra - and five students who have turned up for running club.

We walk over the cattle grid and trot off behind the church and along the shores of Loch Innis, skipping over the sheep droppings. Turning back after 15 minutes, we discover that the wind has been behind us, and it's now whipping up white wavelets in the loch. We get back with 30 minutes left to enjoy lunch.

In the afternoon I have two periods of non-contact time to prepare for future lessons. Tomorrow's class are creating four large panels to represent the four areas of the orchestra. Last week was "brass" and tomorrow is "wind", so I load up a trolley with a saxophone, clarinet and flute so we can do some observational and continuous line drawings.

There is no staff meeting this Tuesday because of a parents' evening later in the week, so I get a lift back up the road with a colleague and start to prepare my mackerel.


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