A day in the life of ... David Nicholas

12th July 2013 at 01:00
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.


Do you want to tell the world's teachers about your working day, the unique circumstances in which you teach or the brilliance of your class? If so, email ed.dorrell@tes.co.uk

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