Follow the thread

3rd September 2004 at 01:00
Bill Hicks begins a weekly look at the hot topics in the TES chatrooms

Wasn't there once a time when teachers could look forward to switching off for at least four weeks of their summer holiday? A time for resting the vocal chords, reading, travelling, or, if you must, refreshing your subject knowledge?

If that time ever existed, it was surely well before the invention of the internet. Here at the TES website, the forums (www.tes. co.ukstaffroom) have been as busy in summer as at last year's term-time peaks. Teachers come for advice, for argument, for comfort, for entertainment.

Hundreds of new trainees are organising their social lives in the Prospective Teachers forum. Over in Opinion, people are comparing notes on just how little holiday they are getting. It's all good-natured - until you arrive at a thread in which we're told that a primary teacher and a teaching assistant volunteered to redecorate their staffroomI "And that's just what they did," says the outraged poster. "They spent the last few days of their holiday painting walls - unpaid of course. Is it any wonder teachers are put upon in primary schools?"

A heated debate follows: on one side the willing volunteers, on the other, hard-bitten defenders of the professional status.

It's one of the latter who says: "Wait till you've run up countless thousands in debt, endured training, being patronised, biting your tongue, jumping through hoops, doing pointless and Kafkaesque paperwork... and then come back and tell me you feel happy volunteering your time off to clean toilets or paint classrooms, or whatever."

The tirade is touchingly offset by this, from another seasoned operator:

"My son and I have just spent two days of my (unpaid) holiday cleaning mouse shit and drain sludge out of my Food room. Ten Brownie Points. " But those of you who only know the forums through their recently acquired notoriety as an arena for whingers might be surprised by the tone of another new Opinion topic: " Is anyone else looking forward to going back to work?"

It starts: "I can imagine snorts of derision from many but I am looking forward to the start of term again. There is something exciting about a brand new primary classroom that can't be matched. Labels are ready, the place has been cleaned, it smells strangely of disinfectant and not smelly PE kit. The new class are an unknown group, and who knows how the year will turn out?"

There are not many snorts of derision. At least half of the 50 responses are positive. "Supavillain" says: " Roll on term time - I've missed the gossip and my lovely form."

Bill Hicks is editor of the TES website

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