Food for thought

20th June 2014 at 01:00

I am the most recent addition to the functional skills team at my college. The simple fact is that the last one in fills the timetabling gap. And since I only arrived just before the start of the last academic year, it falls to me to be the plug.

Thus, on Wednesdays I find myself teaching three classes at three different sites of the same college. I don't mind at all. I was delighted to get the job and I can be part of several slightly different cultures.

My final session of the day sees me returned to the mother ship, the campus where the rest of the functional skills team live. I am lucky enough to get a desk in the office and even have my own computer and phone. In my previous teaching job, my desk had been reclaimed from a skip, so to get one that wasn't at some point covered by a rotting pizza makes me feel like I've hit the big time.

This week, my students at other sites were all otherwise entertained, so I got to spend a whole morning, rather than just 20 minutes, at my desk. It was nice to have a day without racing round the Nottinghamshire countryside, bounding sweatily into classes with seconds to spare. Even nicer was that I spent the day with colleagues.

There is a strong familial bond in this team, bound by a common love of language, numbers - and food. Everyone is besotted with comestibles and in my position as a one-day-a-week tourist, I am thrilled with this quirk.

There are the regular pot-luck lunches, fast food CPD days (when pizza, curry or fish and chips is delivered to the office), the Wednesday Club (all staff leave their desks for this one lunchtime a week, going to the canteen together) and, my personal favourite, Scone Friday. In addition, we have a highly efficient system whereby the full-timers bung pound;5 a month in the pot and, magically, a corner of the staffroom turns into an edible wonderland.

The enthusiasm for food is matched by one for diets. There's been the 5:2, Slimming World, Weight Watchers, LighterLife, high-protein-low-carb. In fact, every interest in eating food (or, conversely, not eating food) is catered for, often simultaneously.

As a woman who has never met a bun she didn't like, team building via gut building sits well with me. These small events are fashioned by people who recognise that they spend a huge chunk of their lives together and have created opportunities for brief excursions from a job that we all know has its stresses.

Families are often told to make time to sit around a table and eat together, nourishing relationships as well as bodies. This team agrees.

A whiteboard with the words "Reasons to be cheerful" scrawled at the top sits near the door. The reasons on this happy list, created and updated by all the staff in the room, range from "birthday fund", "really cool kid who fixes our photocopier" and "Scone Friday" to more profound suggestions, such as "the opportunity to inspire".

The fact that this list exists is evidence of a team that puts great effort into inspiring not only the students but also each other. Let's raise a scone to that.

Sarah Simons works in FE colleges in the East Midlands

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