I bought it, so I keep it

10th September 2004 at 01:00
Advice for seasoned practitioners

Did you go into school in the summer holidays? Of course you did. All teachers do. And did you, or someone else, take time off from admiring holiday photographs to utter the time honoured words, "School would be great if it wasn't for the kids"? Of course you did. All teachers do.

It's good to walk the quiet corridors. But why, precisely, did you go in? To tidy your classroom? The head of the primary school in our road took the opportunity to empty his room and start all over again. I'm told by someone who called in to see him that at the operation's peak, the contents of his quite small office had magically expanded to fill the school hall.

The longer you've been teaching in one place, the more stuff you collect.

All of it, including those ancient reading cards, the rusty spring balance, the chick incubator, the papier-mache model of Harlech Castle and your teaching practice notes in a file embossed, "Anstey College of Physical Education 1973" is, of course, too precious to be thrown away.

When I taught at Sir Wilfrid Martineau school in Birmingham a long time ago, the veteran head of science said one day, "If I won the pools tomorrow, I wouldn't just walk out of here. Oh no. There's stuff here that belongs to meI " I was the worst. One of the low points of my career came one Sunday when I was a comprehensive school house head. The school had been burgled and the headteacher called me in because, as he said: "We can't tell whether your room has been ransacked or not."

One reason for all of this is that teachers spend far too much of their own money on books and materials which are legitimate tools of the trade that should be paid for by the school. It's understandable - having your own high quality staple gun can make life easier. (When she was a classroom assistant, my wife had one which she'd labelled with fierce "hands off" warnings.) In the long run, though, you don't help those who either can't, or won't, subsidise the public purse and you can create doubts when you may want to take items to your next school.

This year, try to stand firm. Practise saying assertively, "So I'll get one and bring in the receipt. OK?" But don't forget that receipt. It is more important than you think.

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