When was the last course you went on?" I ask a colleague. She rises out of her seat, brandishing a small plastic fork and looking a little red and menacing. "It was an ICT twilight session. In March!" I nod sympathetically, because no matter how good a course looks, the time of day it takes place is crucial. We will all go on a Damp;T skills in sandwich-making course if it means a day out and a free lunch, but if it starts after 4pm, no one is interested. I find some of these twilight sessions really interesting, but am not going to give up any more of my time. Going to my MA course once a week is as much as I can manage.
I have recently had to be out on several courses that have been extremely useful, but it is the aftermath back at school that depresses me and makes me think that it is just not worth the hassle.
The day after my course I walk through my classroom door with trepidation and survey the scene. Despite my warnings, the room is in such a state. In fact I am expecting Cheryl Baker at any moment to come and congratulate me on breaking the World Record for the number of pencils on a floor.
There is rubbish work to mark, a mysterious pot full of anonymous trip money and a collection of earrings and some Yu-Gi-Oh cards that have been confiscated. There is also a three-page list of stickers to give out (defeating the object of stickers being a treat), a letter from the child who spilt paint on my prize Elmer toy and a note saying my class have reached their 40 marble targets, even though when I left it was around eight. And a daily summary of the children who didn't get it right.
"Why can't you do it for a supply?" I ask the downcast three when they file meekly in to the room to face the music about the trouble yesterday. This begins my usual scripted rant about me being disappointed, blah blah, would I come to your house and draw on the wall blah blah and would you break my car door window with a stone blah blah? I feel absolutely desolate. Even though I should be eagerly trying out the things I've learned on my course, I feel annoyed with the catch up and just sit glaring at them.
The next time I am out of school I prepare the class in advance, and spend hours on preparation for the supply teacher. However, there is no change. I hear the word hooligans being used to describe the class and I say, "Well, they're not like that for me." "No," says my colleague. "They miss you.
You'll just have to not go out for a bit." Which makes me wonder what is the whole point of courses.