Thank God it's Friday

5th June 1998 at 01:00
Monday: National assessment tests are over and it's that routine heads-down time of year. No distractions. No concerts. No Christmas spectaculars. No Sports Days yet. Just blissful days of uninterrupted teaching. Staffroom banter is based on, or punctuated by, things we see in newspapers -like the news that the Government is thinking about adding four weeks to the school year and footling around with the lengths of the terms. We chew these good tidings over with a mixture of both gloom and hysterics.

None of us is quite sure if these weeks are to allow us to catch up on all the things we are behind on, or to allow us to add more work to the curriculum and become even more behind.

Tuesday: I used to be a headteacher and I've got a feeling I was a morose so and so. Now I do supply teaching, people get fed up with my cheerfulness. One of the classroom assistants brings me toast as soon as I walk in. Somebody else calls me her little ray of sunshine.

An American research team has recently stumbled upon the area of the brain that causes laughter. They discovered that sending an electrical charge through a certain area sent the patient into hysterics. I wish I had known this during my years of headship; I can think of several staff members I would have plugged into the mains first thing every morning.

Wednesday: On my way home I call in at the Oxfam shop and browse along the bookshelves. I have always collected old teaching books and here's one from the 1940s. Even then it was called Don't Do It. It begins with a poem that many of us old-timers know by heart: The teacher stood at the pearly gates, her face was worn and old.

She stood before the man of fate for entrance to the fold.

"What have you done?" St Peter asked, "to gain admission here?" "I've been a teacher, sir," she said, "for many and many a year."

The pearly gates swung open wide, and Peter touched the bell.

"Come in," he said," and choose your harp, You've had your share of hell."

Thursday: Some of the staff noticed today the way I eat an apple. I take a big lump out of the middle and then eat all the way round the centre. Then I work on all the sticky-out bits round the edges.

Today I was asked, "Do you always eat an apple like that?" I said, "No, I sometimes eat one standing up."

This then led on to how I eat a boiled egg, pointed or round end first. Then it was which is the best end to start a banana.

I left the staffroom pondering how we are all at the cutting edge of the national, political and methodological debates about education. And here we were talking about the best way to eat bananas.

Friday: The poem I rediscovered inspired me to dig out my battered, college collection of poems by Keats. I looked up an old favourite: My heart aches and a drowsy numbness pains my sense, As though of curriculum I had read too much.

Or emptied some statutory order to the brain.

'Tis not I'm unhappy with my present lot,

But being too weary with the DFE,

That thou, quick penned author of binders white,

In some costly office plot,

Of concrete white and windows square,

Writeth for classrooms out of sight.

Oh for a draught of vintage that hath been,

Untouched by words like market force or training day.

But tastes of common sense and teacher skills,

Of playtime mirth and increased pay.

* David Thomas lives in Leeds

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today