Thank God it's Friday

1st May 1998 at 01:00
Monday To be honest, I got just the teeniest bit tipsy last night. The luxury of actually noticing the nagging headache this morning disappears when I enter my classroom. Lee needs some dinner money, Thandi's dog died yesterday, and five notes "explaining" absences last week are on my desk (three of them are likely stories, but at least they are stories).

A posse of small girls surrounds Thandi, who is now crying about her dog. At this point my headache forces itself to the very front of my frontal lobes and I feel as if my dog has died too. I do not own a dog, but still ...

Tuesday There are 32 students in this GCSE class. I set an essay. They do a first draft and hand it in for me to comment on. Thirty-two markings. They then do a final draft and hand that in. Sixty-four markings. Later, closer to GCSEs, half the class will rewrite the task to try for a higher mark: 80 markings. And that is one coursework essay.

They will write about 10 essays each during the whole course. That's 800 markings. Year 11 will do the same: 1,600 markings. That's just from two classes. So what? It's my job, isn't it?

Wednesday Why is there so much ill-will in schools? He who walks about the corridors and breezes in and out of his classroom with a calm smile on his face puts up a pretty effective barrier against all the stoked-up malice of the place. Children will needle you if they can find a vulnerable spot because the results can be entertaining. Thus: "Excuse me Mr M," says Ben with a smirk on his face, "Becky wants to know where you get your shirts from 'cos her Dad's a farmer and he wears country checks too." Hmm. I smile.

And it's not just the kids.Colleagues will unload their stress on to you if they can because they walk away feeling lighter. Derek Pyle sidles up to me in the staff room: "Appalling behaviour from your tutor group just now. Keeping them all in this lunch hour. Typical of the whole lower school. No discipline. Think they can behave just how they please, throwing Tippex bottles to each other, wandering about when they feel like it. Noise level up to here ..." Hmm. I smile. Keep the aura up.

Thursday I hear Tony Benn on the radio saying "the right to do things badly is a basic human right". So he's never been a teacher then. Teaching? Easy job, isn't it - starting at 9am and finishing at 4pm.

Today I teach and tutor 161 children. I keep discipline, I mark a pile of books, telephone a parent and arrange a meeting, attend a pastoral committee, hurry along two miles of corridor and go up and down three floors of stairs 15 times, advise librarians on book purchases, set several sets of homework and take in same.

When I get home tonight I shall mark books and essays before planning tomorrow's lessons. There are, we are told, some lazy teachers in the profession. How, I should like to know, is it possible to go in to the place each day and be lazy?

Friday What I want to say about today is not to do with school. Let's say I went there, taught my classes and came home very tired. What gives colour, character, breathing space to this existence is the life we manage to have outside school. So this weekend I shall go to my Keep Fit class, paint a picture, cook an exotic meal, read a novel, see my friends, get garden soil under my finger nails ... and get the teeniest bit you-know-what.

Patrick Morley lives in Devon

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