Thank God it's Friday

19th November 2004 at 00:00
Monday It's open evening on Thursday. Teaching and learning, target-setting and assessment make way for classroom displays, colour-coded corridors and a sorely needed sterilisation of the staffroom. Even the cleaners become energised, frantically polishing anything that doesn't move. Our balding deputy pauses to check a noticeboard and ends up glowing like a radioactive cannonball.

Tuesday "Grot-spot" inspection. The school's business manager pounds the corridors, clipboard in hand and newly sharpened pencil at the ready. I explain that the large patch of flaking plaster in my classroom is caused by damp and no, I can't scrub, re-plaster and paint it by first thing Thursday. We agree I'll stick a poster over it.

Wednesday The window cleaner arrives, generating a domino effect of disruption. When it's my turn, I abandon all attempts at teaching. Pre-1914 poetry cannot compete with scrutinising every movement of sponge and wash-leather. I lose count of the number of times I hear: "You've missed a bit."

Thursday I explain to the new headteacher that school tradition dictates she provide large tins of chocolates as a post-open evening thank you for staff. She looks sceptical, but I remain optimistic. I go into shock when I see the drama teacher in a suit, then spend my free period tidying the classroom and putting finishing touches to wall displays. Later in the morning, a colleague decides to use the room for a Year 9 drama lesson. So I spend lunchtime retidying and repairing wall displays.

At 5.30pm prospective parents flood the school and by 8pm our NQT looks exhausted. I tell her she can go home early. She smiles gratefully but is back in five minutes because someone's car has blocked her in. I decide not to tell her it's mine. Leave at 9.15pm.

Friday Bleary-eyed teachers, bleary-eyed children and wilting displays. The drama teacher is dressed as usual in tracksuit and trainers. Tins of chocolates adorn every table in the staffroom. Aren't school traditions wonderful? Especially the new ones.

Christine Holt is head of English at a Rochdale high school

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