Thank God It's Friday

10th December 2004 at 00:00
Monday My final week as head of initial teacher education and the prospect of working fewer than 60 hours a week excites me; I'm getting too old to handle the long hours culture we tolerate in education. I'm reminded of my age by a student who comes to complain that the petrol expenses we pay don't cover the cost of travel to her placement school. I ask what her car does to the gallon. She looks blank and asks: "What's this gallon stuff? My car runs on litres."

Tuesday My final teaching session. I want to inspire the students and my theme is making the classroom creative and exciting and providing a touch of magic. I return to my office to read an email from an absent student.

"Sorry I missed the lecture," it reads, "I had just set off to drive to college when I turned into a tree." Now that's magic.

Wednesday Today I am interviewing prospective students. We always try to select people with commitment, and want to know why they are attracted to teaching. I ask Miss X this question. She has outstanding GCSEs and an excellent report from her head of sixth form. "Well," she says, "I considered going into soliciting, but I wanted a more hands-on job and felt becoming a teacher would be more fulfilling." I don't risk probing further.

Thursday One of our most gifted secondary trainees - a clever, talented woman with natural ability in the classroom - has quit. Her mentor wants me to try to make her rethink. I meet her to discuss her concerns but the lady is not for turning. She knows she is effective, she likes children, she feels supported by her mentor and tutors. But she has noticed that the teachers she admires all work long hours to achieve what they do.

She cannot face the prospect of a career with no work-life balance. Her husband has hardly seen her since she started her PGCE. I understand her reasons. I return to my office and sign her course termination form.

Friday Liberation day. There is a leaving do in the evening and I am moved by the warmth and generosity of my colleagues. The wine flows and the speeches begin. There are kind words and laughter aplenty. At the bar I am approached by a customer. "How easy is it to train to teach? I've always fancied a job that finished at 3pm and had long holidays." I am too intoxicated from wine and good cheer to work out if irony is intended.

Peter Fleming was head of initial teacher education at York St John College

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