Some 25 little faces are staring at me. A few are smiling, brimming with enthusiasm. Others are wide-eyed. Some look worried, even a bit tearful. One or two seem apprehensive. A lad at the back appears tired and yawns periodically. Was the Xbox on late or am I sending him to sleep?
These 25 faces represent the next five years. In the cycle of secondary school, it's induction time for the 11-year-olds of Year 7. Although it doesn't seem five minutes since we waved goodbye to the departing Year 11s, their replacements are already here. And I will be their form tutor.
I attempt to go through the complexities of life at big school with my students, deciding to deviate from the official, obligatory PowerPoint. Instead I ask them to complete an activity on hopes, dreams and ambitions for the future.
"I would like to get a level 6 in science." "I want to improve my reading age." As I read the responses, it hits me. These children are the product of endless assessment, testing and measuring of progress. At age 11, I wanted to travel to South America and write novels.
This is what keeps me awake: soon these students will be reduced to the sum of departmental and whole-school spreadsheets.
I keep telling myself that each pupil is someone's child. But I also know that, come mid-September, I will be too bogged down in planning, assessment, results analysis and marking to be able to give them the time and attention they deserve. The spreadsheet will triumph.
Each cycle takes a bit more out of me and, I am ashamed to say, each time I give a bit less. Perhaps as I near retirement, I am just being sentimental and reflective. Or perhaps there is something fundamentally wrong with the education system and how we value children.
The writer is a teacher in the Midlands Tell us what keeps you awake at night Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Tell us what keeps you awake at night Email email@example.com