“I’m really missing the teaching, Steve”, said a young colleague from the PE team, as we began our day of shared custody of the school’s key-worker children.
It was clear that he had been counting the days until it was his turn on the rota.
Now, at last, there would be some sort of teaching group for him to engage with again, if only for a few hours.
The fact that only one pupil turned up did not put him off in the slightest; he had planned his lessons and he would deliver them.
Poor Erin from Year 7. She did not see this coming.
Determined to teach
Given that we were still technically in the Easter holidays she was no doubt envisaging a quiet day of doing her own thing in one of the usual supervision rooms. Maybe watch a few films, message a few friends – normal holiday stuff.
It soon became apparent that my own day was not going to be quite as I had envisaged either. With only one student on his register, it soon became clear that my colleague had decided who the other half of his “class” was going to be: me.
First, by way of a warm-up, he had us following the Joe Wicks morning work-out. After this, I was allowed a much-needed recovery-break while Erin was sent on a walk, twice around the circumference of the school site.
After this, she and I were pitched against each other at “crossbar challenge” on the school field. As many will know, this is a game where the two contestants stand about 15 metres either side of a goal and try to kick a ball at the bar.
With only one pupil my colleague's mission was clear: Erin was going to improve her crossbar challenge skills whether she wanted to or not. I made my excuses and escaped.
Later on, when the session seemed to have safely ended, I returned to the main supervision classroom expecting to find Erin there. However, the only person I could see in there was my esteemed friend from PE. Where was Erin?
I thought perhaps she had escaped into town and that we had somehow managed to lose the only pupil in our care. However, he seemed oddly serene and calm in the circumstances.
On closer inspection I found that she was lying on the floor at the back of the room, exhausted and possibly asleep. “Erin’s just having a bit of a rest” he said cheerfully.
I should add here that she finished the day by declaring it to be the “best so far”. I should also add that our school supervises many more key-worker children now that the holidays are over and that Erin is still one of them.
What this day demonstrated was that my PE colleague was desperately missing real teaching and classroom interaction. No doubt thousands of other teachers feel exactly the same.
For example, a friend sent me a picture from home where she had lined up three rows of vegetables and fruits on her kitchen table to remind her of her beloved class. Or there are others who have transferred their lessons to a larger audience.
The Leighton Buzzard primary teacher Holly King-Mand has accumulated a class of thousands online. It’s obvious in hearing her reaction that she did not seek fame or acclaim at all; she just wanted to carry on doing what she loved doing.
But not all of us will have done things like this. Should we feel guilty about not feeling a huge buzz and determination for teaching just one pupil or wonder why we don't have a desire to broadcast our lessons online? Definitely not.
A welcome change
Because if we’re honest, some of us are not missing the teaching quite so desperately.
For some teaching and being on show in the classroom feels like a natural habitat but for others it can be more of a stage act than anything natural.
While it may still light an energising spark within us when we are in the classroom, teaching is never quite “us” in the way it is for others.
These teachers are still utterly brilliant at their job and hugely committed of course, and almost certainly still find the teaching itself the most enjoyable part of our job. But it is still a 'job' and lessons are often the most draining part of it.
So for teachers that are – whisper it – coping just fine without the classroom, enjoying the chance to do remote learning, or embracing time in school looking after vulnerable children or those of key workers we should simply say, that's OK.