The Blackboard Jungle

days spent beating back the seeds of doubt

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Back to work after a holiday is always difficult. Standing all day, constantly on the move in the classroom, eyes everywhere at once, projecting your now dormant voice for five hours solid - it's like being an Olympic swimmer just returned from the desert.

You forget the details that have helped you survive:

the principle of juggling your duties - never take on ten arduous tasks at once,
always have at least two classes doing something that requires next to no preparation,
another two classes completing work that can be assessed orally or by peers,
try to conserve your voice at all times by using your eyes to command, your gestures to encourage, and your voice only to praise,
don't write a kid up for exclusion the first time they swear or start a fight or you'll be interviewing parents all month,
give children choices of equivalent sanctions then gradually remove the options if they refuse to comply,
only agree to two extra tasks a week,
remember not to offer an extra homework help or revision class every day,
never confront a child in front of others,
don't agree to trips the day after parent's evening,
stop listening in meetings after the first 14 minutes,
make damn sure your lunch hour is uninterrupted

... all the small details that differentiate you from the forty people a year, every year, whom you've seen burn out too fast, in tough inner city schools like these.

You forget.
By Wednesday, you remember.