The Blackboard Jungle

days spent beating back the seeds of doubt

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Lectrice here. Reminiscing.

I'm sitting in a freezing goat shed covered in Newari blankets looking at the looming Himalaya, trying to spot Everest before the sun dips, and after 8 months away, my thoughts turned to home.

If I still lived in London, what would I be doing now?

It'd be the end of morning break on a Monday morning. I'd probably have all my remedial classes - the violent ones, because they always get timetabled for bricklaying in the afternoons (it's only officially that we don't subscribe to labelling theory), and the halfway smart 13 and 16 year olds, who don't learn anything after lunch, at least until Jamie Oliver revolutionises Crofton's neighbouring boroughs.

The 13 year olds would have mock SAT exams - probably this week or last, right after half term (SATs are at the start of May), and the 16 year olds will have started the long, unspoken 'shedding' process that cuts class sizes from 32 to 12-15 by Easter.

But this is generally the easiest term, as you've managed to frighten pavlovian routines into most children by this stage. The (entirely predictable) problems of this term would be organisational: organising two hour daily revision classes for the 16 year olds (you somehow never get any resources or payment for doing it, despite a plethora of promises) (which meant I would have to do them all - as there were 350 16 year olds, that was always a little knackering, making sure each kid got onto three extra classes in the subject and grade level they need, then writing and delivering the classes, which if you're any good at them, have approximately twenty more students than there are chairs).
The exam syllabus would have changed, so I would be trying to write and publish a cottage revision guide, which I'd usually try to delegate to student teachers (who are all at the jobseeking and loud complaints stage - I never thought to point out to them that the one who gives in and does the revision guide usually gets offered a job - I should warn athrawes this).

Ooh, and the coursework is a month away from examination, which means collating a folder of five 6000 word essays from each of 350 kids, then getting it marked 'blind' by between two and four unfamiliar staff, who have to then magically agree on the grades, and can't go home till it's done.
That's 42 million words read, if you're not sure.

Five kids will have cheated and require terrifying, which was my job, one will refuse to do it again; everyone adult would look worried and tentative, and I'd have to be the one who chumps up and fails him. (It's a him.)

One teacher will disappear, or fall downstairs, or have a nervous breakdown, and I'd inherit a third GCSE class (you're only supposed to have one, but I managed to inherit two others from burnout cases for the last four years on the trot, so I'd rank this as a predictable wastage), who will have just three weeks to do the three missing essays they'd never been taught. For which I would whisk out homemade cheat packs that enable you to get an 'A star' on Shakespeare or Romanticism without ever reading the original texts. (That I ended up writing these things is a clue as to how predictable.)

And the scariest kid in the school, the one with all the gang connections and the mother you never want to cross, and the father you truly pity, will pretend his or her teacher lost his courseork, and I'd back him up, to boost the school's figures.

No pregnancies or suicide attempts till late March / April, though.

Yes, I think I've reassured myself that aimlessness in a bamboo lean-to halfway up a mountain is a valid career choice.