I Am A Weapon of Mass Instruction

Chapter 18: Lunchtime & Advisory - 1:00-1:50pm 

Ahh, lunch time, a chance to pause and sit down for a bit to relax, and to have a tasty, filling meal. Or, if you’re a teacher, a chance to run around like a headless chicken getting stuff ready for the class after lunch, ring parents to complain about their children and maybe, maybe, stuff something that is allegedly food down your throat.

Okay, I may be exaggerating a bit there, but it’s not far from the truth, and it really comes down to how disciplined you are with yourself. There were teachers on staff who would get
a hot meal from the canteen every day and take it up to the staffroom to eat in relative isolation form the students. However, there were also staff who always worked through lunch, be it doing a club for the kids, tidying and marking or putting in an extra (paid this time) duty.

I’d done a lunch duty myself when I’d started teaching, partly to show willing and partly because you got to have a walkie-talkie and it made me feel a bit like a special agent. I didn’t last long though because it was sheer, unremitting hell. You see reports all over the place in the media about how bad the behaviour of students is in modern schools, and I have to admit that I never experienced anything to that level while I was in the classroom. Sure, there was an odd incident here and there, but in 12 years of teaching, behaviour really wasn’t an issue for me. Lunch time though was a whole other kettle of annoying, irritating, rude fish. At lunch time manners went out the window and you were just another body to be pushed and shoved and shouted at. I quickly gave up my lunchtime duty as I had enough on my plate as a new teacher and didn’t need this level of rudeness on top of all that.

I was somewhere in-between dedicated and headless chicken, and I never really had a proper lunch routine until the very end of my career. Sometimes I’d eat, but counting up the instances, more often than not I wouldn’t, which I know is really bad, but it was what it was.

Before we moved into the new building, I would get something to eat from the canteen a fair bit because they had a frankly brilliant salad bar, and if you were lucky enough to get Pam serving you, she always snuck a few more items in for you. The canteen then was run by the frankly terrifying Sonya, but she certainly knew how to cook. This was before the days of politically correct school meals and you could have chips any day of the week without fear.

It was in these halcyon days of chips with every meal and actually being able to put salt on your meal that we would have Christmas dinner at the end of term. A simple, honest celebration of the work we’d done and a thanksgiving to the rest we were about to have, it was a proper, old-fashioned winter festival because the Senior Team were the ones to serve everyone, and we all sat down together to eat. It was brilliant, and those meals are some of my happiest memories of working at our school.

Once we moved into the new building though, the canteen was run by an outside company and it just wasn’t the same, and it got even blander once the lack of fried foods and salt rules kicked in. I tried to bring my lunch in with me in these lean times, but if I’m honest, I was just rubbish at it, as I never felt like dealing with food at the early hour when I was awake and heading to work. So much easier to just push through and not have anything at all. If I was starving, I could count on being able to steal something from Miss T to get me through, but as she only worked part of the week, it meant that I got to rely on myself and my stamina to get me through the day a lot of the time.

I went through various phases of bringing in cereal to have at lunch, but they never lasted too long. If I got truly desperate, I’d brave the canteen and grab a sandwich. There was a curiously high proportion of staff at school who absolutely loathed tuna (yes, you know I’m looking at you), so tuna was always available, despite it having a similarity to wet cardboard in texture and taste. It filled a hole, that was all I cared about.

The final death-knell of the canteen, at least as far as the staff and the 6th Formers were concerned was when a well-known supermarket chain built a local store just around the corner from school. Once it was up and running, you’d see more and more staff and students walking around with branded carrier bags, mostly full of junk food, it has to be said, although Kate did buy grapes now and again to counter-balance the chocolate she’d purchased.

If you were quick, and many of us clearly were, you could be in your car seconds after the bell had gone, get to the shop and back to school in time to set up for your next lesson with no trouble at all. Having said that, my Head of Department and his friend from the Languages Department did get into a little bit of trouble when they went to the shop and were absent during a fire alarm. Admittedly they didn’t know it was going to go off, we never did, but they were told off because they hadn’t told anyone they were going of-site. It was almost as if they were highly-trained adults who knew what they were doing. Almost.

The shop around the corner was certainly a boon in the warmer months, and it wasn’t uncommon to see students walking around with ice lollies they’d bought there. It also wasn’t unheard of for a member of staff to slip a 6th Former some cash and put in an order for an ice cream if they knew they were going to the shop. I’d like to see that as an exercise in trust and community relationships rather than using the students as ice cream mules.

It wasn’t until the last year or so of teaching that I got my act together and not only regularly had a semi-healthy home made lunch but also got out of my classroom and corridor and relaxed a bit at lunchtime. My chum Sandra and I were both a bit fed up that we never had any down time at all during the day and we made a bargain that we’d help each other relax
at least a little bit.

We were good friends and travelling buddies, and on one trip - actually our first trip together - we’d gone to Sri Lanka and in the course of the trip had played chess together. I say ‘played chess’, but what I really mean is that she comprehensively thrashed me at chess. We’d spent a week in a hotel that had been booked after some sharp haggling by our guide Malcolm (who, no word of a lie, actually wore a hanky knotted at the corners on his head one day when he was feeling a little overheated. Imagine a short, portly, late middle-aged Sri Lankan gentleman who was always immaculately dressed, but who was also a little bit rubbish at being a guide. Bless him though, it was his first time, so allowances had to be made.), the
aim being to just relax after our two-week tour of the island as part of a group.

The hotel, it should be mentioned was pink. All of it. It was literally the pinkest thing I’d ever seen in my life. It was also full of German tourists who were on Ayurvedic retreats and who stared at us with hungry eyes as we tucked into our cooked breakfasts in the morning, while they looked sadly at their porridge. They also seemed quite jealous that Sandra and I were free to use the pool - and frequently did - while they were stuffed into suspiciously torture device-looking iron lung contraptions that were actually mini steam-rooms that sweated all the nasty stuff out of your body. Having been in one of the evil iron lung saunas as part of an Ayurvedic experience as part of our tour, I can tell you that I preferred being in the pool too.

A chess board was in the lounge area of the hotel, and we monopolised it during the week. Out of all the games we played, I only ever won one, but it passed the time. Chess became our thing, and I bought a travel chess set on one day out in London, and it was taken with
us on subsequent trips. That we even drew an audience one night in Iceland is probably a measure of how small, remote and lacking in entertainment the town was rather than our skill level in the game.

Sandra decided that we would start to play chess at lunch, down in her room as it was quieter than mine, so off I would trot, lunchbox in hand, to the other side of the school to what would become a regular lunch chess date.

After much practice and playing on my computer (only cheating a little bit by changing the settings so that the computer had to make faster decisions on where to move its pieces), I had improved a bit, to the level where it was a toss up as to who would win on any given day. We liked to say that we were both at Grand Master level, but I’m fairly sure that Grand Master games should last more than 15 minutes, and should probably contain a lot less swearing and regular comments of,
“Bugger. I didn’t want to do that.” but I could be wrong about that.

Just the change in venue did wonders for me, and it also meant that none of the students could find me. The notion of hiding to get away from the kids was an openly acknowledged one, and many a member of staff would scuttle away during the day to an empty room or office to get some peace and quiet or to just have some quiet time in which to get some work done. Originally, the Head’s office in the new building was going to be at the front of the building with lots and lots of windows in it. Lovely. It also meant that he would be very, very visible and easy to find, so no one really thought it odd when he changed his mind and moved upstairs to an office that was decidedly out of the way.
Being able to sit down in pleasant company, have some quiet time and to focus on something other than school really was wonderful, and I think we both had a more sane perspective on school and life generally because of it.

There were a couple of downsides to playing chess in Sandra’s room though, the first being that it meant that I had to walk through the canteen to get there. I could have gone the slightly longer route of going upstairs and back down but frankly I couldn’t be bothered. The canteen, as I may have mentioned before, was a zoo, but a zoo without any cages and where all the animals knew it was feeding time.

Free time at school had its advantages and disadvantages. The advantage was that we had half an hour for break, which was nice, certainly much nicer than the usual 15 minutes. The downside and balance to this was that we also only had just over half an hour for lunch, and it was a big job to get all of the students through the canteen, sat down and get their meal eaten in a civilised manner in that time. The canteen was also one of the few places that the students could congregate and socialise, so especially during wet and cold weather (this is England, just assume that wet and cold meant most of the time) the canteen could get a wee bit crowded. It was always with a sigh of relief that I made my way to Sandra’s room, after a nearly continuous litany of,
“Excuse me, excuse me, excuse me, excuse me, excuse me,” as I made my way through the press of over-excited and apparently blind bodies.

The other bad thing about the location of Sandra’s room was that it was at the end of the REAL corridor and looked out onto the playground where most of the Year 7s hung out. If you’ve never experienced the cacophony produced by a group of 11 year olds, you haven’t found your tolerance for loud, shrieking noises. If you are a proud and doting parent of a sweet 11 year old, a lunchtime observing a group of them will also teach you that they could teach drunk sailors a thing or two about how to swear properly. Luckily, but this point, I had
a well-developed and well-used Selective Hearing talent, and I could effectively tune out certain pitches that also happily corresponded to youthful voices.

Sandra, the lucky devil, had been a 6th Form tutor for a long time. This had a couple of perks over being a tutor for the lower school in that the 6th Formers didn’t have to attend tutor time every day, so she had a bit of an easier time in terms of pastoral issues. However, such was the high level of entertainment to be found in watching two of their teachers play chess and mutter at each other that after a little while, there was a regular group of Sandra’s group that would come and watch us play. They’d also eat their lunch and hang out, but as they had a common room to do that in, I can only assume that they were fans of strategy games played by experts.

It even got to the stage where they’d keep track who was winning and losing during the week, and despite one or two of them having been in one of my old tutor groups, they were always more excited when Sandra was in the lead, the loyalty of a teenager being a fickle thing indeed.

Fridays were even better days for chess as neither Sandra or myself taught the lesson after lunch, so we could squeeze in another game, or take our time with the main game. Sadly, as this is a Terrible Tuesday, we could only manage one game. Ham and mustard roll consumed, board set up and then game underway all made for a pleasant 20 minutes or so during an otherwise non-stop day. Never underestimate the good that a few quiet minutes can do to your sanity.

However, Sandra’s role as part of the Initial Teacher Training team meant that she wasn’t in school for one day a week, which rather selfishly left me to my own devices at lunch. On days when she wasn’t around I’d usually just lurk in my room, scowling in a half-hearted way if any of my tutor group were in there, but otherwise quietly eating my packed lunch, catching up on what was happening in the world via various news websites, and generally just killing time before all the madness started up again.

The madness in question was Advisory - tutor time or registration in old money. As is often the case in educational circles, give something that had been done for years a new name and suddenly you were all cutting edge and innovative. Tutor time had had a verbal face lift a few years ago and although there had been a few stumbles from both the students and staff who were slower on the uptake than others, we now had Advisory every day instead of Tutor time. You’ll notice that throughout the book I’ve called it tutor time and that I had tutor groups, simply because those terms are more accessible and understandable to most of us. Advisory has a nice ring to it, but it was the same old tutor time in a nice new name - those astute among you might be muttering
“Emperor’s new clothes…” here, to which of course I couldn’t possibly comment.
I think there was the unspoken suggestion that by calling it Advisory, we’d all get in a sharing circle and become in tune with one another, but the name change didn’t really change anything at all.

Tutor time was when we were supposed to deliver PSHE material to our groups, and generally mould them into upstanding, balanced members of society. This was a bit tricky to do in reality because we only saw our groups for 15 minutes a day, although if we didn’t have assembly on Fridays I’d have them for half an hour.

This is as good a place as any to mention that to a man, my group hated assemblies. Hated them with a deep-felt passion, and they were prepared to do almost anything else than go to them. If it was a Friday, every single one of them, and that’s not an exaggeration, would ask me as they came into our room if we had Assembly or not. Assemblies were always somewhat erratic, some of them being for the whole school, others for specific year groups.

Exam season was always seen as something of a reprieve for everyone (apart from the Year 11s who were actually taking their exams) as the Sports Hall and sometimes the Main Hall were out of commission as they were set up for the public exams and couldn’t be used for Assemblies. If I had to admit that, yes, we did in fact have an assembly that day, the news would be greeted with a grunt/groan/whine that only a beset-upon teenager could produce, and it was only because I was an extraordinary professional and I had better control than they did that I didn’t join in.

“Can we just not go?” one of the group asked one day, faint hope colouring his tone.
“We have to. I’m sure they’d notice if a whole group was missing.” I said, only tempted a little bit not go.
“What if we hide underneath the tables? No one would see us then.” Rude, lazy, as self-centred as a gyroscope as out students could be, I would rarely accuse them of not having a certain level of baseline cunning.
“They’d come and check.” I pointed out, and if any of them noted the glum resignation in my voice, they’d have realised that I had the same amount of enthusiasm for assemblies as they did.
If we didn’t have an assembly and I could pass that good news on, they were all delighted, as it meant that they could do what the majority of our students were best at for a little while longer: talk.

Apparently, I was quite a good Tutor, and while I won’t dispute this too much, I’ll add that I’d hit on a winning strategy that I stuck to for a lot of the time: ignore the kids and hope that they ignore me. Most of the time, this worked brilliantly, and my tutor groups and I got on pretty well. We all knew that there were times when we had to do stuff, and we’d get through it as quickly and as painlessly as we could, then get back to ignoring each other.

This was a distinct change from when I started teaching. Then, I was very gung-ho and enthusiastic, and very much prepared to put in a lot of time and energy into all my classes, including my tutor group. We had longer with them when I started teaching, and we saw them first thing in the morning and again in the afternoon, so it was easier to build up a strong relationship with them. It also helped when you had a group from Year 7 right through to Year 11.

These days we only saw them for 15 minutes and we only got our group in Year 8 when they left the loving arms of REAL. It doesn’t sound like much of a difference, but it had a big impact - impressions had already been made and for a lot of the students, their Secondary school identities had been fixed by the time a new tutor saw them in Year 8. Only seeing them for 15 minutes a day also put a huge limit on what you could do, and getting anything meaningful out of them often took more effort than the results were worth. There was the occasional message to pass on, or there might be an activity that either the whole school or whole year group was expected to do, but most of the time the 15 minutes of Advisory were an extension of lunch time that had to be spent in a room with a teacher rather than being free time.

While it might look like I completely ignored my tutor group, of course - because I was an exceptionally professional educator - in reality I kept quite a close eye on them all. I realised quite early on in my teaching career that I relied on my hearing a lot more than I thought I would, and while it might appear that I wasn’t doing much, in reality I was listening in for all
I was worth. Couple this with my ninja-like stealth capabilities and I could learn a surprising amount about my students whether they wanted me to or not. Most of the time it was inconsequential stuff like who was going out with whom, or who wasn’t going out with whom any more, which was information that was noted, but could safely be ignored, but it kept me in touch with what was going on, and I’d sometimes get to hear an interesting nugget of gossip.

One of the more irritating aspects to tutor time was the tracking and monitoring (a good educational phrase ‘tracking and monitoring’, it gave me shivers just typing it, and it came out so easily…) those of your group who were on Report.
Being on Report meant that the student in question had been consistently annoying, or badly behaved, or - as happened quite a lot - had cocked up monumentally so they needed to be kept an eye on.

Having a report to hand to every teacher was a reminder to the student that they were under scrutiny and would in theory make them tow the line. In theory, it should take very little effort indeed on the part of the repentant student to show that they were deeply sorry for what they’d done and to get themselves off Report. If they really wanted to, they could be off Report within two weeks, the minimum time that a student was put on Report. Of course, what theory said should happen rarely happened in a place as chaotic as a school. Theory also failed to account for just how stubborn and contrary a teenager could be.

This is how it worked: the student would carry an A5 paper Report with them, that they had to hand to their teacher at the start of the lesson. This would let the teacher know that the student was on Report so they could keep a closer eye on them. At the end of the lesson, the teacher would give the student a score from 0-5 on how the lesson went and sign it. The student would do this for every lesson, and give it to the person monitoring them during tutor time. If the student was on Stage 1, that would have been me, fulfilling one of my Tutorly duties. If they were on Stage 2 or heaven-forbid Stage 3, then it was someone vastly more important than me.

This is what actually happened: more often than not the student would have lost their report and would have to ask for a new one. We were all supposed to have a stack of blank reports in our rooms, but in reality we didn’t, so I would have to trudge to the office to get them one. Often, we wouldn’t have the right one (they were colour coded), and the student would have to make do with the wrong one, with the title scrubbed out and written in by hand. Then you’d get back to your room, only for another student to ask you for a report… and so it would go. Of course, all this would just annoy you and tempt you into giving a lower score that the student possibly deserved.

Obviously, a lot of the kids on Report somewhat begrudged being on Report, so they wouldn’t give it to you until the end of the lesson, often folded up into the smallest shape possible. Again, this would annoy you. Generally speaking, I would ask any student who happened to be on Report what score they thought they deserved for the lesson, giving
them a chance to reflect on their behaviour and to be proactive in the process of getting themselves out from under the watch of the Sauron-like eye of all the staff.

If the student was switched on, and wanted to push their luck a little, they’d say that they deserved a 5, with barely a wobble in their voice for such bare-faced cheek, but such boldness was noted and appreciated. Most of the time though, all I would get from my question would be,
“Dunno,” or,
“Don’t care,” or,
“Whatever,” or even just a grunt or bored silence, accompanied by a haughty stare that communicated that they were completely over this stupid Report, but were only playing along until they had completed their doomsday device and were ready to take over the world.

My tactic here would be to throw out a starting offer of zero, which usually got an indignant response that they’d actually been quite good, but at least it got them engaged. You could only really give a zero if they’d been horrendous and had been removed from the lesson,
so the student wouldn’t be standing in front of you anyway. I’d slowly make my way up the scores, the student demanding a higher one, but we’d finally reach the one they deserved, the students being most of the time pretty honest about what score they really deserved and why. I was quite fond of giving half scores, which probably annoyed their tutors quite a lot, but nudged them higher and showed that I was giving them the benefit of the doubt. No one ever called me up on it though, so I carried on doing it.

As a tutor, I couldn’t be doing with giving out Reports every day, as I knew I’d probably forget, so if any of my group were on Report, I’d staple together a week’s worth so the student was good to go for the whole week. It also made it easier to see from day to day how they were getting on and which lessons (or the member of staff taking that lesson) they had particular issues with.

If a student in my group was on Report, I was supposed to call home at least once a week to keep in touch with the parents and to let them know how well (or badly) their little darling was doing. In reality, this communication with home was somewhat more erratic than it should have been, and it was just yet another thing to add to my never ending To Do list.

Other than Report duties, tutor time was usually just as much a time for me to get myself together for my next lesson as it was more time to chat for the students. Yes, I was supposed to be all carey-shary and be having Circle Time to get to know them all better, but certainly with the older students, all they really wanted was to be left alone, something I was happy to give them. There were, of course, exceptions.

In my penultimate tutor group to the one I had before I left, there was a small group of lads who almost without fail would sit on my bench (we were being housed in one of the workshops - never the best choice of room for a tutor group as it gave them far too many sharp things to play with) and more often than not whitter away as if I was part of their gang.

This was a group that I took over half way through the year when I came back to the D&T Department from REAL, as a member of the D&T team had left and needed replacing. Taking over a tutor group was tricky at the best of times, but taking one over mid-year was even worse, and it took some time for us to mesh together. Thankfully, these guys were possibly the most passive group that I’d come across and other than the lads, everyone was happy to ignore each other as per my usual policy. We did warm to each other eventually though, and we all got on fairly well.

I soon learned that the lads were very easily entertained, and were delighted that I was happy to let them make search suggestions for a certain video website we all know and love. I soon became much more knowledgeable about BMXing than I ever thought possible as a result. Some of the other lads soon got in on the act, but we all learned that their suggested choices were really rubbish and could be ignored.

On the sidelines of the group huddled around my laptop was Oscar, oldest brother to Ivan - he who would burst into song at the least prompting fame. Oscar would quietly watch proceedings, and now and then suggest a video choice himself, and it is he who I blame for my slight addiction to a certain video channel that was incredibly childish but very, very funny.

Oscar was very quiet, very nervous and didn’t like noise or crowds at all; he was also very, very, very clever, and we had a brief period of playing ‘Ask Oscar’ when the lads realised that they could ask him literally anything and he would come out with a reasoned, knowledgeable answer. They were fascinated with him, and although I’m sure they only understood a small portion of his answer, they would stare at him, slack-jawed while he gave his answer to their question. When he was finished, they’d swivel to me to check that what he’d said was correct, but as I was often just as clueless as they were, I had to trust what Oscar said was correct, which I have absolutely no doubt that it was.
It got so that some of the other students wanted in on the game, and some of the girls would come over and ask him stuff as well, sometimes even pulling out some of their text books to find stuff to ask him. All the while, Oscar would calmly if a little nervously bask in the glow of an intelligent person showing off what he could do.

Into this idiosyncratic group came and went a couple of new students - deliberately placed with me because my Team Leader knew that they wouldn’t last too long and would soon be sent back to their original schools with a curt ‘Thanks but no thanks’. One student who did last though was Jack.

Jack was a casual admission as he’d moved into the area rather than a Managed Move student who was being moved to another school before they were permanently excluded. That Jack was from Exeter and me having grown up in Cornwall meant that it was very nice indeed to hear a South West accent amidst all of the Estuary English voices, so we bonded over that.
Jack was, without doubt, one of the nicest students I have had the pleasure to teach - although I never actually taught him as he was never in one of my classes - right up there with George in terms of students who were simply nice, genuine people. He was polite, cheery, funny and made an effort with all his classes, but was a nice guy along with all that. It surprised me when we knew each other a bit better that he told me that in his old school, his behaviour had been not great at all, and that he’d made a real change coming to our school. It just didn’t fit with the picture he presented, but I was very glad that I was getting this version of him.

Other members of this group of note were Blaze, a seemingly confident girl, who in reality had low self-esteem which wasn’t helped by her eternally on-again off-again relationship with one of the lads in the year above her. Her boyfriend was Danny, who I taught and sometimes chatted to because of his connection to Blaze. He was one of those students I seemed to come across all too often in that he was clearly intelligent, but was also lazy, arrogant and thought far too much of himself, things that at one point or another I told him to his face and which he cheerfully agreed with.

Danny was something of a star on the rise - he was involved with a sport at the national level and was preparing himself for the Olympics. He had days out of school for sporting events, and has even been a guest to No.10 - an occasion that he told me all about, although he was more focused on the fact that he was early and had sat on the pavement outside No.10 eating his McBreakfast. Say what you liked about our students, but they had a certain amount of bravado that some might see as style.

Over my teaching career, I think I had eight different tutor groups, with ‘one’ group being an evolving one as the school tried out vertical groups composed of different year groups, which meant that I lost more and more of my original tutor group as younger students were incorporated to the mix. Another of my groups was a double group as I was teaching in one of the larger spaces in the school and shared it with another teacher. Technically we had our own groups, but we could never remember whose student was whose, and as we taught them for REAL a lot, we considered them to be one big, shared group. This was the group that I was convinced was addicted to noise and couldn’t function without it, justifying their constant chatter.

All these groups were distinct, and I can picture them in my head, and yet they blur into one another too. I moved house recently, and in the process of throwing a lot of stuff out, I came across a few of the group and year photos that I’d squirrelled away and forgotten about. I was shocked at how young some of the students looked, as in my head they were now adults, but just as surprising was how many names I could recall.

There was Sophie, who sticks in my head because of a somewhat unfortunate answer to the question posed to her one day. When asked what animal she could be if given the choice, her immediate and joyous reply was,
“A pig!!” which given her slightly rotund nature may have hit the mark a little too closely for comfort.

Amy, Lawrence, Jess, Sienna and Jess were always a joy, if perhaps a little bit wearing to a tired teacher, but their cheerfulness was always appreciated. Cameron was always incredibly sarcastic and lazy, but lived in justifiable terror of his mother. Dan, who always looked incredibly guilty whenever you asked him anything. Alfie, who bumbled through life with a bemused expression on his face; Louis was one of those kids who was off and on Report, but who you couldn’t help liking because he really was at heart a decent kid.

Jess and Laura who were incredibly annoying, and I made them sit outside in the corridor whenever they were late to tutor time, which was a lot. It was strange that they found me just as annoying as I found them, but when Jess was going to be moved groups, to a combined group of the students in the year group who it was deemed need closer watching, she begged to stay in our group, even going so far to say that she didn’t actually mind me all that much - such praise!

There was Jess (there were a lot of Jessicas over the years), Christie, Emma and Beth, four of the loveliest girls you could ever ask to come across. Jaron, who I was convinced was a surfer dude without access to a board or the sea, whose mother agreed with me that he just wanted an easy, quiet life, and who was one of the parents to pass on the message that I’d be missed when I left, which was lovey to hear. Jack (there were quite a lot of Jacks too) who had to compete against Lamarah, but who was equally as lovely and who was a thoroughly nice guy who worked really hard in all the time I knew him.

Debbie, who went a bit bonkers at the end, but really wasn’t all that bad. Dennis, who was incredibly annoying, but was one of the Managed Moved students who hung on in there despite everyone thinking we’d be sending him packing in very short order. Haydn, who I heard not so long ago actually named his newly-born daughter, along with nine other names, ‘Marmite’. I kid you not.


There was Liam, who was the recipient of the only home-visit I ever did, along with a colleague, where I attempted to come into as little contact with anything in the house as possible. As another colleague who had been in similar circumstances commented, it’s amazing the muscle control an apparently unfit middle-aged man can demonstrate when he puts his mind to it - it really is possible to ‘sit’ on something using only a square inch of one buttock so the rest of you is kept clean.

There was poor Mark, one of the most unfortunate students who I ever came across in my career, who put up such a front of being bigger, older and tougher than he really was, and who in the end went back to a family that did him no good whatsoever.

Jody, bless him, who must have thought the whole world was populated by aliens he didn't understand, but who did his best to navigate the treacherous social waters as best he could, and who was so totally obsessed by Pokemon that you could never, ever, mention them within his earshot otherwise you'd be treated to an infinite monologue on which was his favourite and which had the better game statistics. Lewis, who was just as socially awkward, but was as arrogant as they come, something which put his mother out a bit when I told her that in a meeting.

More and more names keep popping into my head: Steven, Brett, Sophie, Charlotte, Justin, James, Mike, Brad, Ben and all those others who were quiet and not demanding in some way, who were just there in the background who I can’t remember, all those students who I’m suddenly more than a little misty-eyed about, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you all for giving me such happy memories.

As it was, as well as ignoring them for the sake of form, I was ignoring my current tutor group because I had my next class to get ready for. This was going to be my second Year 11 group of the day, and while they were technically at the exact same point as the Year 11s I’d had Period 2, and would be doing the same things, they were a whole other kettle of fish and needed different handling, so there was preparation to do.

Once I’d marked in my tutor group, I turned my attention to a certain file on my computer, one filled with pleasing green cells that were the source of much happiness, but also lots of nasty red cells which were a cause of some concern to me. It was the file that I used to track the progress of my 11s and the AOs they'd hit and had yet to hit in their exam course. Using it, I was able to put up all the names of the students in my next class on the board, and show how far they had left to go - sometimes a public showing of where they were at was a good tool to give them a much-needed kick up the educational backside.

As usual for my tutor group, the kids were keeping a closer eye on the clock than I was, and the sound of chairs being put under desks, coats and bags being put on alerted me to the fact that it was time for them to head off. With a nod of the head in the direction of the door, they headed off to their last lesson of the day, but I had three more to go…

Fatigue Lv: 9 - holding fairly steady, but Terrible Tuesday was starting to take its toll
Preparation Lv: 27 - I was prepared to the hilt for this next lesson!
Fear & Dread Lv: 23 - prepared, I might be, but a deep breath was needed for the next group
Fake Anger Lv: 8 - normal grumpiness for tutor time
Real Anger Lv: 5 - the lazy ones in the Year 11 groups always caused more anger and frustration than was helpful
People who have annoyed me: 17 - the girls had been a bit more screechy than usual in tutor time
Time remaining in the day: 3 hours