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I Am A Weapon of Mass Instruction

Chapter 19: Period 5: Year 11 Graphics - 1:50-2:50pm

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This Year 11 group were a whole different kettle of fish compared to the one I’d had in the morning. For a start, they were a bigger group, closer to what we should have in each group for our exam classes, although I’d had the inevitable one or two students disappear due to various reasons.

It was also a much more varied group in terms of ability, interest level and personalities. In
a way, it was easier to manage a group that was composed of very high ability and very low ability students,  as you could split your time much more easily. With a group like this, where the ability curve was a very smooth one, it meant a lot more reassurance, a lot more individual guidance and as a result, a lot more running around. Not that that is a bad thing - in a subject like ours, we should be treating all of the students as individuals and they should be working on completely individual and original projects. It didn’t always work out that way of course, and there was a lot of overlap between projects, due to the style that they fell into because I was their teacher and from lack-of-confidence copying of ideas. As I always told my students if they complained (usually loudly) that someone was copying their idea,
“Then it must be a really good idea then.” which made them pause for thought before complaining about something else.

In terms of personalities, I had a few prickly customers in this group, although by this stage of the year and their exam course I had pretty much tried every strategy I could and was down to ignoring them as much as I could. We were on the home stretch and no one, myself included, really wanted any more hassles than we already had to deal with.

I had Damian, who I had been excited about having him in the group when I heard that I was going to have him in Graphics three years previously as he was a talented guy, but who had turned out to be something of a damp squib. He was an example of a student theoretically being good, but in practice was something else entirely. He was also an example of a student who had lots and lots and lots going on outside school that had a huge impact on his academic life. I tried with Damian, I really did, but he never got his act together enough to jump through all the hoops the exam course demanded. As I told him far too many times, he should have been the shining star of the group, but sadly his light never really shone.

There was Alfie, who blamed everyone else for his lack of work and effort, and who I just had to grit my teeth and ignore. There was Jody, who rarely said a word but did exactly what you asked him to do, and who I believe if he was in a quieter environment would have produced even more stunning products than he did. He was one of those people who saw the world in terms of angles and straight lines - which makes sense considering his deep love of computer games I suppose - and whose work I just gaped at because I had no idea where it came from, and was strange and angular and beautiful.

Jody sat next to James, and to give him his credit, he’d come a long, long way from the extremely nervous Year 7 who had been in my REAL group who never spoke, as he now
acted as my official class assassin, pointing his finger at James and making the obligatory,
“Pew! Pew!!” noises whenever I told James off for doing something hideous. It was a service that I appreciated as it was him interacting with me and the other students. Of course, if given the choice, Jody would have preferred to throw a certain red and white ball at people to capture them and then make them fight, but Jody, like many people who preferred fantasy worlds to reality, had come to terms with the limiting nature of the world and made do with what he had.

James was in a league of his own, and I’m proud to say that I always got on well with him. He was an astonishingly nervous student, and he had come a long way from the student who came to us in Year 8 who was literally terrified of everything, and had serious difficulty in dealing with the demands of being in a large, shared space. He was a really sweet guy though, who always tried his best, and again, I’m proud that he was successful in Graphics, and I always tried to treat him no differently to anyone else, and a rarely toned down my snark and sarcasm with him. Strangely, he was one of the few students who got the joke and laughed at my sarcasm, rather than thinking it was me being eternally grumpy or getting annoyed that I was being grumpy at them. This, coupled with his quite frequent hideous design choices necessitated Jody ‘killing’ him several times a lesson, but he always took it with good humour and tried to change and adapt his designs in return.

There were only a few girls in the group, and mostly they kept their heads down, although when they reached Year 11 they realised that they had all the power when it came to the boys, and a couple of them played that to the hilt, which had an impact on their work. There was Lauren, another student who had been in my REAL group and who I knew quite well. Lauren was really annoying because she liked to play the ditzy role, when both she and I knew she was very intelligent indeed. She pulled it together in the end though, and if memory serves, she was the first out of both the Year 11 groups to finish all of her exam work.

Chloe and Jordan distanced themselves somewhat from the others, and were part of the little block that included Jody and James. I was a bit worried at first, as we all know that kids can be a cruel as you can get, but I was very much reassured when I heard them all chatting about the work and even making suggestions to one another. As cruel as they could be, the capacity for our students to surprise me, even after 12 years was even greater.

Clustered together in one corner of the room was a small group of lads, including Alfie, that were shall we say were not the most focused group in the world. I couldn’t tell you what Alfie, Charlie and Spencer did with their time, but it certainly wasn’t design work. Part way through Year 11 the D&T team was given the opportunity to bounce their less-productive students out to a ‘Community Work’ group, as we all knew that they were a distraction to the other students, and wouldn’t get a passing grade in whatever D&T course they were taking.

Some of my colleagues immediately went on a bit of a cull of their groups, but foolishly I thought that these three still had the possibility of achieving the Pass for me. In hindsight, I recognise my utter delusion and I should have gotten rid of them when I had the chance, but I didn’t, and had to continue to deal with the pain they caused me. Oddly, the fourth student in this corner of the room was Allan who, although he sometimes got sucked into whatever the other three were up to, worked really hard and produced good work. Out of the four, he was the only one to Pass, and as always in these situations, it had nothing at all to do with what I did, but was entirely down to him and his effort.

Last but certainly not least, there was, positioning themselves right in front of my desk and
in the line of fire, was Michael, Ed and Connor.
Connor was okay, but more often than not very lazy. He was one of this students who I thought had the ability to do well, but essentially didn’t listen to what I told him to do and things went a bit pear-shaped because of it. For the longest time, despite having had a lot of time spent on it, and me ranting at him, he had the hardest time choosing colours for his work. He’d just automatically choose the most rubbish, glaring, inappropriate of the default colours available in the software and be satisfied with what was thrown up on screen. It made me think there was serious value to the theory that everyone saw colours differently, and it took many, many comments along the lines of,
“No! That’s hideous! What have I told you about colour?!” for the lesson to sink in.

As was the nature of our school, this was an opportunity for the other kids to stop working and chip in, and my rants were often accompanied by both Ed and Michael backing up what
I was saying. As well as being lazy, Connor was also quite funny, although I was never sure whether he knew he was funny or not. He sat in a little cubby-hole formed by the corner of the room and the sink behind him, and he claimed that he had to sit there as he only felt comfortable there. Fair enough. However, he also claimed to be claustrophobic, something that made both Michael (my calm, sane, rational back up in these cases) and I pause to figure this one out.

When we pointed out that his claustrophobia should make him uncomfortable in such a confined space, he’d archly tell us that that was not how it worked.
“But claustrophobia is a fear of being in small spaces,” I’d point out, Michael nodding along.
“Yeah, I don’t like small spaces,” confirmed Connor.
“But you’re literally in the smallest, tightest spot in the entire room,” I would say, gesturing to the rest of the room, which was lovely and open and airy. The three lads would take in the view.
“Nah,” came the assured (misguided) response, “This is really open and roomy,” which caused three sets of eyebrows to rise in disbelief. Of course, his real reason for sitting there, other than it being his spot - never underestimate how territorial kids can be - was that it was the only spot in  the room that allowed him to tip back in his chair and have something to lean against so he wouldn’t even have to go to the effort of balancing. Obviously, when he inevitably fell off his chair doing this, all he got was laughter from the lads and a sour ‘I told you so’ look from me.

Sitting next to Connor was Ed, yet another student who had been in my REAL group. Although I’d never admit it to him, I’d always rather liked Ed. He was a sweet guy who produced really nice work, and who was easy to get along with. My eternal comment to his dad on Parents Evenings was that Ed was crushingly unconfident for no real reason, and that once he started to trust and believe in himself, he’d be unstoppable. His dad always agreed, and also agreed that he was really irritating and annoying and gave me free rein to beat Ed with a large stick if I ever felt the need. I always liked parents like this. Even better was that Ed was always with his dad on these occasions, so he knew he couldn’t complain about me hassling him as he knew his dad approved.

Ed was one of the stronger designers in the class, which was all the more remarkable because he’d switched into the class (claiming that he’d missed working with me, in a blatant attempt to appeal to the sensitive side of me that he should have known barely existed) towards the end of Year 9, missing out on a lot of the theory and warm up work I did with the students to get them ready of their exam work. While not exactly a natural as such, as he really had to work on some of his designs, Ed did have an eye for Graphics, and I was always happy (and, I admit, a little smug) to report to my Head of Department and Senior Manager in data meetings that Ed was one of the students who was working well above his predicted targets.

Usually Ed took my sarcasm in good humour, but he also had a moment or two, which I can only attribute to the pressure of Year 11 getting to him. Because I knew a lot of these students quite well (I just did a quick count, and nearly half of this Graphics group had been in my REAL group), I could see how the year was effecting them, and the approach of the exams was turning a lot of them into nervous wrecks. While all the revision sessions, support and Intervention was aimed at giving them all the preparation they needed to do well in their exams, it also put a huge amount of pressure on them, and not all of them were dealing with it all that well. In an atmosphere like this, if a student had a moment and snapped, even I knew better than to snap back, and all I could do was to listen and then try and calm him down a bit.

Lastly there was Michael. Calm, solid, eternally hard-working Michael, who was a joy to have in the class. I must have heaved the biggest sigh of relief in the universe on the day when Michael decided to move away from the dead-zone that was Charlie and Spencer and move into Alfie's spot instead, as this allowed him to work better and prevented me from committing murder.

Yet another of my ex-REAL group, Michael was a lovely guy who always tried his hardest.
He also had the oddest writing style I’d ever come across, where he would throw in every possible descriptive word he could into every piece of writing. The result of this was work that was poetic and sometimes beautiful - indeed, some of the poetry that he’d shown me over the years had been incredible - but was also completely overblown and almost unreadable.

It took a lot of work for me to get into his head that all I wanted was a very simple style of writing. It wasn’t until nearly the end of that year, when I read a newspaper article on students’ writing styles that I figured it all out. Students were encouraged to be overly-descriptive at Primary school as it got them higher grades in their SATS, and it was so ingrained that it followed through to their Secondary work. Michael wasn’t the only student who I had to convince to tone things down with, but he was possibly the worst for it. Each product he would analyse would be a mini-epic full of descriptive words that were completely unnecessary. It took a long time for him to realise that all I really wanted was ‘There’s a lot of red in the product, as this makes it strong, and references violence/lust/romance.’ instead of a couple hundred words of flowery description. His style didn’t really suit D&T, but he must have been amazing at English.

Michael would often roll his eyes just as often as I would at the antics of Ed and Connor, and would sometimes beat me to it when it came to sarcastic comments, to which all I could say was,
“What Michael said,” which would only annoy Ed and Connor even more as it was harder to defend themselves against a fellow student, whereas it was easy to completely ignore what
I said, as all teachers were clearly insane and wrong about everything.

So this was the group of personalities that I was faced with two times a week, one of those times being after lunch, which meant it was their last lesson of the day. Everyone knew that Period 5 was a difficult lesson - a lot of the students were pumped full of sugar from their lunches, and the sugar would just be kicking in as they walked into our rooms.

Last lesson also meant that the students were more focused on going home and doing whatever they did when not at school (probably more talking, probably about how rubbish school was), so getting any work out of them was even harder work than it might have been. Possibly the worst group to have last thing in the day were the Year 7s as they tended to be extra bouncy and loud. The Year 11s weren’t so bad as their lack of interest tended towards apathy and quiet chat than to energy and volume. Still, the pressure was on all of us, and we all had to make sure that we could prove that we were performing and hitting those targets, so work had to be done. It was time for me to crack the metaphorical whip.

Part of that whip was all the information I had on both my boards that the students looked at when they came in the room, not that it meant all that much to them at the moment, but all would become clearer once I’d said my piece, but first to get them in.

It was business as usual with this lot, with me standing at my door, ready to catch any of the group that were lurking talking to their mates by the sports hall, or those that tried to slip by to talk with their mates, or to just chivvy in the ones standing in front of my room talking to their mates. With the majority of them in, and the usual suspects nowhere to be seen despite me having seen them earlier in the day, it was time to get the troops fired up and working.
After taking the register, which was also a handy time-wasting tool as it was inevitable that the late comers would show up if I’d started straight away, I took my usual perch on my stool and dove in.

“Right. The spreadsheet on the whiteboard shows what you’ve all done and what I’ve marked,” What I really wanted to say was ‘Look at all the red cells - that’s what you haven’t done you lazy little tykes!’ but it was important to be positive and boost the morale and motivation of the students at every opportunity, but they were cunning enough to read
the subtext.

“There are a few gaps, and that’s what you need to focus on getting ticked off. Remember, you can’t get a Pass unless you’ve hit ALL of the AOs.” This was the catch with the course that we were doing - the kids had to have evidence for all of the objectives. This was in direct contrast to the GCSE courses that some of the other D&T groups were taking - they could miss out an entire section of their coursework, but if everything else was of a high enough standard, and if they performed well enough in the exam, they could still get a decent grade. The trade off for us was that we had no unseen exam to take, something that the students were still very, very happy about.

It was true, there were some red cells on the board, but happily, the majority of the students only had one or two against their name. Less happy were the students with more red than green, but it wasn’t as if this was coming as news to them, as I’d been harping on about how much they needed to do and how little they’d done for the last two years, and had detailed on every mark sheet I’d given to them.

At this stage of the game, the time to pull punches was far behind us. Certainly with the exam classes we took, a lot of teaching was about how many times you could say the same thing, or about how you could say the same thing in different ways so that it eventually penetrated the fog shrouding the teenaged brain and they actually did what you wanted them to do.

It was actually a bit embarrassing when I compared the Year 11s to the Year 10s. The 11s had been working on this course for two years and had made - in some cases - pathetically little progress. The 10s, in comparison, who I’d only had for this year after taking them over from another teacher, were at the same stage as the older students, the only difference being that they were actually putting in the effort. What they had to do wasn’t all that complicated or difficult, but they just had to do it.

Now, with exam season looming, it was almost too late for some of the Year 11s, and we all knew who those students were who would continue to slack off and slide inexorably into the NYA zone: Not Yet Achieved, which was the exam board’s positive spin on saying they’d failed. Giving them mark sheet after mark sheet with grades and advice on what to do to improve, spreadsheets and the data I put on the other board were all well and good, but to some of the students it didn’t make a blind bit of difference, and that was something that you just
had to come to terms with - there was only so much you could do before it came down to
the students actually doing the work.

Casting a quick glance at the semi-circle of faces surrounding me, there were a couple of them who looked switched on and ready to do what they needed to do in order to Pass, but the rest of them had their standard, deadpan ‘I’m bored to tears’ face on. Not exactly encouraging.

Usually, I would speak to groups as a whole, give them tasks to do, and then patrol the room giving direction and assistance as needed. With these guys I was taking a different tack, and I went through the group one by one, using what I’d put up on the board as a visual reminder. With each student I told them the one, possibly two things they needed to get done that lesson, making sure that they understood. The aim of the lesson was to work and by doing so, change the numbers on the board.

I’d worked out the percentage of completion for each student. Some of them were so close they could almost taste the Pass, and some of them could do it this lesson. Never underestimate the incentive of seeing the finishing line. I might not like data and statistics, but if it worked, then it was worth using. Plus, if any of the senior managers happened to randomly pop in during the lesson (considering how vital this Year 11 group was to the success of the school, it was a dead certainty that at least one of the Senior Team, if not
more of them would happen to wander into the room at some point), all the data and all
the personalised targets would get them so excited they might just explode. This wasn’t an observed lesson, but I was almost treating it as if it was, and while I wasn’t as nervous as I sometimes was when I was being observed, I was ready to put on a damn good show if I needed to.

Each student was given a task to do - some of them the same task that they’d been given for several lessons in a row - and a timeframe in which to complete it. Strangely, this seemed to actually have the desired effect, and there was more of a spring in their step than I had expected. Instructions given, off they went to their usual computers and got working. By working, of course I mean sitting there and chatting to each other as their computers booted, but they were ready to work. Well, they were in the room, and that was a promising start.

When you read or see things about teaching, one of the things that crops up again and again is the poor behaviour of the students. From these sources, you’d believe that there were riots going on in classrooms across the country on an daily if not hourly basis. I have no doubt that there are some classes whose behaviour could be truly, horrifically challenging, but I can only speak from my own experience, and they were never that bad.

Sure, some of my Year 11 classes in my first year wouldn't go down in history as the best-behaved, but they were doing what the majority of students do when they get a new teacher: try it on, and push the rules to breaking point. I can remember being fed up, frustrated and bored with many a class, but I can’t remember a class that was so completely out of control that the situation was unworkable. Yes, I’ve had more than my fair share of rants where I let classes know exactly what I thought, but it was just noise and me proving a point.

The students weren’t badly behaved as such - what they were was completely and utterly bone idle. It wasn’t their bad behaviour that stopped them succeeding, just their lack of willingness to put in the effort, which was in a  way just as frustrating, perhaps even more than if they were just misbehaving as we all knew that they could succeed if they tried.

A couple of years before this current crop of Year 11s, my exam groups were for Product Design - not my favourite or strongest subject - but in one of those groups were some of the laziest, least interested and motivated students I have ever some across. The excuses they came out with were entertainingly ludicrous, including the gem from one of the lads that he didn’t need a qualification in D&T (which is, let me remind you, dear reader, a practical, hands-on subject where we learn about skills and techniques when working with various tools and materials) as he wanted to be a bricklayer and carpenter. It’s stuff like that that temporarily freezes my brain, and I could only stand there, mouth agape trying to process such a stupid comment.

 

“But, this is where you start learning those skills,” I protested, “If anything, if that’s what you want to do after school, this is THE most important subject you’ll need.”
“No it’s not,” he grunted. “I’ve got my English and Maths, that’s all I need.” It was at times like these that a lot of bitingly sarcastic comments run themselves across the front of my mind, ready to be fired out at the slightest notice, but thankfully good sense prevailed and they were lost to prosperity.

That English and Maths were the only subjects that mattered was a common view in the minds of the students, and to a certain extent they were right, as schools were judged on how many of their exam students passed in this subjects, so they got a lot of pressure to succeed in them. It made it hard for some of the other subjects though, and we had to fight with the students to see that our subject was just as valid - especially if they were going to be entering an industry with direct links to it!

In the end, as I knew he would, this student didn’t get a grade for Product Design, mostly because he only submitted three pages of coursework and didn’t even bother turning up for the exam.
This particular student, the one with a professed interest in working with tools and materials for a living, was also the one who would sit at his workbench and just bash his work with one of the heavier files. When challenged that this probably wasn’t what he should be doing, he’d declare - as would a lot of them, despite the evidence plainly in front of me - that he was in fact working.

Another of the students in another group was, on paper at least, the most intelligent student in the entire year group. Among the bucketloads of data that we had on each student was an average points score that gave you an indication of their ability. A score of 100 meant you were absolutely average and normal. Anything below that and teachers would start to wince when they saw the scores. Apparently the scoring system didn’t go below a certain point, but we had students who had very low scores indeed.

Anything above 100 saw the student nudging into the higher ability levels. To put it another way, if I saw as student with a score of 100, that student should be getting a C grade. If they were 95, they should be working towards a D grade. 105 probably meant a B; it was a fairly handy system, but could be used like a millstone around your neck if the student wasn’t all that co-operative.

Ryan had a score of 120 which was almost unheard of and probably meant that any of the local Grammar schools would have been very happy to have him. They would have changed their minds however when they realised just how astonishingly lazy he was. Every and any possible excuse came out of that boy’s mouth as a reason why he couldn’t, shouldn’t or wouldn’t do the work, including the perennial favourites of,
“I didn’t choose to do this subject.” and,
“I don’t need this subject anyway. I have my Maths and English.” Ryan got the rough edge of my tongue more than once, as well as several pointed conversations with my Head of Department, yet nothing did the trick; I think he scraped a G or an F from the course because he really was intelligent and could get some marks out of the exam.

There comes a point, and sometimes it’s reached quite quickly and sometimes it takes a couple of years of excruciating effort, where you know you’ve done all that you could - you’ve poked, prodded, chastised and jollied along. You’ve sanctioned and rewarded in equal measure but nothing seems to work and the student is determined to do nothing, and will get nothing in return. There’s nothing else for you to do but accept that this is what the situation is, and all your training and enthusiasm for the subject, all your communication and project-management skills can’t get a student to do their work. It’s their choice and you have to be fine with that - except that there’s always going to be a small part of you that thinks that you should have done something else, or tried another way. Ah, the joyous and rewarding life of a teacher!

I knew that there were going to be students in this Graphics group that didn’t have a hope in hell of passing. They were too far behind, they weren’t of the requisite ability level for the course, they had no interest, yet it was still my job to push, pull, shove, threaten, rant and rave enough so that they would get through. Data may have been king in education in these last days of my career, but it was cheerfully ignored when it came to all of us getting Cs out of the students. So no matter that I had flagged a student again and again, no matter that their data said that they wouldn’t get the C, they had no choice, and I had no choice - that C had to be achieved, by hook or by crook. So here we were, with data on the boards and targets set, plugging away when for some of them, it was a lost cause.

With the computers fired up, the students could get going with what they had to do - for some of them, those that were very close to finishing, it might just be a piece of written work, making it very clear why they’d used a certain material or technique. While Michael was among the worst of them for his fluffy writing style, a lot of them struggled with just how straight forward I wanted things, and a fair bit of my time was spent looking over shoulders reading work and then suggesting either a tweak in vocabulary or requesting that more be written.

Thinking about it now, I don’t think I realised just how many changes the students made to their work in a single lesson, and I doubt they did either. I remember one visit by some of the Senior Team and some of the Governors, and being asked by a Governor what method of feedback I used the most with the students. I don’t think that my answer of ‘verbal’ went down too well, as verbal feedback didn’t leave a nice, obvious paper trail that could be shown to the nice Ofsted inspectors when they came to visit. But it was what I used the most.

If we had to print out every single version of the work the students did, and I marked it and they responded to that, we’d quickly run out of paper in the Department, my marking load would become terminal and it would be so slow that we’d never get anything done. Yes, we’d have lots of evidence, but it would get in the way of us all doing what we were supposed to be doing.
Verbal feedback (often me telling the kids that their work was hideous and to change it immediately) was quick and got them doing, and got them closer to where they needed
to be.

Thankfully, it was while I was doing this very thing - telling a student that his writing need a tweak, not that his work was hideous and needed to be changed immediately - when by complete and total surprise and not completely expected at all, one of the Senior Team just happened to wander into the room. The success of the Year 11s as a year group had such an impact on the future success and reputation of the school that the Senior Team was very interested in what went on in their lessons, so you could almost guarantee that at least one of them would pop in during their lessons.

Sadly, as the students were all doing individual tasks in this lesson, I couldn't put them on the spot and ask them questions relating to the lesson, but I could and would shamelessly point out that I was using data and individual targets to push them as hard as I could. The Senior Manager was clearly impressed, as well he should be as I was throwing in every buzzword I could while the kids completely ignored us - they must see this sort of thing all the time: a classroom teacher fawning over the appearance of a Senior Manager before everything getting back to normal once they’d left.

Luckily, my groups weren’t all that high on the list of priorities, with the actual GCSE groups being more of a worry as potentially more scores could be wrung out of them as even if anything less than a C wasn’t considered a pass, the students still got points for each grade, and it was those points that effected the school’s results and standing in the national league tables. The super-paranoid part of me was convinced that what I was doing was all noted and kept in secret files somewhere in the Head’s office, but mostly I thought that the Senior Managers had much bigger things to worry about than my Graphics groups, which was possibly supported by the somewhat bored response I got from the Senior Manager when I was whittering away about targets and interventions; I guess even they had a tolerance limit for educational fads, and it looked like his had been reached some time ago - and mine was the first room in the corridor, he had a few more groups to go yet! Duty done, he soon headed off to more exciting rooms (even I had to admit that looking at the backs of the head of the students as they hunched over their computers wasn’t the most exciting of sights to observe), and we were left to get on with it.

Despite what I might think about the students, and despite what I may have communicated in this book, they surprised me on a regular basis, to the extent that I probably should have had a lot more faith in them, but the bits of teaching that wear you down do tend to make you somewhat overly sceptical. Maybe it was the targets, maybe they just saw the finishing line and had caught their second wind, but a lot of them were actually doing exactly what I wanted them to do.

Of course, Charlie and Co. were being complete donuts and unless a miracle happened weren’t going to pass, but the majority of them were storming through their work, and some of them even got to the point where some of them were even allowed to print out their work and stick it in their sketchbooks, my usual policy being that until it was as good as it was going to get and actually hit the objective, it stayed in digital form and was reworked. Sadly, not only did this mean that for some students a lot of their work remained in digital form, but for those that did get to print out their work, it meant that they would have to be allowed to use glue.

I remember my own time at school, when we were getting ready to present all our Art work, and our teacher refused to let us anywhere near backing paper or glue as she could do it quicker and to a higher standard than us. At the time, I was quite offended, as I was quite handy with a pair of scissors and was fairly frugal with a glue stick.

Looking back now, with my time as a teacher under me, I completely agree with her strategy, as I can attest that most kids are completely and utterly rubbish at sticking things in. It got to the stage where I refused to let my Year 9s stick anything in their books, and would do it myself, despite this being a complete waste of my time and not giving them the opportunity to learn, but at least their books looked good as a result.

The Year 11s were no better - they plastered glue everywhere, because we all know that the more glue you use, the better the result will be. They had no concept of trimming their work in a straight line, and somehow managed to get their work crumpled and creased in the process of getting it in their books. It was just another of those things that I had to let go of, and accept that's what it would be in terms of presentation. I flatly refused to let them anywhere near spray mount (glue in a can) as the potential for disaster was just too great, and the cleaners were already complaining about overly-sticky tables as I’d foolishly thought my 6th Formers would have better control with the spray mount. They didn’t.

So the lesson progressed in a quietly productive way for most of the kids, one or two of them even being able to get a big green tick on the board next to their names that signified that they were now officially Done with Graphics. This didn’t mean that I would sign them off however, much to their disappointment. I was more than aware that I might need to pull them in to quickly do some more work if I found an unexpected gap in their portfolios - if I signed them off, there would be no getting them back. Despite their disappointment at not signing them off, I did assure them that they could safely not attend the lesson any more, which restored their happy smiles, and greatly annoyed those of their friends who had yet to finish. The joys of being a teacher: being able to make a student smile while simultaneously annoying another. Damn, I was good.

As the clock moved closer to the end of the lesson, they got ready to head home, but I was very aware that I still had another two hours left before I could go home myself. Terrible Tuesday slowly ground on.



Fatigue Lv: 11 - being perky and motivational for the Year 11s at the end of the day meant tapping into the reserves
Preparation Lv: -3 - the 6th Formers should be working independently
Fear & Dread Lv: 9 - the 6th Formers were usually fine, but you had to be prepared for the unexpected
Fake Anger Lv: 5 - I could actually show that I was pleased that some of them had finished - a rare show of positivity!
Real Anger Lv: 9 - the lazy ones in the Year 11 groups still annoyed me greatly, despite knowing that there wasn’t much I could do
People who have annoyed me: 22 - just stop talking and DO THE WORK!
Time remaining in the day: 2 hours