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Chapter 14: Period Two - Year 11y Graphics - 9:30-10:30am 

After the Year 9s, the next lesson was hopefully going to be a piece of cake, but as ever, I was aware that they could very well be the fateful last words before disaster erupted. The next group was the first of my two Year 11 groups I’d be having today, and it was if the gods of timetabling had been kind to me as this was the smaller, quieter group, so I could ease myself into things a little bit more gently.

Year 11s are odd creatures. They’re the senior students in the school, and should be ruling the roost, but as we had a 6th Form, they were all very aware that they weren’t quite at the top of the heap yet. They still had to wear the school uniform, and quite a lot of them apparently begrudged this fact as it was in Year 11 that uniform became more of an issue as jeans, trainers and non-uniform tops crept in. So they weren’t the top of the heap and, unlike the 6th Formers, they still had to wear the uniform instead of their own clothes, so they were understandably a bit put out by this.
Add to this unfortunate situation that most of them were still experiencing an uncontrollable rush of hormones to the head that at best left them unpredictable.

To make this even worse, they were all under no illusions of what was expected of them this year. Everyone, from the Head down, was making it clear that this was the most important year of their educational career so far and potentially the rest of their lives hinged on them working their socks off. I’d heard versions of this speech every year since I started teaching, and usually it rolled off the consciousness of the students like water off a duck’s back, but I’d noticed that in the last few years, Year 11 had been taking it more to heart, and while not actually working noticeably harder, they were letting the pressure of the situation get to them a bit more.

This Year 11 group in particular were having the pressure heaped on them from all corners, and if
I was honest, they weren’t handling the pressure all that well. I know I’m one to talk as I didn’t deal with stress all that well myself, but as an alleged adult, I was supposed to be able to cope; these were just teenagers, and yet everyone expected them to perform every minute of the day. So here was a group of teenagers, and all they wanted to do was stay in bed but they were being driven
very hard to perform in exams that they were convinced would ruin their lives if they failed them. No wonder they were a bit strung out by the end of the year.

Usually, I resisted the exam pressure as much as I could. As part of the D&T team, our focus had traditionally been on getting as much out of the kids during their coursework as we knew that this was the best chance we had of getting their grade as high as possible before the exams. Historically, our students had always been a bit rubbish at exams, and we were all very thankful for the coursework element as it meant that the students could push that aspect of their work, and then they’d have a little bit of room to fall in the exam.

We were always clear with them: if you want a C grade, then you have to get at least a B on your coursework so that you had a grade’s worth of buffer zone to drop if the exam was awful, and they’d still end up with a C. It was a game every teacher played, and we usually went right up to the coursework deadline to get the work as good as it could get. Of course, this left us with precious little time to revise for the exam, but it was better than relying on the students acing the exam.

Our exams were strange things. We could never really tell what was going to be in them - there’s only so much of a two-year specification you can fit into an exam, and it was a gamble which topics you focused on. The exam boards also gave us pre-release material that was supposed to help guide our revision, but which I always thought were almost worse than useless. The material was very open to interpretation, and if you got that interpretation wrong, you could have revised the wrong material entirely with the kids.

There was one year that the material hinted heavily that my students would be examined on industrial printing processes, so I dutifully went over it with them until the cows came home. So naturally, there was only one measly question on printing in the exam, and the students had to search the dim recesses of their brains for the other questions.

The one thing that we could rely on in the exam was the designing section, which the teachers all thought was a piece of cake, but unfortunately a lot of the students cocked up as they just weren’t all that good at it. Despite having  the whole department banging on about it for five years and doing project after project to get them used to the design process, they were still depressingly
bad at it, and didn’t seem to get the hang of having to do lots of ideas. As much as I liked to say that as soon as they stepped through my door they were designers, I had to face the fact that relatively few of them would ever be designers. It’d be like me setting foot into the sports hall and the PE staff expecting me to be a professional athlete - it just wasn’t going to happen.

So the exams were always a bone of contention for us. In the last year I was teaching, the students taking Product Design had all come out of the Sports Hall after their exam happy, smiling and being really positive. Gone were the days when we could have any spare copies of the exam paper as the students were sitting the exam, so we had to rely on their word as to what he paper had been like.
“Yeah, it was good.”
“Dead easy!”
“I had tons of time left over.” and other such phrases greeted our ears as they came out, and instead of comforting us, a cold drip of fear trickled down our spines. It’s always been the way that if the kids think the exam was easy and they’ve done well, they’ve tanked. If they come out on the verge of tears, saying it was horrible and they hadn’t done very well at all, it generally turned out that they’d done really quite well.

Our fears were confirmed the next day when we got the spare papers form the Exams Office, and as we went through the questions in the office, more than one expletive was to be heard. It was an awful paper, perhaps the worst I’d ever seen. The questions were tricky, with a couple that had left us initially scratching our heads, and a couple so badly worded that it was unclear what the question was actually asking.

I’d always thought that the exam papers for D&T were very badly written, and this didn’t do anything to dissuade me of that. The general consensus was that the students had been deluded
if they thought they’d done well with this paper, but all we could do was wait until the results came out in August to see what had actually happened.

Luckily for me, all this bother and fuss was a moot point as the course that I was doing with my Graphics Year 11s didn’t have an exam, something my students were heartily thankful for. While
the course they were doing did have a controlled assessment unit, all they had to do was do another project under exam conditions, and they had 20 hours of preparation time and 10 hours
of controlled time in which to produce the final piece - much more doable than sitting a proper, traditional written exam.

As easy as this sounded, the course came with its own complications. It was a new course to all
of us, and we were still getting used to it. It also didn’t help that the school was without an Exams Officer to oversee all the administration. Exams Officer is one of those jobs I wouldn’t do even if you paid me ludicrous amounts of money to do it. It was stressful and highly pressured as you were responsible for entering all the students for all of their exams, getting coursework and predictions and marks sent off at the right time, as well as setting up and monitoring all of the exams during exam season. Dealing with the admittedly minimal amount of exam paperwork on a subject level was more than enough for me, and if I’m completely honest, I frequently messed it up, so I had absolutely no desire to do it for 300 plus students in multiple subjects.

Because there was no exams officer this year, it meant that departments were having to do more
of the exams admin themselves, and this added to our unfamiliarity with the new course led to a somewhat tense situation.
It turned out that although we’d entered the students for the course, what we hadn’t done was register them for the controlled assessment unit, something we only found out when I rang the exam board to very politely ask them where the controlled assessment question papers were,
as I had expected them the day before.
“They aren’t entered for the controlled assessment, so no papers have been sent to you.” came
the voice at the end of the phone. At this point, I think it’d be fair to say that it felt like every drop of blood had exited my body very rapidly, and all I could do was croak out a stammered request that could we please enter them now please? A very uncomfortable pause followed, while the voice on the end of the line said that she’d have to check with her supervisor.

My Head of Department, who was sitting at her desk in the office heard that something was up
and could hopefully see that I was not a happy bunny.
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
“The 11s haven’t been entered for the controlled assessment.” I replied a little tersely, but I don’t think I was capable of much more than that at that point.
I’d like to say that it was all an unfortunate mistake, and a relived chuckle was shared by all involved as it was discovered that yes, the students were entered for the unit, and the exam papers were on their way, but I can’t.

What actually followed was a somewhat panicked scramble by myself, my Head of Department and our Senior Manager as we sorted out getting the kids registered. We could enter them late, but we’d have to pay a late fee. We had to fill out paperwork, despite the exam board having a list of the students. Then the e-mail wouldn’t reach us, and they had to try again. It still wasn’t delivered, so we had to e-mail the board so they had the correct address. Then I had to print out the forms because they hadn’t sent me an editable version - I was trapped in a seemingly endless series of tasks that refused to be easy and simple. I couldn’t help but mutter several times that this was not my job to sort out and that this is why Exams Officers existed.

Eventually, everything had been done and scanned and sent off, and promises were made that the papers would arrive by courier the next day, and I could begin to breathe at a normal rate again. Have I mentioned that I don’t deal with stress all that well?
So it was that I discovered the next day that I’d left one student of the sodding list, and I had to scramble again to get him added to the list. Life in a school is rarely a simple and peaceful one.

Once all the dust and settled following the registration problem, getting the students to do the work was easy, and I was heartily thankful that when the papers did arrive, the project they had been set was very straight forward and actually something similar to a project they had already done; there should be no problem with them passing this unit at all. Famous last words.

At this point of the year, with exams looming on the horizon, getting work out of the Year 11s was increasingly becoming more and more of a struggle. They’d done their controlled assessment project, with no small amount of sweat and tears from me behind the scenes, and apart from one or two hiccups, they’d done much better than I, and probably they, had hoped for. All we had to do now was complete a few small things to make sure a few of the last Assessment Objectives were firmly ticked off, and we’d be done.

Believe it or not, this had been my plan all along. My Head of Department clearly didn’t think that it had all been part of the plan, but seeing as she had more than once told me that I was in charge of Graphics, there wasn’t much she could do about it. When the moderator had come in - a lovely guy who had reassured me that we were doing the right thing and who calmed a lot of my anxiety over the new course - I had agreed with everything that he had to say, and assured him that I knew where the gaps were in the work, and I was already on the case to make sure they didn’t stay there.

It was all in hand, and I’d realised that the students had to do a bit more work before he’d even sent the reminder e-mail to confirm his visit. Anyone would think that I knew what I was doing and had planned to get everything done before the deadline. The look on my Head of Department’s face told another story, one which had a telling off in it in the next chapter. If there’s one thing I really dislike is people telling me to do things again and again. I get the point, I know what I need to do, and you should know that because I’ve told you what needs doing, and that the students are already working on it. There’s no need to bang on about it. I know she was only doing her job. I know she was letting her own stress show a little bit, and as we know dear reader, I know that I’m not the best at dealing with stress, so I ought to cut her a little slack. I ought to, but I probably won’t.

All I had to do was to get the students to show some evidence of working with a range of materials, of them being aware of the advantages and disadvantages of those materials and telling me/the examiner what they based their final decision on. I’d already given them a mini-project to do that would allow them to do the work and show off what they needed to show off. It should all be very simple and straight forward…

At this stage of the game the Year 11s had had coursework, exam preparation, revision, extra revision and Interventions thrown at them from all directions, and I for one could see that they were heartily sick of it. What I would have liked to have done is to ease off a bit so they could relax, but there was no way that that would have been approved of by those higher up than me (which, let’s face it, was pretty much everyone), so I had to keep pushing.

They had their mark sheets with their grade and the comments I’d put on it. There was my big tracking spreadsheet, which I put up on the whiteboard that showed which of the AOs they had completed. There was the other spreadsheet, the one I didn’t show them, the one with the scary red cells that showed who had gaps in their marks. There was the sheet stuck to the wall that showed who owed me time from sessions missed. Yet, despite all this, or perhaps as I suspected, because
of it, the Year 11s were still somewhat limp around the edges.

 

The group that I had now was the smaller of my two Year 11 groups, and the smaller number should have made them easier to manage, but in fact there was no appreciable difference between the two groups. They both had a smattering of students that wanted to do well and were trying their best, an apathetic mob who were going through the motions and one or two who couldn’t
give a damn.

At the top of this group was Imogen, a student that while getting a little twitchy through the stress of it all was lovely and who tried her best. She could be just as grumpy as I could, although I think we both knew that it was mostly an act, and while her face and tone communicated ‘You want me to do what? Are you mad?’ she took direction with her work really well. She usually sat with her friends Faye and Jade, and it was acknowledged by all that Faye was pure evil and had a black heart. Even Faye only mildly denied this, but the most evil thing that she ever did was to not shut up, ever.

My goodness but could the girl talk! It seems like that every single lesson for the past three years I’d had to tell her to stop talking and to get on with her work. That she was always cheery, got on with her work and produced very good work gave her a little bit of licence when it came to chatting, but it was certainly very annoying. Even Faye’s parents could only wearily nod along when I jokingly mentioned her evil nature at one of the Parents Evenings, and I noted that they didn’t disagree
with me.
Jade was similarly lovely, and while not quite as high flying as the other two ladies, she worked hard and achieved similar results. The ladies were undeniably at the top of the group, and were in direct contrast to the opposite end.

This had originally been a difficult group to manage because of the personalities involved in it, but one by one those personalities had dropped away, either via managed move to another school or to a pupil referral unit, or in the case of the last contender, through astonishingly bad attendance which was tackled bizarrely by giving him a part-time timetable so that he only attended school for two lessons a day.

Virtually empty sketchbooks were the evidence of these three lads, despite all of them being more than capable of doing well in the subject. The last man standing wasn’t going to Pass - I knew it, he knew it, my Head of Department knew it, but we still had to go through the motions. When we were asked, as we always are at a certain point in the year, whether we wanted to withdraw any of the students from their exam courses, his was one of a couple of names that I put forward, but was firmly told that he had to stay entered and that I had to get him to Pass.

It was with no small amount of smug satisfaction that I was able to report several weeks later
that he had successfully and triumphantly failed to Pass by not even turning up for his controlled assessment session, and that we had wasted money entering him when I knew what the outcome would be. We were always being asked of our ‘Professional Predictions’ to add to the mountain of data we had on the students, and I appreciated the irony that we were asked for predictions, but when we told the Higher Ups something they didn’t want to hear, it was blithely ignored.

As was usual, I got the students up the front of the class to start them off, and we waited for everyone to dribble into the room. With these guys I rarely stood at my door to give them instructions as we’d all worked together for long enough that we knew the drill. I sat on the stool
I had appropriated from the Food room, and the students came in and sat near the board. When most of them had arrived, I asked my by now traditional ‘Where’s >name of missing student<?’ question.

“Where’s Charlotte? She’s not still away is she?” I asked. Charlotte had spotty attendance anyway, but hadn’t been in class for about a week and a half.
“She’s still ‘ill’,” supplied one of the girls, using that special tone to communicate that there was
a backstory here, but that I had to tease it out of them as it was bad form to blatantly grass up
a fellow student.
“What do you mean ‘ill’?” I asked, giving the obligatory air quotation marks. Natasha, a student who was very flaky and I never really knew where I was with her, but who was also fantastically blunt came out with,
“She’s still on holiday, isn’t she.” as if stating the obvious. The looks on everyone’s faces told me that I was among the last to know that she was on holiday.
“What do you mean, she’s on holiday?” While I didn’t screech this, it was very obvious I was even further from being a happy bunny than usual.
“She’s in Egypt.” supplied the ever-helpful Natasha, adding, as I was rolling my eyes in disgust at
the ill-timed holiday, “And she’s had a tattoo done.”
“Proper tattoo or henna tattoo?” I asked, all thoughts of work forgotten for the moment at this nugget of information. Work was forgotten on everyone’s part, although I suppose that that’s
more easily accomplished when you’re a teenager.
“Proper tattoo.” said Natasha revelling in the role of deliverer of gossip. “It’s rubbish.” Knowing my cue when I heard it, I gave an appropriately shocked,
“No.” into the pause. “What’s it of?” I asked, morbid curiosity getting the better of me.

It wasn’t unheard of for the kids to get tattoos, even though it was technically illegal for them to have them done until they were 18. There had been one girl who had had a rosary tattooed around her thigh when on holiday with her family, with her parents looking on, that had made every teacher who heard the story raise their eyes heavenward at the follies of youth and poor parenting.

There was also the story that one of the current batch of Year 11s who had tried to to self-tattoo himself with a lighter and a biro across the knuckles. Sadly, his attempt was apparently half-hearted at best and the world will only have to imagine the glory of him having wobbly, blobby blue letters spelling out ‘F*** This’ on his hands. Another of the current Yr 11s had a tattoo on his forearm that I’d noticed when he’d unusually for him taken his sweatshirt off. I’d had to have a quiet conversation with him out in the corridor, but as the deed had been done, there was little I could do but pass on the information to the Safeguarding Team. As the tattoo turned out to be his dad’s signature, and his dad had passed away, even I knew that blasting this kid for any potential stupidity was entirely beside the point.

“A camel, a pyramid and a palm tree.” said Natasha, the glee barely contained in her voice. “It’s on her foot.”
“Oh god, that sounds awful.” I tactfully and responsibly said.
“It is, it’s rubbish - she sent me a picture of it.”
“It’s pretty bad.” said Faye, not having to add that the picture had no doubt already done the rounds on various platforms of social media. Never one to let something go without having fully explored it, I leapt into this discussion of body art with both feet.
“I wouldn’t have thought that Egypt has the best reputation for its tattoo artists,” I opined, some of the kids nodding along in agreement. “A camel, a pyramid and a palm tree? Couldn’t she think of anything more rubbish?” I said, deftly switching the last word to something a bit less colourful with the skill of an experienced teacher who edits their language in their head before saying anything.

“So you’re saying it looks like this?” I said, getting off the stool to do a quick and very, very rubbish sketch of what I imagined the tattoo to look like on the board. As I sometimes said to the kids when I was feeling very snarky, it looked like it had been drawn by someone with no arms or right foot.
“Actually Sir, that’s a bit better then what the real thing looks like.”
“You’re kidding me.”
“Nope, the real thing’s crap.” Natasha ever-helpfully said.
“Oh dear.” with not much more to be said on the matter, and everyone having a clear image in their head of the sheer awfulness of a 100% Egyptian produced tattoo, it was time to move on.

“Anyway, back to the plot,” I said, giving myself a mental shake to get back in to teacher-mode,
“You know what you have to do: you have that work on materials to complete and then you’re pretty much done. The quicker you get this completed, the sooner you an get signed off.” The students perked up at this nugget of information.

Each year, the Year 11s got a sign off sheet, and as they finished all the official work for each subject, they could get it signed off, which meant that they no longer had to attend that lesson and were effectively on study leave. There were always a couple of students who would immediately try it on and try to get signed off, only to have various teachers laugh in their faces, but I suppose they should get bonus points for even trying.
“I won’t be signing you off though,” which made several sets of shoulders slump a little, “Technically I can have you in to do work right up until the end of July. But no one whats that to happen, so get the work done.” I said, sending a glare to all of them. By now they were practically immune to my grumpy act, but it would’ve been bad form not to. “You all know what you’re doing?” I asked, even though it was redundant - we’d gone over what they had to do so often in the last week or so that they could probably recite what they had to do backwards, but it was a question that I had to ask, and I went round the small group, checking with each of them they they knew what they were working on.

Duty done, the students moved off to their seats at the computers, grabbing their sketchbooks along the way. This may be a Terrible Tuesday, but that was mostly down to the length of the day rather than what I had to deal with. The groups I had today weren’t so bad, and it could have been worse. This group were better than most, and it was just a matter of me making sure that the work they were doing hit the Assessment Objectives as simply and as obviously as possible.

As with most of my classes and students, I wasn’t concerned about their design work at all and
they were all pretty good in that area, in fact, I don’t think that they had a clue about how good
they really were. It was, as ever, their written work with was the bane of their lives.
I had a couple of classic cases in this group: Shelly and Mary.

Shelly was one of the students from the Development Group, and although she worked very hard (when she turned up), there was no escaping her ability level. Her design work was quite good,
even in comparison to the others in the group, but her written work let her down, no matter how hard she tried. It was something that none of us could escape - that although the evidence they were presenting to get the marks from the Assessment Objectives was in the form of a portfolio, some of the AOs could only be attained by written work. These guys still had a much easier
time of it than the students taking the GCSE D&T courses, where the writing was an even bigger component, and had to be very specific indeed, but that didn’t help things when writing just
wasn’t your strongest skill.

On a cursory glance, Shelly’s sketchbook looked great - lots of writing supporting the research images she’d selected, a good range of ideas work and decent final pieces. It was only when you read, or attempted to read her work that you realised that she had missed the mark by quite a way. She was very good at doing what I continually told the students I didn’t want to see: a blow by blow commentary of what they had done to their work. I wanted to know why they’d done something, not how they’d done it. I also didn’t want this commentary to be a verbatim version of what they were saying to themselves in their head, it had to at least be semi-formal.

When we were moderating the Year 11 sketchbooks - checking to see that my marking was within tolerance basically; if the others agreed with my marks, then everything was okay. If they disagreed, I’d have to try and justify why I’d given the marks I had or hadn’t given to that work - my Head of Department questioned why I hadn’t Passed Shelly’s book yet as it looked okay.
“It might look okay, but read the written stuff.” I told her, which she duly did.
“Oh,” was all she came out with. “Right. Yes. She’s in the right place.” The whole point of moderating was to make sure the marking was correct, and a lot of the time we tried to squeeze a few marks out of the work for the kids, but it would have been nice to have been trusted that I knew the level of the work and hadn’t just arbitrarily assigned the marks.

What was heartbreaking was that I knew Shelly was working at her limit, but because of all the pressure everyone was getting to push the students as hard as possible, I had to keep telling her to redraft her written work. She was never going to get the Pass, but I had to keep that to myself.

My other main culprit was Mary, a genuinely delightful student who tried so hard with her work, and was dutiful and conscientious. What Mary didn’t do all that often was listen to what I told her to do, which was all the more frustrating because when she’d bring her work up to show me I’d have to tell her again what I’d originally said for her to do. She never complained though, and was always willing when she went back to her place to do what she had suppose dot be doing all along.

Part of this problem was that she churned the work out like a thing possessed. She was one of a small handful of the Year 11s that required a second sketchbook because of the sheer volume of work. If she just listened to what I told her to do, not only would she save a considerable about of time, but have a stronger and more concise portfolio as a result.

Mary’s writing was also of the the ‘What I’ve done’ oeuvre, which just meant that was another thing she had to go back and do again. She was also guilty of doing something which might have driven me to physical violence against a child: laying out her writing along the long edge of an A3 page.
How many times had I told all my students not to do this? Too bloody many, that’s how many. It wasn't wrong, it just made it really horrible for me to read, and as Graphics students they knew
full well the theory behind why this was so, they were just too >insert swear word< lazy to lay it out properly in the first place.

Like many of our students, Mary had only a fleeting understanding of what punctuation was, let alone that it should be used in chunks of writing, so on top of having to drag my eyes along lines
of text that were too long, it often felt like decades were passing before I came across a very lonely full stop. As I always did when finally getting around to marking their work, I was eternally grateful that I wasn't an English teacher and had to do this sort of thing on a much more regular basis.
Considering how much Literacy work all our students had done, everyone was frustrated that their written work wasn’t better, and it was always a constant battle to improve it. I was always struck with the irony that the best written work I ever saw came from Daisy, whose behaviour was occasionally awful and who thought her written work was rubbish.

As the students knew what they were doing and were at least looking as if they were getting on with it, I committed a cardinal sin for a teacher - I sat down at my desk. Yes dear reader, sitting at your desk during a lesson was very much looked down upon. We were supposed to always be on our feet interacting with the students, getting the best out of them and then pushing them past their best. It ignored the fact that sometimes the kids were just working, and talking to them would stop them working, so I had no problem with sitting down at all.

Even worse, and practically a hanging offence was that I dared to look at my laptop and check my
e-mails to see if anything earth-shatteringly urgent had come through. It hadn’t, and rarely did, but you never know until you’ve looked. E-mail was a big part of our lives as it was the main way that
we communicated considering that a lot of us stuck to our department offices and rarely saw anyone else.

E-mails had been a much bigger part of school life when I had started, and there were usually several lively group all-staff discussions going on. Some of them were serious, but more often than not they were fairly silly and served to cheer everyone up. Even the Head got involved in them, and it wasn’t unusual for him to completely derail a serious conversation with something very funny.

Sadly though, these discussions came to an end when the privilege of sending messages out to all staff was revoked after a certain teacher sent one irrelevant message too many out to everyone and someone complained. Not that this stopped some staff members from sending useless messages out to everyone, as they just put in everyone’s names manually into the address field, but the convenience of hitting the ‘All Staff’ button was taken away.

Even more heinous a crime, I had been known to get on with some of my other work while the students were working. Whenever a request for design work came to me from a colleague, the timeframe was generally ‘asap’ which didn’t put any more pressure on me at all. When I first took
on the role of school graphic designer, I’d optimistically put Design Request Forms in the staffroom, with all the information that I would need to work from on them. Only two people used them regularly, while everyone else claimed that they couldn’t find them, but could I just design them this, it’s really small, it won’t take you very long, and I need it this afternoon - thanks! At which point, I’d grind my teeth a little, smile and say I’d get on it as soon as I could, which sometimes meant working in class.

There had occasionally been directives from above that they didn’t want to see teaching staff sat at their laptops during lessons, directives that had a nebulous, undefined source, but which someone had apparently heard from the horse’s mouth. Of course, everyone ignored them and did what they had to do in the time they had, which meant snatching any time from a quiet class to do other things. I always thought it ironic that whenever I had to find one of the Senior Team in one of their lessons to ask them something, they were on their laptops just as often as everyone else.

The Year 11s were getting on with what they needed to do. Admittedly, most of them were doing it at half speed, but considering how strung out they were I wasn't going to be the one to make them snap by ranting at them for not working hard enough.

Imogen had decided to sit away from the other ladies, so she either really wanted to concentrate or they’d had an argument and were attempting to ignore each other. I suspected the former as her questions about what she needed to do for her coursework had increased in frequency in the last week, an edge of hysteria creeping into her voice. I wanted to say to her,
“Imogen, you’re fine. You're the hardest and smartest worker in the class and we both know it. Do you honestly think you're going to fail? Get a grip.” I knew for a fact that she’d already Passed, but couldn't actually tell her that as the marks had to be confirmed. So I had to keep pushing and pushing her, when she could have been taking it a little bit easier.

Even Natasha, without the distracting influence of Charlotte, was getting on with her work with a determination that she had rarely displayed, and I doubt I was the only member of staff to wish that she worked this hard all the time. The gentlemen were working as well, so there was very little for me to do - we'd worked together for long enough that they knew to ask me something when they needed to, and despite being slow and lazy, they knew what I expected from them in terms of content.

This was partly why Tuesdays were a bit terrible - they were super-busy and I didn’t get a decent chunk of time to do the things that increasingly urgently needed doing, but they were actually a
bit dull. Lots and lots of preparation was needed for a day that (usually) ran smoothly; it was just
a long, long day and I took the opportunity to have a sit down when I could. I even remembered
to have a drink from my water bottle. So far, so good, but even as I thought that, I felt a little tug of doubt and worry that I'd either forgotten something that had need doing, or that I was speaking far, far too soon.

As it often does in a quietly productive lesson, time slipped away without me really noticing, although the students, as ever, kept an eye on the time on their monitors and it was them getting logged off and ready to go that told me that the lesson was coming to an end. It was now that the traditional ritual of ‘Sir, can we go yet?’ began. You had to admire their tenacity, because they'd been asking me this twice a week for the last three years and I hadn’t said yes yet. Perhaps lurking under their grumpy, cynical exteriors were optimistic hearts. More likely was that at least a couple of them were dying to get out so they could have a fag, but optimistic hearts sounds so much better.

As I always did, I trotted out my standard reply,
“No, we have to wait for the bell to go otherwise I get in trouble” to which they just rolled their eyes and gave mere token protests. They’d heard it all before, and we were just going through the motions for the sake of form.
Knowing that the bell was set to go very shortly anyway, I let them head off, and away they went. Two lessons down, five more to go.

Fatigue Lv: 2.5 - rising but still under control
Preparation Lv: 4 - I’m convinced that I’ve forgotten to do something quite important
Fear & Dread Lv: 38 - lots of things could go wrong in the next lesson
Fake Anger Lv: 5 - I could afford to appear a bit more relaxed with the 11s
Real Anger Lv: 1 - no point in being angry at the 11s this late in the course
People who have annoyed me: 5
Time remaining in the day: 6 hours, 20 minutes

I Am A Weapon of Mass Instruction