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I Am A Weapon of Mass Instruction

Chapter 15: Break Time - 10:30-11:00am 

Break time: potentially an oasis of calm in an otherwise noisy and hectic day, whether it was a Terrible Tuesday or not. 25 whole minutes to relax, pause and take a breath before the onslaught starts again.
It should be an oasis of calm, but most of the time you’re still running around like a headless chicken trying to get stuff done, so perhaps oasis of chaos would be a better turn of phrase.

As a colleague recently said,
“Break duty: I really need to work in a school with no Year 7s.” The reason for this perhaps controversial statement being that Year 7s in class can be quiet, eager, and at the start of the year they all do their best bunny-in-the-headlights impression, looking stunned and shocked at pretty much everything that goes on in a Secondary school. Later in the year and especially at break time, they transform into tiny yet incredibly loud, screeching things that run everywhere and apparently haven’t heard the concept of ‘Inside Voices’. They’re also among those students - and there are worryingly quite a lot of them - who will stand out in the rain just to see how wet they can get. Having a duty area that is also a Year 7 hang out zone is not for the weak or fragile.

Break time was the opportunity to get cleared up after the last class and get ready for the next one, and because you were doing that, or at least because that’s what I was doing, it meant that I never reliably got a chance to sit down and relax during it. Perhaps it was a Design & Technology thing, what with working with tools and materials rather than a set of books, that it took a bit longer to set up and pack away. If you were in the workshops, no matter how stern and dictatorial you were, there was always something that hadn’t been put away so even if you didn’t do the packing away yourself and got the kids to do it, it meant that you didn’t get out on time.

There were times in the workshop when I was happy to play the dictator and not let the students
go until everything was perfect, but a lot of the time I was so grateful that I’d survived the lesson that I wanted the kids out of there before disaster changed its mind and decided to strike. Also, it was quicker and easier to do the packing away yourself. I know I probably shouldn’t say that, that I should put the responsibility onto the students to teach them how to look after a physical space, but honestly, they were so bad at it, you had to tidy up after their ‘tidying’ anyway, so you might as well just do it yourself.

I suspect if there are any parents of teenagers reading this, they’ll be nodding along to that. The students flung any tool in any tray, despite them being labelled and it being obvious what belonged where. They only had a vague understanding of what ‘clean your bench’ meant, from a less than half-hearted swipe to just standing there with their coats and bags on. Asking them to put books or resources back in a neat pile was akin to asking them to assemble a nuclear reactor with a blindfold on, although - especially with the younger years - there was always one OCD child who took enormous pleasure in tidying up the books after my traditional grumble about the state they’d
been left in.

Despite the possibility that there was a bit more clearing up to do int he D&T Department, there was on undeniable advantage to working in our corridor: food.
My waistline might complain about it, but on the whole I certainly didn’t mind that barely a week went by when a recipe was being demonstrated by Lorraine and the spare results were put in the office for everyone to enjoy. It would be on these days when I’d get a chance to eat my ‘breakfast’, even though it would probably more correctly be called brunch at this time in the morning. Remember, I’d been up since 5:30am, at work since 7:00am and this was the first time that I had eaten. I probably still didn’t feel like eating, but it was on offer, free, and my willpower has the breaking strain of a very weak thing indeed.

Usually, despite my atrocious sense of smell (something I suspect was a good thing when you’re around over 1000 children on a daily basis) I’d be able to smell if something had been cooking across the corridor, and if the students were working away or I had a free lesson, it wasn’t unknown for me to wander into the Food room just out of sheer nosiness and opportunism. As you’d expect, some of the students were very protective of what they’d made, but I was surprised at the amount of them who would freely offer up things for you to taste. Sometimes this was a blessing, and one would graciously accept a morsel.

With other students, perhaps the ones who only had a passing acquaintance with hygiene shall
we say, you were a little more reluctant to accept food from.
“Oh no, I couldn’t possibly, I’m already stuffed, I just had my breakfast, you’re too kind.” accompanied by a swift exit; sometimes being British and being able to rely on manners to get you out of something was very handy indeed.

There were a couple of scavenging opportunities that were better than all the others. The first was when the Year 11s were doing their cooking sessions for their coursework. This was good for a teacher on the scrounge because they actually needed people to taste their food as part of their evaluations, so I was actually doing them a favour by lurking around the Food room trying not to look too hungry.

Tasting their creations was a little hit and miss as not all of them had the same amount of culinary flair, but they all tried, bless them. If you timed it right, you could move from one cooking station to the next, grazing on their products as if you were at an open buffet, pausing only to fill out their little sensory evaluations before moving onto the next one. Some might say that Italian, Mexican and Chinese food don’t sit together very well, but they’d be wrong.

Admittedly, some of them pushed the ‘You can’t have too much garlic’ maxim to breaking point, but at least that meant that you had weapons-grade breath for the rest of the day and the kids wouldn’t be getting too close to you. As Lorraine would often say - or more accurately, lament - the students’ presentation skills could do with some polishing and refining (pure teacher talk for that it looked like someone had either thrown the food at the plate or just thrown up on the plate), but it was free food, so I really didn’t care.

The second food opportunity was when the students put on a Chinese banquet to celebrate Chinese New Year. Lorraine, our Food Technician Bernie and the students went all out and put the results out at break time for the other staff to come down and shamelessly stuff their faces appreciate the effort the students had put into the project.

Fool that I was, I missed the food bonanza the first year that Lorraine did this, and kicked myself when I kept hearing how good it was. So I made the effort next time, and wasn’t let down - it was brilliant, and the students really had worked hard indeed, so all credit went to them, although the credit went to them while I was shamelessly stuffing my face. Despite being only across the corridor from the Food room, I still had to get in quickly because the event had been advertised by an e-mail out to All Staff. This meant one thing: the PE staff would be coming.

By coming, what I actually meant was: The gluttons from the PE staff would descend like vultures on a zebra carcass and hoover up anything that they could. It’s not that they were greedy as such, but the PE boys just had certain appetite levels and you’d better be quick if you wanted your fair share, and be prepared to use vicious elbow action to get it. On Parents Evenings when we were provided with food beforehand, you had better be ready and waiting in the staff room for it, otherwise it would be slim pickings after the PE lot had descended on the spread. One member of the PE team, who shall remain nameless >coughMattcough< could be counted on to eat as many of the satay chicken skewers as possible, and it really was a sight to behold to see fistfuls of them being consumed with all the grace and elegance that a PE teacher could muster.

Word had gotten around about the Chinese banquet, and it was definitely time to deploy the elbows to get my fair share. It’s one of those things about being a teacher that while you were very aware of the hierarchy in school, and you at least put on a show of deference and respect to those higher up on the ladder than you, when it came to semi-social occasions that involved food, any social structure went out the window and it was every educator for themselves.

Generally though, the food on offer was a little less grand, and it was either scones or if your luck was in, mini-quiches left on the table in the office. As our Head of Department was on an eternal diet, that just meant there was more for the rest of us. Because they were demonstration items, designed to be small, quick and easy to make in an hour’s lesson, they were also small, quick and easy to eat, and it was only with the smallest twinges of guilt that I would find excuses to make multiple trips to the office to ‘Get Something From My Desk’ just so I could snag another scone
as I went past them.

There have been a couple of times when I’ve actually been on a diet and done pretty well on it (as opposed to saying I was on a diet, but giving up mere hours into it due to boredom/hunger/stress/lack of willpower), but having free food on offer as often as we did really didn’t help the state of my love-handles. To give myself credit, just as I was doing better at drinking throughout the day, I had been doing better with not only bringing in lunch from home, but also a snack - and a healthy one at that - in the last year or so when I was teaching, so I didn’t need to rely on the possibly not-so-healthy food from demonstrations to keep me going.

Despite it being break time, and allegedly not having to deal with students unless I was being unspeakably harsh to them by keeping them in for some misdemeanour, there were students in
my room that I needed to look after. Well, I didn’t need to, but my professional distrust of teenagers meant that I couldn’t allow them to be in there by themselves.

It had been suggested that the students needed somewhere to go at break and lunch that wasn’t the canteen (always a zoo and not the calmest of places) or the playground (we were in England, not known for being the driest of places), so their tutor rooms had been made accessible to them. No-one saw that this was going to be a disaster in the making… oh, wait, yes they did. Most of us thought that this was a recipe for disaster, especially those of us who had workshops or practical areas for our tutor rooms.

Not only were the students allowed in their tutor rooms, but they were allowed to eat in there, and the original plan called on them to be unsupervised during this time. The thinking was that they now had somewhere to go, and they were responsible for the space, and if it was left in a mess, they’d be banned from the room for the following day, getting them to learn the lesson on tidiness. I’m sure I wasn’t the only tutor to suddenly find things to do in their room at break to keep an eye on what was going on.

Inevitably, the handful of my tutor group to use our room on that first day were banned for the next day. Okay, maybe I was a little exacting on my definition of ‘food waste’, but there had definitely been a couple of crumbs left near the computers which I felt completely justified my decision to kick them out. I’m not saying that my mob were lazy, or rubbish or slow on the uptake, but for the first week or so they were kicked out every other day, and I even whipped up a sign and laminated
it (teachers love any opportunity to laminate something. My friend Sandra even bought her friend Beth a laminator for Christmas when she was doing her teacher training, and was told that it was one of the best presents she’d ever received when it was unwrapped) as I was getting bored of writing out a sign every day and I anticipated on using it again and again.

They eventually caught on and got a bit better, but they never really quite got it. Even with me popping in and out to surreptitiously keep an eye on them, they still managed to leave something around, despite me repeatedly telling them that they were responsible for the state of the room.
This just meant that I had a little less break than I already had, but it had to be done if I didn’t want to be picking up crisp packets and biscuits from various locations in the room.

If I’d kicked the tutor group out for the day and wasn’t tidying up, I didn’t really spend much time in the office. Despite what you might think having ploughed your way through this book, I have a very low tolerance for whittering, aimless chat, and most of the time I just couldn’t face it during the school day.

Having said that, I could whitter away quite comfortably with Kate, and if she was on duty at the bottom of the stairs at the end of our corridor, I’d happily join her for a chat. We’d cover the usual topics: who was really annoying us, catching up on any gossip and of course, generally moaning about anything that came to mind. Break duty was a good time to do this, as passing students reminded us just who was extra annoying and gave us an excuse to harangue them about their uniform or any work that they had left to complete for either of us.

It got to the stage that if either or both of us were sitting on the stairs, students would just turn around and walk away if they saw us, because they knew it just wasn’t worth the effort, and I do wonder if this exclusion zone was my super power. At least it almost guaranteed a peaceful 15 minutes or so.
A frequent visitor to these discussions was Kate’s friend Lucy, who worked upstairs as the Art Technician. Lucy was always cheery and a good laugh, except on Thursdays when she was still feeling the effects of Wine Wednesday and was a little delicate from the previous evening.

Another option, as it was close to our corridor, was to pop upstairs and spend some time with my good chum Miss T in the Art Department.

Miss T and I had started at the same time, and had qualified in the same year, although she had worked at the school as an LSA for a few years before her training. As I’ve already mentioned, Miss T was completely bonkers, and had claimed to be 47 for the first three years that I knew her, but she was so incredibly passionate about her subject; Art teachers generally seem to have more licence to be quirky (mad) than other teachers, and Miss T fitted this role perfectly.

She was always worrying that she wasn’t a good teacher, ignoring the fact that she was completely brilliant and had most of the kids eating out of the palm of her hand. Like the rest of us though,
she focused on the relatively few students who played up or who had poor behaviour, and forgot the others who tried really hard and produced stunning artwork. Miss T did far more planning than I ever did, and put far more effort into her lessons, but still thought she was a bit rubbish and needed to try harder. As such, although she was always pleased to see me, she rarely sat down durning my break time visits, and bustled around clearing away work or getting ready for her
next class.

Miss T could always be relied on to have food on her, and ever the mother, she’d press some on
me whether I was hungry I was not, although there was many a time when I was grateful to have
a nibble on the cracker and cheese she gave me.
If she did eventually sit down, Miss T would give me a very fast running commentary on her life, both inside and outside of school, with barely a pause for breath and often at such a pace that I only had the opportunity to smile and nod along at the appropriate moments. To a semi self-imposed hermit like myself, living vicariously through Miss T’s exploits showed me that there was very much more to life than school and crashing out exhausted at home.

 

Miss T worked part time at school, and was a working artist in the rest of her time, something I always admired and was frankly jealous of. She was always telling me of some art fair she’d been to or was going to, and she always kept me up to date with where the art market was, whether people were buying or not. Even better, and more involved and lengthy, were her tales of her Rock ’N’ Roll life. She’d recently discovered dancing and was an enthusiastic participant in the scene that hosted it in various venues in the South East.

There was an ever-evolving cast of characters that accompanied these tales. As we were discussing private matters in front of students more often than not, Miss T and I had developed a shorthand of code words over the years, so to any earwigging student, it must have sounded like we were talking absolute gibberish, and probably cemented both our reputations as being bonkers, but it was all good fun. These stories were also punctuated by our fits of giggles and Miss T’s braying laugh as we both cackled over some incident or another, and many a bemused glance was thrown our way by students over the years.
Just as entertaining as Miss T’s dancing stories, perhaps even more so, were her stories about her daughter, Dolly.

In the time that I was working in Kent, Dolly went through her GCSEs, A Levels, Foundation Year and finally her Art degree, and I can say without doubt that she is one of the most creative, conceptual artists I have ever come across. Her photography has a haunting beauty about it, and I’ve even bought a piece from her because it was so stunning. She was also just as barking mad as her mum, although those wiser than me would probably choose to say that she was ‘committed’ to her artwork instead. A classic Dolly tale involves her hauling a huge, gilt-framed mirror for about a mile from the carpark to one of the beaches in East Sussex so she could take some reflective photos with it. That she wanted to place the mirror in a protective habitat, and had to apologise profusely to the park manager was all part of the experience (I have had to do this myself as an Art and then later Design student - it’s amazing what you can get away with if you explain it as being part of an Art project. I think the most embarrassing thing I did was lie down in the middle of a bus station so I could get foot-level photos. Everyone just carried on walking by, so I probably wasn’t the first student to have tried it.). Most of Miss T’s Dolly stories involved some mad project or other, and I could only shake my head at the ludicrousness of it all, but was secure in the knowledge that the results would be amazing.

I don’t know if it was just our school or if every school is like this, but we did seem to have more than our fair share of completely mad people on-staff, and slightly worryingly quite a few of them worked in the D&T Department.

Sam, bless her, was not in the D&T Department, but rather was part of the Performing Arts team. She was in the same training cohort as Miss T and myself, so we got to know her really well because we had to attend the same NQT meetings. Sam’s main aims in life, apparently, were to get married and to get everyone in the world to understand just how amazing dance was. As far as I could gather, and I became quite good friends with Sam, her desire to get married was an excuse to wear a big, flouncy dress and have a party that more or less celebrated her position as the centre of the known universe.

Sam didn’t seem to have the best of luck in fulfilling this plan though, and she had a series of partners who she was convinced was The One and that they’d be popping the question any day now. When I first met her, her partner at the time was a sub-mariner who spent most of his time under water, something even I could see wasn’t the strongest foundation for future happiness.
As part of her marriage and dance-inspired madness, Sam - despite being a university graduate and (I assume) passing all of her teacher training criteria - had some very large and curious gaps in her knowledge base.

While on a round the world trip with one of her partners (a trip that involved the gentleman concerned buying a television and a Sky subscription for his beach hut in Thailand so he could watch the rugby - who said romance and adventure is dead?), Sam had a revelation that the stars moved. When I and a few friends were told this story, there wasn’t a lot that could be said in response, and we just had to chalk it up to there not being enough room in Sam’s head for boring stuff like general knowledge as her passion for dance took up a lot of extra space instead.

Sam loved dance. She loved it with a burning, intense passion that surprisingly wasn’t matched by everyone else at school, but it’s often the case that teachers who are enflamed with passion for their subject get the best out of their students. Such was Sam’s passion and enthusiasm though, she was under the impression that anything could be taught through the medium of contemporary dance. Rightfully incensed when one or two less-than-supportive colleagues scoffed at this idea, Sam challenged them to name a subject - any subject! - and she would would get her troupe of students to teach that subject through the medium of dance.

When the totally easy and straightforward subject of quadratic equations was thrown forward, Sam grasped the bull by the horns and started to choreograph like a thing possessed. Then she had to go away and ask what quadratic equations were and what they were all about, but enthusiasm is half the battle.
Now, I wasn’t present unfortunately at the triumphant performance of Quadratic Equations For Dummies (via Dance) as school performances make me itch all over, but I’m told it was spectacular, and the students really outdid themselves. Whenever I ask anyone who did see it whether it did in fact teach them about quadratic equations, I never seem to get a straight answer, but the general consensus is that Sam was convinced that it did and wouldn’t hear otherwise.
Sadly Sam and her own brand of educational madness didn’t stay at our school and she left for pastures new.

Also of note while we’re talking about the Performing Arts Department was Shanu, also in the same training year as Miss T, Sam and I. The only thing to note about Shanu was that she regularly used her break times to call her parents to have a bit of a chat and let them know how she was getting on.
“Awww… how sweet.” I can hear you say, dear reader, and yes, it is sweet, especially considering that her parents lived in Hong Kong and she’d give them a call a couple of times a week. I don’t think that the Performing Arts Head of Department was especially happy when she got the phone bill as part of her budget report that year…

The last but certainly not least mention for the Performing Arts Department goes to Grace, one of the Music teachers that was at our school over the years. Like Sam, Grace was extremely passionate about her subject, but perhaps overestimated her own abilities a tad.

It said something that when her A Level Music class jokingly suggested that she perform a song at the upcoming Christmas Assembly - an invitation she accepted with much gusto - even they had to admit that they’d made a mistake and created a monster. Deaf to all criticism and pleas not to perform, many a rehearsal was had and according to the school gossip mill, her rendition of ‘Valerie’ was going to be something special - bear in mind here that 'special' is an educational code word for something that wasn't quite right. Those of us who were perhaps a bit more observant than others noted that the word ‘good’ had not featured anywhere in the reports of what was going on.

Again, coward that I am, I wasn’t present for the fateful performance as I suddenly had to attend to some very, very urgent tutor business that possibly involved me ringing a parent, and sadly there were no phones in the Sports Hall where the Assembly was being held. Yes, I ran. Christmas Assemblies were painful at the best of times, with the staff being encouraged to put on a bit of a show for the students. What exactly we were supposed to be showing them, I’m not sure - how to torture a Christmas song? Just how badly they were going to dance when they reached middle age? This last feature of the floor show always caused sniggers to ripple through the staff as the Head would put the call forth via e-mail, asking for any ‘swingers’ to help with the Assembly. No one was ever sure whether he knew all the meanings of the term, but no one wanted to be the one to explain it to him.

The results of the request for swingers was a handful of staff bobbing and swaying along, apparently with severe hip disorders, while singing along to some Christmas song or other, in front of a hysterical, baying audience of students while the rest of the staff tried to look anywhere but at the front of the hall. There were several gentle souls like myself for who the excitement was all too much and had to leave lest we become overwhelmed. Muttered phrases along the lines of,
“Good god that’s awful.” could only be chalked up to sensory overload.

So it was that I was unwilling unable to see the performance by Grace, but apparently in a somewhat surprising show of support, the students decided to drown her out by joining in and singing along with her. Sometimes the kids showed a surprising amount of empathy and what could have been a horrific Assembly was apparently really quite good. Not that I’m sorry I missed
it mind you.

Enough of the Performing Arts Department - we had more than enough home-grown madness to share in the D&T Department. While it could be argued that I supplied more than enough insanity for all concerned, I was the model of sanity when compared to some of my ex-colleagues.

First up is Ruth, a cheerful and always happy young teacher who was the third Food teacher to be
in the department while I was there. There was a veneer of normalcy to Ruth, but it was a very thin one. She always wore her hair in bunches, which the students always thought was hilarious, and while they might not know her by name, or even what subject she taught, mention the teacher with the bunches, and they’d all know who you were talking about.

Ruth’s favourite phrase was,
“I ‘ate fish!” which she would trot out at any given moment in a comedy accent, and it got so that
it was mere background noise that you could tune out quite successfully. She’d say it so often, even in class, that it got to the stage where you’d hear one of the students saying it now and again, and you’d know that they’d had a Food lesson recently.
What Ruth was really known for though was her singing. Not the quality of her singing, just that she would do it at the drop of a hat, whether she was in a class, the corridor or the office. Her singing was apparently a big draw in her lessons, and the students appreciated her own brand of madness. Like Sam, it was easy to forget that Ruth was a highly educated individual, even when she was doing her Masters in Education while she was working in the department.

Last but certainly not least on the cast list of insanity was Jill. Jill was an older lady who started off as a supply teacher at our school, but when a more permanent position came up she got the post, and while being a bit of a generalist, she mostly taught Textiles. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that Jill was completely barking, in a special I-don’t-have-a-clue, hippy-inspired form of insanity. Compared to her, I am the poster child for being sane and balanced.

As it happened, she lived quite close to where our lovely Head of Department at the time, Thackery, lived and he gave her a lift into school a few times, something that he recalled with a slight, haunted look in his eyes whenever we talked about it afterwards. Jill needed a lift not because she couldn’t drive - she could - or because he didn’t have a car - she did - but because she didn’t know the way from her house to the school. This was a bit of a puzzler since she’d already been to the school a few times before getting the permanent post, but because he was an all-round lovely guy, Thack dutifully gave her a lift.

According to his version of the story - which I have no reason to doubt at all - she made him stop every mile or so, so she could take a picture on her phone.
“What a delightful lady, so entranced by the beauty of the Garden of England!” I hear you cry, but you would be mistaken. Jill made Thack stop the car to take photos so that she would have a visual record of the journey, and she’d be able to find her way to school again. Whether she made him stop on the way home too Thackery never said, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she did. I also have a totally believable vision in my head of her holding her phone up while driving, matching the photos to the scenery, swiftly followed by her driving into a hedge. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Jill was one of those people who only drove at 23 miles an hour, so there’d be relatively little damage done.

Jill had a surprising turn of phrase, and while every teacher has dropped one clanger or another at some point, Jill seemed to have more than her fair share. As is often the case, so regularly in fact that we could have made a fortune if we’d decided to start charging the kids for our services, a student once asked Jill to sew the button back on his trousers. He was apparently more than a little stunned when he was subsequently ordered with much authority and gusto to,
“Get in the cupboard and take your trousers off!” by Jill. This was in the days when half the D&T Department were in huts as the new building was being constructed, and we had built-in store cupboards in our rooms. Just how Jill was going to get the removed trousers was anyone’s guess, and the poor lad was apparently going to have to stay in the cupboard, which had no light in it, while the offending garment was being repaired. Considering how flighty Jill could be, and how easily distracted she could get, he may have been in there for some time.

He was so stunned at the command to drop trou however that he declined the kind offer and mumbled something to the effect that he’d manage to get through the day somehow. That this was one of the larger lads in the school and Jill was more on the diminutive side made the show all the more side-splittingly funny for the class that got front-row seats for the show. Naturally, Jill completely missed the point and had no clue what everyone was laughing about or why the strapping lad before her had been reduced to a quivering jelly-like state.

She had once admonished a class, who I assume weren't really paying attention, to:
“Listen like beavers!” the meaning of which escapes me to this day.
With another boisterous class, she told them off for their abundant noise levels by telling them that,
“You’re so noisy I’m having to close my chakras!” which I’m sure went over the heads of our students, who had something less than a passing understanding of Eastern meditation practices.
It was these last two phrases that would never fail to put Miss T and I into fits - Miss T had shared
a tutor group with Jill and had first-hand knowledge of someone more bonkers than she was.

Perhaps Jill’s coup de grace was when she left our school. These were the days before budget cuts and we had an all-staff barbecue at the end of the academic year to celebrate our survival and to send off any staff that were leaving us. Sadly, Jill was moving on to pastures new, pastures that probably had more rainbows and unicorns in them than a temporary teaching room.

As is appropriate on occasions like this, speeches were made. I’d like to point out that my own leaving speech was brief to the point of non-existence, mainly because even after much deliberation I still didn’t know what I was going to say. I could opt for the crazy version and have a rant about the state of education, but even I knew that wouldn’t go down well, despite many of the audience no doubt agreeing with me - it was considered bad form to rant about the school and/or education in your leaving speech. I could go for a long-winded, narcissistic, self-congratulatory speech as a previous colleague had done, but as the only thing that was remembered about that speech was how long and boring it was, I decided it probably wasn’t my best bet.

Reading out a self-penned poem and bursting into tears like another colleague didn’t quite seem me, so that option was left on the shelf, as was the choice to pick my favourite hymn and make everyone sing along, as an infamous teacher from before my time had made everyone do at his leaving do. I wasn’t in a place where I could pull off humour, so in the end I fell back on a short quote and left it at that.

All anyone can remember of Jill’s leaving speech was that it contained a brief rant about her dismissal, that started with,
“Well, I’ve never been sacked from a job before!” which was still entirely accurate, as she hadn’t been sacked from this job either, so why she was apparently so angry about it was anyone’s guess.
That wasn’t the last we heard from Jill - I fielded a phone call from her some time later; she was asking if it was okay if we did some references for her, as she was applying for a job as a Life Skills teacher, despite all the evidence that suggested that she was singularly unqualified for the post.
All I could stumble out was that I’m sure everyone would be delighted to give her potential new school references and to wish her luck in the interview.

Enough madness for now. As this was a Terrible Tuesday, and we’d just had the Year 11s, there were sadly no baked goods to greet me as I dutifully checked what was happening in the office (nothing). Everyone was off doing their own thing, and at least one of us should be on duty somewhere, although whether they’d remembered was another matter entirely.

With no distraction on-hand, I retreated to my room, as I had the next group to get ready for anyway, and I might as well get that job done. Not that there was a huge amount to do as I already had the resources ready and the students would be working on the computers, so there wasn’t really much to do other than find the right file for my presentation, panic a little when I couldn’t
find it, sigh with relief when I realised it was right in front of me, and open it up. With the projector turned on and it plugged into my laptop, that was the extensive preparations done.

I’ve often found that when faced with some genuine, honest to goodness free time, I didn’t know what to do with it. Not enough time to do anything productive, but too much to just sit and collect myself. Heading up to the staffroom was an option, but it would be semi-dead as always, with the same few teachers in there having the same rambling, ranting conversations that usually took place, and I wasn’t annoyed enough to join in with that today. Never keen to venture into the corridors at break time unless I really had to, it looked like I’d just be staying here. There were only
a few of the gentlemen from my tutor group in here today, quietly chatting as they always did, only today I could actually hear them as they weren’t drowned out by the cackling and overly-loud chat of the ladies.

So I did what I always did in quiet moments like these - I totally abused my internet privileges. That's a slight over-exaggeration as I wasn’t looking at anything dodgy, just not anything remotely school-related either, although I could probably give some credible excuse if push came to shove. That’s the great thing about design, you can justify looking at an awful lot of random things in the name of ‘research’. Having said that, there have been a couple of times when dodgy stuff has er… ‘come up’ at school, although not in my personal experience I hasten to add.

There was the time when, projectors still being a novelty, one of the Geography teachers was using it to put some resources from the web on the wall behind him. Unbeknownst to him however, a pop-up had appeared, as they often do, and was showing several ladies who were apparently very close friends doing something very naughty indeed. After a couple of eye-opening but admittedly educating seconds, at least for the lads in the room, one of the students pointed out to the teacher that something was amiss and he should look behind him. I can only imagine the look of horror that  would have passed across his face when he turned around, and the mad scramble to close
the window in question. Thankfully our firewalls were somewhat sturdier these days, but I always extended my laptop screen anyway, so I could check what was on my laptop before moving it over to the projected screen.

A close friend of mine had to have a little conversation with the head of IT services one day, as it turned out that there were some naughty website addresses in his browser history. In a somewhat embarrassing few minutes, my friend found out that while he may have been looking at certain things at home, his browser history was automatically checked by our system when he brought it back to school. He was gently but firmly told to be more careful in future. I never took my laptop home, not to avoid having naughty web addresses on my laptop, but because a) I generally refused to do work at home so there was no point in taking it home, and b) I am pretty much a techno-idiot and had no idea how to change the internet settings on our laptops, and couldn’t be bothered with the faff of finding out how to change them when I had my own computer at home, and I didn’t care how many naughty addresses were on that.

My usual destinations when it came to web surfing at school were fairly limited: National Geographic because it was too pretty not to look, a design website that I really did look at for genuine research purposes and because it was just cool. News websites and a certain massive online encyclopaedia were also favourites, and I’d just look up things that I thought were interesting and wanted to know more about on Wikipedia; yes, I really was a Life Long Learner, and more often than not I had a tab open in my browser window that I’m sure most people would find very boring.

Some light browsing under way, the warning bell for the end of break sounded, giving me a five-minute warning before the next class. As I had the Year 7s next, and they were still in their Keen Phase, quite a few of them were already lined up and waiting to come in, those brave (or foolish - didn’t they know who I was?) ones sticking their heads in the room out of sheer eagerness. Sadly, that would soon disappear as their transformation into hardened, cynical Secondary school students was completed.
Stifling a sigh, I got up from my desk and mentally readied myself for an hour with the 7s.

Fatigue Lv: 3 - manageable, rising in anticipation of the energy-sapping Year 7s
Preparation Lv: 5 - PowerPoint fired up and ready to go - I’m all over this!
Fear & Dread Lv: 45 - the Year 7s just irritate me sometimes
Fake Anger Lv: 17 - the Year 7s need to know who’s boss
Real Anger Lv: 1.5 - general, background irritation starting to kick in
People who have annoyed me: 7 - those eager Year 7s should leave me alone at break time!
Time remaining in the day: 5 hours, 50 minutes