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I Am A Weapon of Mass Instruction

Chapter 20: Period 6: Year 12 Graphics - 2:50-3:50pm

At 2:49pm you would have thought that chaos had erupted throughout the building, some terrible disaster that necessitated much stampeding and shouting, but no, it was just the end of the day and this was normal. If you were very unlucky, you’d be on duty and have to fight your way out to the buses with the majority of the student population, but thankfully - and I didn’t say this too often - I had another class and could safely hide in my room.

By ‘hide safely’ of course I mean that I greeted my next students with much vigour, vim and enthusiasm, not completely ignored them as they trickled in while marking them off on the register. Don’t worry though, dear reader, it wasn’t as if the 6th Formers managed to greet me with any semblance of vim or vigour either, so we were all winners.

One of the upsides to teaching the 6th Formers after school was that surprisingly quickly,
all the noise stopped and the building became actually quite a nice place to be, probably because there were remarkably few children in it. There was always a noticeable change in the atmosphere; teaching staff finally took a deep breath and unclenched, possibly for the first time in the day, and smiles were a bit less forced.

There were always a few kids left lurking about, either because they were on their way to Detention, or trying to avoid going to Detention but realising that they were no longer in a pack and were very visible to every single teacher who saw them and reminded them that they should be in Detention.

Detention was supposed to be the big stick when it came to our behaviour strategies: a non-negotiable one hour detention after school, where all the kids had to do was sit in silence and watch a purposefully-designed boring slideshow on repeat. It helpfully showed the detainees all the things they could be doing with their allegedly free time, instead of wasting it watching a very dull slideshow, emphasising that it was due to their actions and behaviour that their time was being wasted.

Now I’m no super-genius or anything, but if I was a student who had to endure that, I would have gotten the message very quickly and made sure that I’d never have to do it again. Apparently a lot of our kids weren’t super-geniuses either, as the same faces appeared on the detention list day after day, presenting the same sullen, dead-eyed stares as they whiled away the hours.

If you were important enough, or needed to complete a duty slot, it was your immense pleasure to have to supervise Detention - thankfully I taught after school on detention days so I was sadly exempt, but I had done detention duty in the past. Despite being issued with
a rota, there were times when I inexplicably forgot that it was my turn and missed it, something that I feel terrible about and which haunts me to this day.

When I did remember to go, like most of the other staff who had to fill an hour I took my laptop along and did some work, something which was fully supported by the Senior Manager on duty as they loudly and pointedly commented, so that the students could hear that we shouldn’t be made to waste an hour of our time. Sometimes though, I did just turn up and looked extremely bored, just to prove to the kids that it wasn’t some sort of achievement to waste time. To pull out a golden teacher line: it wasn’t big and it wasn’t clever.

Strangely, when the frustration at seeing the same faces in Detention again and again became too much and you asked the kids why they continued to sit through these hour-long exercises in boredom, quite a few of them said that they actually enjoyed them, and that it was the only quiet time they ever got in the day. It was comments like this that once again drove home that not everyone’s life was sailing along on an ocean of calm, and that school represented possibly the only stable, structured thing in their lives.

There were a few students still around for legitimate, academic reasons as there were often extra classes or clubs being put on after school, but mostly it was 6th Formers doing whatever 6th Formers did (mostly mooch around the place trying not to look guilty because they weren’t working from what I could see). After school was the time you used to do all the things you’d wanted to do during the day but couldn’t because you were in front of a class, like calling parents, doing all the paperwork that your Head of Department had asked you to do and the deadline for which had passed a few days ago, and perhaps, horror of horrors, even doing some marking. For a few years, I had made it my policy to be out of the door as soon as possible  in an attempt to have some sort of work/life balance, but that had slowly vanished as the pressures to do more and more became stronger.

I must have been doing something right as the numbers for my Year 12 Graphics lessons had been steadily growing over the last few years, and this group was a very healthy 17 strong. A Level classes were generally a lot smaller than GCSE groups, so to have a class this big was something of a feather in my cap, although it did mean that the marking load was somewhat heavier. A Level groups of four or five students were relatively common and struck a nice balance between covering the more in-depth material with interested students and having a bit of an easier time with all the admin that went along with an exam group.

What was a little tricky about this group was that I hadn’t taught a lot of them - they’d done their GCSEs during the purgatory years when I had to take GCSE Product Design, so I wasn’t familiar with their work or their strengths and weaknesses. To counterbalance this I had a couple of returnees from last year who had either failed or who hadn’t done as well as they had hoped and were retaking the year. This small group of retakers included Aaron of Emily & Aaron fame, Alex, Jodie and for part of the year Tyler, who had by this point been firmly shown that his time was better spent elsewhere.

For the Year 12s and 13s I produced a booklet that was their guide for the year, and
it included a run through of the marking system, my expectations, a rough outline of deadlines for each project, a framework for analysing their work and 
most importantly a 
series of design briefs that they were going to be working from. In the past, I’d done only enough briefs for the year, and all the students did the same project at the same time. It was simple and straight forward, and made the marking a bit easier too as I could compare the outcomes very easily.

 

This year though I was trying something different, that - in theory - required the students
to actually read through the briefs first and think strategically about what they were going
to do and when. I’d given them more briefs than they needed for a start, so if they really hated the look of a project, they could leave it out. That I’d given each of the projects a
twist and not as easy as they looked complicated matters, but I had to get my laughs from somewhere. I also gave them the freedom to choose what project they did, only giving
them a rough timetable of deadlines for each project slot.

This meant that, in theory, each student could build up a very personalised portfolio of work, rather than each of them producing a version of the same projects. What I had failed to take into account however, was the timid, lemming-like nature of some of our students, so when it came to making a note of who was doing what brief at the start of each project,
I wasn’t completely surprised to find that groups of friends just happened by complete coincidence to be doing the same brief. The exceptions to this were Aaron, who deliberated over each choice and then deliberated even more painfully over every subsequent design decision, Alex who just did what he wanted to do, and Zanis, one of the new Year 12s, who actually put some thought into what he was doing and what it would allow him to show off. Zanis was both intense and incredibly laid back, and was one of the most talented all-round artists, photographers and designers that I’d seen. He was one of those rare students who listened to advice and direction and he was always working. Along with Aaron, he regularly came to work in my room when he had a free period and when I had a free computer if I had a class. Because it was a Terrible Tuesday, today was one of the few days that I didn’t see them at some point before their actual lesson.

Also of note in the group were Elliot and Elliott. The two Elliots, or The Els as they became known, were two friends who had come to our 6th Form from one of the local grammar schools. This implied that they were of quite high ability academically and that they should be high flyers. They’d apparently gotten good grades in their D&T GCSE, although when they showed me their GCSE coursework, I wondered how.

It turned out that The Els were incredibly lazy - on a par with some of our most apathetic Year 11s - and how they ever managed to work their way through grammar school became a mystery that has yet to be solved. What made the situation worse was that neither of them had taken Graphics before - they’d done Product Design at GCSE, and while there’s a certain amount of overlap in terms of general design theory, they’re two very different disciplines.

It became increasingly clear that neither of them should ever have taken the subject, but despite all the evidence before them, they stuck with it, although I never found out whether they managed to scrape a grade or not. The Els were another classic example of the co-dependent male couple, and they always sat next to each other and always did the same project. They did try, bless them, just never hard enough for my liking, and I found them frustrating to have in the group.
They were also taking A Level Product Design and thankfully my Head of Department found them equally lazy and frustrating; it’s always comforting to know that another teacher has issues with the same students you do because it means it’s not just you. With Graphics the lads had an excuse for not performing at their best, but with Product Design they should have been performing much better than they did, and our frustrations over them became a bonding point between myself and my Head of Department.

It was always puzzling when you met A Level students who hadn’t taken your subject before because every teacher that I knew gave the same speech at the start of the year, namely that A Levels were hard, the step up from GCSE to A Level being bigger than the one from A Level to degree level work. This rarely put them off though, even though it should have. We usually did taster sessions part way through the year, to give the prospective A Level students an idea of what was to come, and were were actively encouraged to make them difficult to put some of these students off.

In my taster session in this last year of my career, I actually had a lad turn up (a student from another school, so my reputation was unknown to him) who wanted to to do A Level Graphics, but hadn’t taken it at GCSE. When I asked him which of the D&T subjects he had taken, he blithely informed me that he hadn’t taken any D&T subject at GCSE. Who put these ideas in these kid’s heads? It was insane to think that you could take a subject like this without any prior experience, no matter how talented he might be, so I bluntly told him to go away and talk to the Head of 6th Form about his potential choices. When I chatted to the Head of 6th Form later, she told me that he had been the least prepared student anyone had ever seen, and that everyone had bounced him out of their sessions because it was clear that he was a complete waste of space. The problem was that these students had to stay in school until they were 17, or at least be in training or employment. 6th Form was often seen as the easiest, least painful route, despite a lot of these kids not being A Level material.

I didn’t bother standing at my door to greet the 6th Formers, partly because I thought they were old enough and responsible enough to make their own way to the class, but mostly because the day had dragged on more than enough and I couldn’t be bothered. Most of them were prompt though, so I had nothing to really complain about. The students were all mid-project, and because they were apparently all older and wiser than the younger year groups, this should mean that they were all well along with what they should be doing. This not being some alternate universe though, a lot of them were dragging their heels either out of laziness or through putting off actually having to make a decision and committing to a design idea. They trooped into the room and got the computers turned on so that they could carry on working on their current project.

When I run this next sentence in my head, I sound surprised, when really I should know better by now, but here goes. This group of students were a funny old lot.

On the one hand they were, on the whole, quite into Graphics - they wouldn’t be here if they weren’t one presumes (the Els weren’t counted in this, they were off in a very special group all of their own), but they were so clueless. I know what you’re thinking, it was my job to make them slightly less clueless, but the thing was that I had tried, I really had. We’d gone over ideas generation and the point of research again and again. We’d even had to have the ‘If I see you blatantly copying someone else’s work again’ talk as a couple of them had thought that if they sketched an idea in their books, even if it was copying an existing product, it automatically made it theirs.

We’d talked about colour and balance and composition. We’d talked exhaustively about how choosing horrible horrible fonts made me really sad inside and they shouldn’t do it. We’d talked about pace and deadlines and about how I’d be really unsympathetic to any excuse they dared give me if their work was late. In other words, I’d covered all the bases and we all knew where we stood. Yet, there was something not quite on form about a lot of them. A few of the group - the Els included - seemed to have very little concept of how to get any ideas at all for a project, beyond the most obvious, clichéd ideas that they should have known that I would veto as soon as I saw them.

During their exam work, which is actually a pretty nice time for the Year 12s as they have limited time under controlled conditions and the rest of the time is spent developing their work, in an attempt to steer a couple of them in a handy direction for their ideas for a tropical fish shop, I showed them a short video of a coral reef. I pulled about five things out of the first thirty seconds, but I was greeted with blank stares and,
“That was nice. Why did you show it to us?” as a genuine question from one of them. Another of the students who was doing the same project actually labelled in her sketchbook an image labelled ‘Yellow Fish Thingy’ as one of her inspirations.

Another of the students, basing her work around Africa, decided to include a very lovely illustration of a tiger in her work. When questioned why she was including it, you wouldn’t have seen a blanker expression on a coma patient. It wasn’t that they were stupid as such, just that they seemed to lack the curiosity to explore a subject and step away from the centre of their comfort zone, let alone near the edge of it. Like some of the younger year groups, I had done all I could to support, lead and direct them, the only thing left to do would have been to do the work for them, which might have been a quicker and less painful experience (and certainly more enjoyable for me).

There were exceptions to this rule of cluelessness. After a very disappointing showing last year, Alex was finally in the Graphics groove. Alex was one of the few rare students I’d seen over the years who loved design in all its forms. A self-confessed fashionista, he wanted to study Fashion after leaving us, so we tried to lean his work in that direction whenever possible so that he could include it in his interview portfolio.

He took direction really well, but worked with his own style and produced work that was so slick and sometimes so minimal that it looked as if he hadn’t done anything at all, except that I’d seen him agonising over fonts and colour choices and the positioning of text to know that what you saw was a superbly controlled exercise in graphic design. His exam work about tourist trails was brilliant, a tongue in cheek idea that played on double entendres paired with seemingly innocent images. His adverts for Thailand, featuring a beautiful Thai dancer along with the tagline of ‘Don’t just guess’ still puts a smile on my face. This was why
I loved Graphics - playing with people’s expectations and making them think beyond the obvious.

Aaron was producing good work too, one agonising decision after the next. Aaron deliberated over his work. He cogitated. He was bloody annoying, which I’m allowed to say because it’s true and his girlfriend Emily completely agreed with me and would often sit in on the lessons so she could crack the whip and make him work a bit faster. Aaron was a classic case of a student not trusting himself; if he only saw what he was doing without the fog of doubt and flakiness, he’d see how strong it was.

After my epic meltdown over the quality of the work at a hand in, Aaron really stepped his game up, and the subsequent work not only tripled the amount of work in the project but pushed it to the top end of the grades too, something that he was, not surprisingly, totally unprepared for and surprised about. Like Alex, his work was 100% believable, and by that I mean that you could walk past it in any environment and you’d never even consider that it had been produced by a teenager.

Then of course there was Mr Overachiever himself: Zanis. One of the projects I’d given them was a set of four alphabet flashcards, based around animals and a well known illustrator. The other students who had tackled this project made a bit of a meal of it, and melodramatically moaned and whinged their way through producing four products. Not Zanis. He immediately declared that he was going to produce cards for the entire alphabet. Not that I doubted he could do it, but not wanting him to get distracted or overloaded, I assured him that he didn’t have to, and that to meet the requirements for the hand in four was perfectly acceptable. He wouldn’t hear a word of it, and proceeded to work up an entire set, all without whinging and complaining about it. Complete trooper and star.

I’d been quite excited about taking this group, as I knew that a few of them were very into their Art and that was easily translatable to Graphics. I was also excited because a colleague, who’d been taking GCSE Graphics while I was in Product Design hell, had said that one of the students was possibly the best Graphics students she had ever seen - and considering that two of her own children where very, very good graphic designers, this put the student in question on a high pedestal indeed. Sadly, the reality did not live up to the hype, and I can only conclude that my colleague had been taking some serious hallucinogens when looking at the student’s work.

It wasn’t rubbish, but neither was it superb. In fact, it was just a little bit dull. The designs worked as products, but probably wouldn’t have made you stop and look at them and think ‘Wow, that’s amazing!’. I just didn’t get it. No, that’s a lie, I did get it. The problem was that for a lot of these students, they had been so handheld and spoon fed for the last three years when they were doing their GCSE that they hadn't been taught to think and explore. This is partly their fault, but I have to say that the majority of the blame has to go to the teachers, and I know I did it myself.

Teachers had to get the grades out of the students, and it was easier to do that if you directed them in nearly everything they had to do. There was no room for failure as every grade mattered, and we simply didn't have the time to have lots of rounds of experimentation and failure and revision. We had to get it right first time around, so as teachers we controlled everything and led the students through the whole experience.

This might have gotten the kids (and the school) the grades that were needed, but it didn’t teach them to think independently or to gather a wide base of knowledge that they could use. Perhaps I’m being too hard on the students and expecting things of them that they weren't ready for (but I don’t think I was), and perhaps I’m being overly cynical about the nature of the education system (but I don’t think I am), but the fact was that either the students had some serious gaps in their knowledge and working practices, or they shouldn’t have been on the course in the first place.

We could kick students off the course if we thought that they weren’t suitable for it, but the catch to that was that we only had a window of about two weeks at the start of the year in September in which to assess who would be making the grade and who we’d be saying goodbye to. In a subject like mine, Two weeks just wasn’t long enough to be able to make those decisions, and unless a student just didn’t turn up for those two weeks, they’d be with me for the duration. This had led to some spectacularly unsuitable students being in A Level groups over the years, with students who apparently lacked the basic ability to draw being on a course that was blatantly of too high a level for them.

A problem with the the 6th Form lessons was that they were at the end of the day, and because the students were just working independently a lot of the time, this meant that I - fool that I was - often made a fatal error: I sat down. Doing five or even seven lessons a day is actually okay - as long as you don’t sit down. If you just keep going, then momentum, and with some colleagues caffeine, will see you through to the end of the day. Sitting down though, was a recipe for disaster. Sitting down meant that you might actually relax, even for a second, and then realise just how tired you really are. Fatigue could hit you like a brick in the face, and then getting up out of your chair would be some Herculean act of effort.

I used to be the kind of teacher that made the students come to my desk if they wanted to show me something or ask me a question, but that had fallen away years ago with the increasing trend for teachers to be perky go-getters. It was also a bit tricky getting the students to come to you if they wanted to ask you something about what they were doing on screen, so despite making the mistake of sitting down, realising just how knackered I was, I’d have to haul myself over to them.

6th Form lessons should be easy. It’s after school, everyone is more relaxed and the place is actually quiet for a change, and for the most part, that’s true, they are easy, or at least easier than the lower years. There are a couple of exceptions to this easy rule though, the first being at the end of the year when we have to put on The Exhibition.

Usually I try to avoid school events like the plague, after naïvely volunteering to help out backstage in my first year at the school show, where I was quickly shown just how close to a riot our kids take things and after being told so loudly by one of our resident divas that I’m sure the audience heard her that her costume was a tad uncomfortable and was,
“Really pokin’ me in the tit!” Thanks for that. I vowed to stay clear of events after that.

When it came to the end of year exhibition for Art, Photography and Graphics though, I had no choice - it was an annual event and it also doubled up as the presentation of work for the A Level moderator. The exhibition was a time of panic, hissy fits over how much space you were allowed and getting things done just in time.
To my pride and only generating a small sense of smugness, I have to say that the Graphics stuff was always mounted and ready ahead of time and was up and show-ready with a minimum of fuss. As quite a few of the students took two of the subjects being shown, and
a few select mad few were taking all three, it was one of the most stressful times of the year for them.

I always planned that we had a two week lead in time to the exhibition, where the students could make any changes to any of the work if they wanted to and where they had to decide what they were showing, get it printed and mounted. Of course I’m a bit biased, but I always thought we had an easier time of it than Art because it was a piece of cake print and mount work, and because of our printer, there was a limit to the size their work could be. The Art students were often wrestling with huge canvases or boards and more often than not, multiple pieces that were oversized.

In the last exhibition I was involved in, Zanis, not being content to show off his stunning work had somehow been persuaded to do an installation piece which necessitated him building a small room and then filling it with stuff. Needless to say, this didn’t help to improve his mood, and neither did his complete and utter lack of construction skills. But as always seemed to happen at school, we got there in the end.
The exhibition was a nice night, and it wasn’t uncommon for some of the students to sell some of their work because of it. Prizes were give out for the best Year 12 and Year 13 in each subject area, and for once it was nice to be able to show off what we did instead of always thinking that we could do better.

The last exhibition I attended was a bit odd, and I say that as if I should be surprised that anything connected with school was odd. After 12 years I really should have known better.

For a start, there was a World Cup football match going on that evening, so we were anticipating having a quieter night than we usually would. My dad was quite into football, but not in a fanatical kind of way, so I grew up being aware of football, but not being totally immersed in it like some of our students were. The look on the students’ faces when I told them that I didn’t have a tv was classic, but was nothing compared to when they inevitably asked me which football team I supported.
“I don’t. I think football’s rubbish” I’d always say. I might have well said that I enjoyed slaughtering virgins and worshipping some ancient chthonic god as my lord and master because saying that football was rubbish was clearly a sacrilegious and heretical statement, and was final proof that many a student needed that I was incurably and dangerously insane.
“What, not even Chelsea?” one incredulous student once asked, to which I replied, a little naughtily I will admit,
“Who?” just to see the look on their face. If it was possible to give someone a fatal brain haemorrhage with a single word, that might have done it.

Football was big in these parts. I could somewhat mollify the enraged students/football fans by claiming that I liked rugby more, but my card had been marked. In a contest between the World Cup and a somewhat niche school event, we all knew which one would win. Add to that that it was a nice sunny day and that barbecues would likely be thrown into the mix and we didn’t stand a chance.

‘Nice sunny day’ is a deceptive phrase. It suggests blue skies with the odd high fluffy cloud just to make things look pretty. It suggests a pleasant cool breeze just to take the edge off things, and a long G&T whilst reclining in a comfortable chair in an English garden. That’s what it suggests, but the reality was that it was stinking hot, I was trapped in my work clothes when I’d much rather be in shorts, t-shirt and flip flops, and I had to hang around school until 7:00pm for an event.

To say that I was sweating is a vast understatement. I tend to sweat at he drop of a hat anyway, and the unseasonably hot weather wasn’t helping. I think the word ‘drenched’ might be appropriate here, and isn’t, I’ll freely admit, the best of looks on anybody. The weird thing was that instead of the heat dropping off as the afternoon progressed into the evening, it just got hotter and hotter - and it wasn’t just me overheating and slipping into delusion, everyone was commenting on the increasing heat. It probably didn’t help that all the boards that the work was mounted on were blocking any hint of a breeze circulating through the hall, and the Art staff and I tried to cluster in as subtle a manner as possible near the doors that opened onto the front of school and near the ice bucket for the wine that was on offer to our guests. I think we got away with it.

The other exception to the ‘6th Form Lessons are Easy’ rule, in fact the exception to the ‘Any lesson is Easy’ rule is when that lesson is going to be observed by one of your bosses. When you’re training, being observed is normal and expected, and to a certain extent it still is once you’re qualified, but with the added elements of it being creepy, weird, uncomfortable and deeply inconvenient.

Just as speaking to a class of bored and borderline hostile teenagers was a piece of cake,
but speaking in front of a group of your peers and colleagues turned you into a nervous wreck barely capable of speaking coherently,  being observed by one of your colleagues seemed to magically transform you from the competent professional that you knew you were into a bumbling idiot whose voice cracked like a teenaged boy's at every opportunity. Being observed was an inconvenience that everyone had to suffer, but that didn’t make it any easier, especially when you factored in that you were scored and rated on your performance.

Getting a good score was fantastic, but a poor one was soul-destroying and meant that more observations were on their way until you got a good score. No one enjoyed being observed, and it was increasingly seen as yet another hoop to jump through and box to tick. It did’t help that the criteria for what was considered a good lesson seemed to change on a termly basis, and it became increasingly apparent that no matter what you did, there was always going to be something that you missed or could have done differently.

It became part of the game that was education to figure out a lesson that would tick all the boxes and get you a good score so that you'd be left alone so you could actually do your job. Observed lessons were often far out of the norm of what usually happened in your room what with tables stacked high with resources made for that lesson, artificial groupings of the students, seating plans and punch-you-in-the-face-obvious targets that were designed to prove that the students had made progress. You had to show progress, that was the aim of observations, and which was the truly tricky bit.

Some observations might only be 20 minutes in length, and you had to show progress. Easier to to if you were being observed for a whole lesson, but it also meant that your nerves were ratcheted up for a whole lesson. ‘Progress’ meant that you had physical proof that the students had learned something. As a practical subject, you would have thought that the students working and using the skills that they'd learned would count as ‘progress’, but you'd be wrong. That was just them working. You had to be more obvious with your proof of ‘progress’. Imagine me rolling my eyes here in frustration, and imagine my relief that I’m no longer a part of that system.

My last observed lesson was in one of my year 12 lessons, and it’s a good example of what
it took to get a good grade. My usual lessons were the students working and me helping, directing and talking to them. The observed lesson would be somewhat different, and by ‘somewhat’, I mean completely unrecognisable.

I had individual mark sheets for the students, with their current grade, target grade and the Assessment Objectives highlighted for where they currently were in the course. I’d written a comment for each AO, as well as giving a general comment too. I’d put on there how many points they needed to get to the next grade level. I had 17 students remember, and it took about five minutes to do each sheet, so it had taken longer to prepare these sheets than it would take to deliver the whole lesson, of which only about ten minutes were going to be taken up with the mark sheets.

The students were directed into specific groups that I could prove from my data were ability-based, with higher ability students supporting the weaker ones. They had an assessment task to do (which had absolutely nothing to do with their own work, but which looked good and ticked a box), which they had to discuss (another box ticked) and then present to the class as a whole (hoop jumped). They then had to identify one thing for each AO (thankfully for the A Level course there were only four of them. The Year 11s had 21 AOs, so this task would not have worked for them) that they could improve on - self assessment, another box ticked - and then they had the rest of the lesson in which to gain points in one AO that would move their grade up.

At the end of the lesson, they’d have to be able to say whether they'd achieved their personal goal (another box) or not, and if not, put that on their Action Plan (another box) for the next lesson. A complete pantomime, but it looked impressive and, as I had intended, ticked many boxes. That it took twice as long to prepare than to  deliver and had taken a somewhat panicked consultation with another colleague to achieve wasn't even considered, it was what you had to do when being observed.
All this could have been summed up with: You need to improve your work. Go and make it better. Make it better by doing what I’ve told you to do.
Mercifully, observed lessons were relatively few in number, and once they were done and you’d received the dreaded Feedback, you could go back to doing what you normally did in your lessons, and everyone could heave a mighty sigh of relief and relax, at least until the next observation.

Having an observation during any lesson on a Terrible Tuesday was something which was acknowledged to be a cruel and unusual punishment, and one which was avoided if at all possible, so on this day it was business as usual, with occasional rounds of me looking over shoulders and various students assuring me that they knew what they were doing despite all evidence to the contrary. Suggestions were made, and more assurances given, despite me knowing that whatever I'd said would be forgotten within seconds of me saying it, but that was all part of the great game that was Education.

At this stage of my career, and at the tail-end of a very long day, it could be suggested that motions were being made for the sake of form, but as the students were just as tired as I was, we generally left each other in peace to get on with what we needed to do. After school lessons were not the optimum time to be going hell for leather and to work under high pressure. All we had to do was get through to the end of the day as quickly and as painlessly as we could, so we all kept our heads down and kept an eye on the clock out of the corner of our eyes.

Eventually the hands dragged themselves around and the students started to pack away. As ever, I made the offer for them to stay if they didn’t have a lesson, an offer that Zanis, Alex and Aaron took up the most, giving them extra time to work on their projects, with the added bonus that I was still around if they needed to ask me something. Without further ado the majority of the 12s headed off to either their next class, home or the common room to wait for the late bus, while I and any bonus students bounded enthusiastically into the last lesson of the day.



Fatigue Lv: 46 - sitting down had been a mistake
Preparation Lv: -9 - the Year 13s really should know what they're doing by now
Fear & Dread Lv: 2 - the end of the day was in sight, nothing could possibly go wrong in the last hour!
Fake Anger Lv: 4 - there weren’t enough students around to pretend being angry for
Real Anger Lv: 5 - the comforting buffer zone of the 6th Form lessons were doing their job of making me forget the more annoying younger students
People who have annoyed me: 24 - the Els always managed to do something (or not do something in the case of working) that annoyed me
Time remaining in the day: 1 hour