This is another one for my regular column at http://www.teachsecondary.com. It’s a beautiful, glossy publication that features a load of good stuff to do with school which is then sullied by my nonsense at the back. Click the link to subscribe.
It’s all about the kids isn’t it? Those bright-eyed vessels of potential – it’s such an honour to be around them every working day. Such wonderful lights in this dull world with their hopes and dreams and questions and demands and incessant chatter and hormones and phones and drama. Every…single…working…day.
It might seem odd given my chosen profession that, at certain points, I want nothing more than a break from the wee little tie-wearing cyclones. But I do. And I don’t just mean evenings, weekends or holidays (blessed be the holidays, amen). I mean during the day when I’m at work.
Gasp away comrades.
Is this the long-searched-for proof that actually, deep down, I hate children? Well, only a little bit. And only sometimes. As much as I understand that they are the reason for the job and should be the main focus they are also highly adept at doing my nut on a fairly frequent basis. (They also make me feel a whole range of other emotions like joy and surprise and love but don’t get me wrong, nut-doing is way up there). So no, I don’t want to spend every single second I have after I step through the school gates in their company. This attitude has often been considered strange by many of my colleagues, and something of a worry to a number of managers that I’ve had (who, I’m pretty certain, get the ‘doing my nut’ feeling themselves when I come barging into their office).
For instance, at a former school, staff were encouraged to eat lunch with the students to promote a feeling of community and build relationships and some other stuff that meant I’d have to be in front of kids for an extra hour out of my day, instead of hoovering up my lunchtime cream of chicken soup like some faulty Dyson in a dark secluded spot somewhere as was my preference. I refused on the grounds that there would not be much community feeling or relationship building when I made the kids I sat with eat in silence and avoid all eye contact with me because that would be the only way that I’d do it (unless they could sort out one of those partitions you get if you’re a witness who can’t be identified in court). Many in the briefing where the scheme was suggested thought that this was a rather curmudgeonly attitude to take and they were 100% absolutely correct. But better a little surliness now than the full-blown, eye-popping rage that would have been witnessed if I didn’t have a very small piece of time to myself or exclusively with other adults at some point in the day.
For although we work with kids and for kids, it doesn’t mean I want kids all up in my grill 24/7. There’s an energy that crackles off people of a certain age – it’s one of the things that makes working in a school unique, but it can also be exhausting. I watch them sometimes and to me it’s like their lives are amplified, the good and the bad of it is cranked up to the nth degree. I find this simultaneously appealing but also sapping – the immediacy of all, the ever present action, a depth of feeling over minor details. It’s affirming, but it’s also very tiring. You need a break from it to recharge and not be swept away by the glorious madness.
Whether it be a silent minute alone, staring out of the window as you wait for Y10s to come in or a laugh at break time with your colleagues or even a lunchtime of solitude sat noisily slurping soup, you’re allowed to have a little something away from them. A little time off the shop floor to gather your wits before once again rushing headlong into hopes and dreams and questions and demands etc.
And, to be fair, the poor kids might need a break from us too.
Thanks for reading.