I'm Not Disappointed, I'm Just Angry Chapter 4
Before I go on to the wonders of my second placement, I’d like to take a moment to discuss one of the strangest things about the profession. Professionalism. We demand this of children on a daily basis – get yourselves ready for school, uniform, pens, pencils, rulers, 12 different homeworks, coursework, research etc. etc. ad infinitum. However, I’ve seen teachers run out of classrooms sobbing after receiving a text from their other half they didn't quite like. I’ve seen staff sat texting in lessons whilst classes of 30 kids run riot and someone else has to step in. I’ve also had to report a colleague who, whilst admonishing a child for talking over her said, ‘Your whole family are drug dealers and that’s what you’ll probably end up as.’ He may well have done. The odds are forever in his favour. But pre-destination is not in our job description. Conversely, I have taught children who have the most horrific home lives who turn up day after day and punch their time in without complaint. Y7 LH has lost her grandfather and her mother has had a still birth over the weekend. Not a whimper. Y9 RL has tried to jump out of a window on her 16th birthday as she knows this is when grandad comes to visit all of his grandkids at 2am in the morning for a special present. Not a peep. Y10 LQ has to get three buses to school because her mum has been sectioned and she now lives with a ‘friend’. Not. One. Word.
However, in our defence we are human and there is no better place to see this than in a school staff room. These can be very strange rooms. They are simultaneously a place to work, chat, relax, bitch, get informed about what’s going on via the many knackered poster boards and a place to gather once or twice a week for a ‘briefing’ or normally, a whole staff bollocking because one or two people have done something wrong so we all have to listen to it. Many heads try to minimise this space to avoid groups of like-minded rebels developing here. In one school I worked at there actually was no staff room. Each department was assigned a ‘work-space’ and every member gifted a small part of a desk and a computer which negated the facility of running water so no bugger could get a cup of tea or coffee in a typical ten hour day. The only running water was at the toilets at the front of the building but since one of the new rules was that we were not allowed to carry hot fluids from room to room for health and safety reasons this led to around 80-100 staff trying to cram into the toilets, kettles brandished, until the majority of us simply gave up and went parched and headachey for the day. Here are some small excerpts from that Aladdin’s cave.
Morning briefing. Head informs all staff that no videos are allowed towards the end of term. One senior member of staff sighs and mutters loudly ‘Oh, this really is the hopeless fag-end of the year.’
Morning briefing again. LSA is quietly crying. As I have a decent relationship with LSA (she drew me a picture once and proudly announced it was the colour of her period blood) I ask is she ok. She mouths ‘I’m up the stick’ and whirls a finger in a semi-circle to accentuate that fact. I panic. This is the time to adult. In silence, as briefing is still droning on obliviously, I scribble a note saying, ‘You will be a great mum.’ LSA cries a bit more. LSA books an abortion.
Someone has produced a ‘bullshit bingo’ card containing phrases such as ‘Ofsted’ ‘collaboration’ ‘marking policy’ and ‘staff wellbeing’. For those of you blissfully unaware of this game, it involves waiting until some tired old buzzwords from your line of work are traipsed out in a meeting like knackered grannies and aired for a bit to the universal rolling of eyes. If all of the management speak buzzwords on your card are mentioned, you have to stand up and shout ‘Bullshit!’ We snigger at the words for a long time until Mad Jim (imagine Alan Titchmarsh if he’d lived in a shed making ketamine) wants in on the act. He grabs the card from me so I hastily explain. Mad Jim loves the idea. Within 15 minutes of the Head talking she’s on the verge of a full house. Nobody thinks Mad Jim will go through with it. Head mentions wellbeing. Mad Jim does it and looks to me for approval whilst I find something really, really interesting on the staff noticeboard.
10 years down the line.
Enormous fight breaks out in front of staff room. 13 members of staff are involved including one who is injured by a flying kick from a student whilst protecting another. Many members of staff and support staff bravely step in and physically restrain students and get them to safety/away from other students by manhandling them into the staff room. Many staff sat in the staff room nod and go back to participating in Friday’s Cheese club festivities.
It was in a school staff room in my second placement that I got a real flavour for how different this experience was going to be for me. An omnishambles (for such is the correct collective noun) of teachers from different departments were sat in the centre of the staffroom passing around a piece of paper. This aroused my interest not only because it broke the usual conventions of normal cliques but there was obviously some consternation at the content of the letter. I approached my mentor N (you will hear more about this person / banshee later) under the premise of some pedagogical question and soon found the note in my sweaty hand. The professionals in question were trying to work out whose handwriting this opus was written in. It had been confiscated during a lesson. ‘Definitely a girl, look at the Os’ one offered. I had to concur. This note was written with the most spectacular neatness with sweet little hearts instead of dots over the ‘i’s. It must have taken ages to write which triggered the question of how bloody long was the teacher not looking? The content of this first folio masterpiece? A Y8 girl’s guide to anal sex. ‘It’s great you cum well loads.’ ‘A bit of sweetcorn came out.’ I was staggered. I was unsure as to it's validity. Sweetcorn? Really? Now I was no prude. We had loads of intense and meaningful conversations in our all boys Catholic school about pertinent things like ‘How does the spunk get out of the condom?’ ‘How many times is too many times for pulling your wire and will we go to hell?’ and the immortal MG asking ‘What’s a Cliytaurus?’ like it were some extinct dinosaur or new zodiac symbol. However, despite the very fact that it was a Catholic school, the subject of anal sex had never come across me (snigger) and if it had it was all ok because ‘it was our little secret’ and we got a Marathon after anyway. I was stunned at this note. It had confirmed two things to me that had only been whispered to me in silent corridors before moving over here – England is a cesspool of unprofessional protestant depravity and English girls are easy.
 An LSA is a Learning Support Assistant. Great job title. Great people. Unfortunately they always end up running for photocopying, making cups of tea or taking out the naughty children. On second thought, not all great people. Some great people. Some lazy fuckers.
 Both of these are only partially true in my experience.