Tuesday, 6 September 2016

"It's a pupil free day,"

our neighbour told the Senior Cat. 
He was wondering why two apparently healthy young girls were spending a school day with their grandparents.
Oh? There were no such things as "pupil free" days when he was teaching or running a school. I didn't have such things either.
It was interesting that came up yesterday because there is more news about pupil free days in the paper this morning. Teachers want more of them to do things like write student reports.
When I was teaching we had staff meetings after school, after the children had gone home. I wrote student reports at night. I also prepared lessons and the materials for lessons then. During the school holidays I went to conferences, "institute" meetings and more. (The "teachers' institute" was what is now the union but, back then, it was run rather differently and was more for the purpose of educating teachers about  all manner of things.)
I won't say all teachers did it but, unless I absolutely had to be somewhere else, I made myself available for any parent after school. Very few of them took advantage of it but they knew I would be there if they needed to know something. It was particularly important in a situation where the children I was teaching were not able to tell their parents what was going on. 
My lunch hours were often spent in the school office dealing with administrative matters because the head of the school I worked in was rarely there. Other teachers would do my "yard duty" so that I could deal with those things that  had to be dealt with - and more.
I know things have changed in schools. I know there are, in some ways, greater demands and greater expectations of teachers. I also know that attitudes towards teachers have changed. Parents addressed me by my surname. I addressed them by theirs. Now it is given names - and, in some schools, the senior students call their teachers by their given names. 
Teaching is done differently. I used to have a blackboard and chalk. In the one school where I taught a wonderful group of regular classroom children for a couple of terms I had a wonderful student who came in early each morning and "did the blackboard" for me. She had wonderful almost copperplate script. It meant I had to be there very early each day - but it was worth it. Now I could type it all up and fling it up on a screen - and what I would be putting there would be quite different too. 
These "pupil free" days they now have are apparently for all the sorts of things I did outside school hours. I didn't see my job as being from 8:45am to 3:45pm. It started at around 8:30 and went until I had finished what needed to be done. School "holidays" were for professional development and preparing for the following term. The long summer break meant three or four weeks off with no more than reading whatever I needed to catch up on.
I know there were teachers who did a good deal less than that. The Senior Cat, running big schools, would take three weeks away in summer and then return to work.
I'd like to know how teachers use their term breaks now. Have things changed so much that all they want to do is sleep? Do they really need those pupil free days to get things done? 
I don't miss school - but I sometimes miss the children.

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