Thursday, 25 November 2010


Three things to know about me before reading this. I am 24, I have a lovely girlfriend with whom i am blissfully happy and i teach PE every now and then as well as science.

So there I am the other morning, ready for the head of PE to tell me what I'm doing with which year ten (14/15 yr olds) group. Shorts, whistle, lets go! Alas i was told the weather was too bad (honestly, kids today!) and we were inside. I was then told i would take the fitness group in the small gym room. I immediately expected it to be mostly boys who play for local sports teams, and figured I would teach them how to use weights properly.

Then possibly the worst possible thing happened. 15 girls all in leggins and crop tops walked in. I say walked..i mean wiggled...with this i suddenly saw my once bright shiney new career vanish before my eyes. Images of these highly inappropriately dressed kids flirting with me, brushing past me then running to the nearest female staff member and making accusations of how i touched them. Luckily this didn't happen.

Instead one girl appeared with a boom box (old skool!!) and some really really crap music. This at least meant i could fade into the background a bit. some jumped on tread milss, other bikes, some rowing machines. All is well. I take a chance look up from my feet in this incredibly cramped room full of what can only be described as teenage girls competing for a "who looks most like a teen prostitute" award. To my horror the room is lined guessed it...mirrors. Not only can I not avert my gaze but i have teenage girl flashing from all angles.

It must have been my face, but one girl did ask me if i was okay. i Told her to get on with her bike and went back to mstaring at my feet.

I hope you aren't thinking my gaze aversion was due to some embarrssed teenage boy syndrome hitting me in my twenties, it was genuine self preservation. For a young male teacher the nightmare is accusations of any sexual kind or even allowing the girls that whistle at you during lunch duty to think you are even mildly aware they exist.

Now in theory it should have been okay, butr then they start dancing, asking me to fix their foot straps on the machines and taking pictures of themselves and trying to show me. Needless to say i distracted them by saying if they spoke to me they had to do it lifting weights. Worked perfectly.

Once again this could have ended in tears and my home being besieged by parents thinking I'm a paedo. Pitch forks, torches, the whole shebang. All it would have taken was me to help one of them with a foot strap while they were rowing and them brushing against me, or me being seen to be looking at them dancing. One split second could have killed my career dead.

Being caught looking isn't sackable...especially if it's to shout at them for messing around on gym equipment. But if they think you are looking at them, they gradually push the boundaries of appropriate behaviout until before you know it they are full on flirting and the whole year group tortures you mentally for it. Rumors spread, you have to leave the school. Not for me

I'll take staring at my shoes then telling the head of PE that if he puts me in a situation like that again I'll either run aeway or insert some sports equipment into him. sideways. twice. Luckily he is a lovely bloke and understood and appologised.

Some staff not so understanding, teachers beware, kids assume you are a pervert.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

SIr...are you gay?

I have taught year 10 3 times so far this week. The first time was an exam, so all I had to do was invigilate. nice and dull. Second time i thought since they had recently had an exam, revision and another exam i would give them an easy lesson, watching a House episode about TB. Three confiscated iPods later the class is settled. Then a girl near the front kept staring at me. I ignored it (tactically ignoring behaviour) figuring she would get bored and go back to watching the video. She didn't. So i asked her "is everything alright?" to which she replied "yeah, bu' sir...are you gay?"

Now the way i see it i could have handled this really really wrong...i could have:
1)been shocked.
2)over reacted and thrown her out the class.
3)been sarcastic and answered "yeah, i love male rectum, it's amazing".

These would have probably invoked three possible responses:
1) She takes the shock as affirmation of my sexuality and i spend the next 3 months shoving teenage boys into detention for calling me queer or other homophobic remarks (strict homophobic crackdown at the moment, so tactically ignoring so they get bored doesn't tie in with procedure....)
2)She has asked me an innocent question in today's tolerant society, to throw her out in the middle of a school campaign against homophobia for asking me quite innocently and politely about my sexuality would be extremely unfair and damage my relationship with not only the student but the class. This would in effect make my life hell.
3)sarcasm would have provoked a bad example for them to follow and only caused more questions.

i pretty much went through the above thought process in about 3 seconds. Then, now bleeding from the ears from over thinking an innocent enough question, i realised the best answer was a simple, polite, "no".

This worked, genius!!!!! but then my mouth kept moving, and out popped the word...."why?"

( i know, what a tool)

Give her her due she answered politely and said "well your bum wiggles when you walk and you wear these fitted shirts". At this point i chuckled and apologised for my bum and assured her i wasn't gay. It all worked out okay but now whenever i walk down the corridor at school I'm very aware of my bum, considering baggy trousers....

quote of the day: me: no, why?.....student: are you sure?!

thanks year 10...amazing!

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

7 Things i wish i had asked myself first....

Back from work and feeling reflective. I've realised that there are around 7 things i wish i has asked myself before i started my descent into the madness that is teaching teenagers.

1) Am i able to tolerate ignorance?

Now you would obviously think I'm talking about the kids, the moments when they actually don't know what the pope represents or are adamant that you are wrong about scientific facts such as the percentage of DNA humans share with a plant. As annoying as this is it isn't their fault, they genuinely just haven't been told the information before. However senior management within a school are amazing at ignoring facts. For example if you have a class of thirty fourteen year olds who are all predicted Es and Fs by the best data from past exams possible, last thing on a Friday and then send 6 of those students out in that one lesson...well let's just say that I got called into my line managers office and told i need to be more pro active to ease the burden on the detention supervisors while the kids who were telling me to "f*ck off" get just a half hour after school (for which i have to be present) and that's it. In the mean time I'm monitored under the suspicion that i cannot possibly be teaching them right. As it goes, i can just walk away and re think, but alot of people i know would have a stand up row while still reeling from the bad lesson.

2) Do I Like Kids?

Now this seems like an obvious one....but stay with me. I have always got on well with kids, cousins, sisters, their friends and so on. But this is OUTSIDE of school. INSIDE school it's very different. For example i know a girl who is 12 and horse rides at a stables i go to. She is independent, gets there and back on her own steam, grooms, mucks out, cleans her saddle and bridle and rides, all without being told to. In school she still has to ask me if she should start a new page or draw the diagram squished in the bottom corner of the page! It's amazing how some kids defy authority, but coming fresh from junior school they need to be told what to write, when and occasionally how! I sound grumpy but if every lesson you are greeted by "sir..there isn't enough room on the page, should i start a new one" it soon gets to the point where you vow you will never have children, because if this is them at 12 years, 2 years old must suck! So yes i enjoy being around young people, but young people who act like they had a thanks!

3) Can i keep myself busy for 6 weeks at a time?

You're kidding right? 6 weeks holiday?!?!! WOOOHOOOO!!! But then it happens. You end the school year, without a time table of your new classes, fully aware that all your friends and family are at work and hate you a little bit, but you can't prepare for the new school year either so that's going to be chaotic at best and you are stuck on your own. Now 2 weeks i could handle. after week 4 i was having conversations with my cat and had become bored of computer games, TV and book reading. Bad times! The worst bit is not realising you're talking to the cat until you pause for response, look down and see the puzzled furry face wondering why you aren't at work.

4) Am i willing to keep working once all the kids have left?

Again this seems like a complete no brainer. But seriously, it's hard! There is a reason why school finishes at 3 and not 5. It is exhausting. The kids leave, you are left alone in a big room...alone...suddenly aware you could be at home doing the work rather than a cold badly decorated uncomfy classroom.. SO you go home. Thing is you are now at home with 3000 things more enjoyable to do than marking books. Which, by the way, when they are all bad replicas of exactly what you yourself taught, is depressing and boring to the point of wanting an enema Richard Gere style just to liven things up a little! SO despite being used to working 9-5, 8:30 till 4:30 rarely happens!

5) Do i like people?

People yes. Parents no. This is something i didn't realise until a year in to the teaching, so after i had qualified. People are great, some times amazing, on occasion (any one who watches Jeremy Kyle will understand) not worth a second look. But generally every person on the planet can be reasoned with to some extent. However if you take a completely reasonable person, give them a child of their own, then send that child to school to sit exams which determine their guessed it...reason goes out the window! The fact is every single parent who gives a dam wants their child to have the best education possible and be in the top set. There are 180 children per year group. 2 top sets. So 120 parents (240 people ish) are disappointed. Now trying to reason with said 240 (ish) people is like trying to politely ask a rabid ravenous grizzly bear to not bite you after you poked it with a big stick. This is fine, i genuinely understand! but when it is parent number 45 saying the same thing, being very angry and slightly offensive you start to realise you are underpaid. Then you realise you have been at work since 08:30 and it is now 20:30 and you realise you really may have made a mistake!

6) Can I follow school rules?

Again how hard can it be! Alas it is hard! You get used to being able to have a crisp, or a cake or a drink when ever you need. If you have back to back lessons and spend two hours in the classroom, a room which as a science "lab" the students are not allowed to eat or drink in, you get very fed up. I tried having a drink, justifying to the students why i needed one. The next lesson two students had food out and 3 had fizzy drinks. "put them away please"..."well YOU can drink so why cant we?" It's at this point you have an aneurysm and welcome the darkness and the peace and quiet.

7) How smart are the other teachers?

Now this is scary..if you have children look away now...seriously....

I thought i might not be sharp enough on my high school science. But it turns out most teachers know squat about real science. They all have an area they are good at (Bio, Chem, Physics) and that's it. The rest they read up as they go. Some teachers teaching A level have degrees over 10 years old, never worked in industry so have no actual experience with the concepts they teach, and don't subscribe to any form of material to keep their knowledge up to date. It is shocking. I fins it frustrating that as a new teacher i don't get any A level or final GCSE year students. Even though I am probably the most qualified member of staff there if you discount time on the job. Worrying. So as it turns out this last one is a culmination of all the rest!!! it for me? unfortunately only a sadistic sociopath would be okay with all 7 questions here. And you can't apply, because you are probably locked up!

Monday, 22 November 2010

Those who can't...

So a little bit about me. I'm 23 with a solid molecular biology degree, I used to work for a big science company but the commute killed me, so I thought I'd try my hand at teaching. Money seemed good with decent career prospects and the idea of "giving something back" has always appealed. 9 months of on the job training and a few essays later and I get my first job.

This blog has been started a term into my first teaching post. At first everything was rosey, classes liked me because I'm young and a new face, but that soon faded after October half term. In this blog I hope to give a true insure into life in a secondary school in the south east of England which will entertain anyone who cares to read and maybe help those starting teaching!

This week has already been eventfull. A year 8 class with a simple practical lesson. Asked to put 3 drops if benedicts into their Boiling tubes. All 14 students proceeded to put the drops into a beaker of boiling water. Now some may say they made an honest mistake. However since I brandished a boiling tube in the air as I gave my instruction.... Well you get the idea!

Being the true proffessional I stoicly went back over the instruction, smiled, and swallowed the desire to break down into a gibbering heap of a man giving up hope. And therein lies the key to teaching...if you can't act don't do it, because you will always look back and laugh but at the time it feels like you're trying to perform brain surgery with a crow bar.

But on the same day a year nine set grasped the concept of how fragile the atmosphere is in ten minutes and decimated an hours work in ten minutes. This makes the day worth while, well some of the time!

So the day ends at three and friends and family think it's the biggest doss going. But since I'm sitting here at 8 just putting down the dreaded red pen after a Sunday spent preparing lessons the kids don't listen to and there fore don't understand I beg to differ!!

Quote of the day: fibre is important because it helps us ejaculate more often...

Teaching.... Those who don't realise what they are letting themselves in for end up doing it!!