Always Moving

For busy teachers having your own classroom is much better than not having your own classroom. It is much easier to stay organised and to begin and end lessons crisply when you are in charge of your own space.

I have not had my own classroom for many years and nor do I expect one.

As SLT with a comparatively light teaching timetable it is quite right I fit in around those with heavier loads than mine. I move between lots of different rooms and do my best with clear routines and forward planning to make things work smoothly.

It’s fine. I am not complaining.

Moving between rooms gives me privileges. One of these is insight into the day-to-day working of those teachers who have much busier timetables than I do. Using lots of classrooms means I get to see how lots of teachers work.

Highlighted timetables stuck next to their computer next to a handwritten note that says, “Be Seen Looking!” Teacher planning folders neatly laid out in chronological order from first lesson to last. A planner left open showing when homework has been set and when it is due. A carefully crafted system of stationary storage.

It is inspiring and humbling – a reminder beneath all the top-down strategies and policies and new visions there are hundreds of professionals whose ways of doing things are the only reason anything gets done at all. It is a reminder every time we make a change at school level – whether it’s a reordering of the school day or more time for reading – other have people to make changes too. When we ask our teachers to focus on something new, we are also asking them to adapt and shift what they do – to write new reminder post-its and to effortfully think about things they weren’t thinking about before.

Their classrooms show just how busy they are and how little slack there always is. They impress upon us how important it is we do not waste the time of those working in them – that when we do ask for change we must be as sure as we can be this will be for the best.

My migrations between other people’s classrooms in different schools reminds me to see our teachers as complete and complex human beings; sometimes tough and confident sometimes fragile and vulnerable. Sometimes walking through a private personal hell and sometimes joyfully living the best years of their lives.

The evidence is everywhere.

The dogeared copy of a poem stuck to the wall closest to the teacher’s desk. The wall of cards from colleagues and grateful pupils. A mug printed with the picture of a proud father and newborn baby. The incomprehensible in-joke notes from one work friend to another. The flowers that appear in a vase for reasons I will never know.

Once – years ago – I accidentally read what a card blue-tacked to a wall of a fortysomething year-old maths teacher said after it flapped open when I brushed against it. “Dear James. Good luck in your new job. You’ll be great. We are praying they are kinder and fairer people. All our love, mum and dad.”

Although it is not my business I still wonder what humdrum low grade horror lay behind that short message.

Those we work with are multi-dimensional, hardworking and of value beyond what they do for us.

We must be careful with their time and honour them as people. While what they do is important, they are always more than what they do.        

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