At the chalkface: Work 'til you drop

Written by: Ian Whitwham | Published:
Ian Whitwham is a teacher of English, now retired, who spent many years working in the state school system of inner city London

The class drifted past my still form. Daisy asked about the homework, but rigor mortis had set in.

I died last week – in the classroom.

It did nothing for the teaching.

The NASUWT is much exercised by this kind of thing. Teachers who run the risk of “dying in their classrooms”.

Neil Jeffrey, a secondary school teacher, showed the scars left by a triple heart bypass at their annual conference.

The union promptly passed a motion lamenting “the fostering of a culture of work until you drop”. Well, too late for me.

The demon stress precipitated my demise – things like genteel poverty, perpetual exhaustion, permanent anxiety, savage melancholy or the rage consequent on contemplating famished children queuing for gruel or obese or skeletal children with criminally toxic diets, or was it pondering on deep cuts or hearing that a school in West Yorkshire has introduced a once-a-week “dark day”, when all the lights are turned off.

Or maybe it was the malign chorus of condescension and unsolicited insult of “resource management consultants” or trying to meet a chimera of targets or working towards Level 2 omega, while being observed by some pipsqueak, quisling killjoy in a sharp suit, or was it just the sheer yawning horror and absurdity of it all?

Or these brute and implacable figures: the 41 per cent educational cuts in real terms since 2010, the 45 per cent of teachers who provide “basic necessities”, food, toiletries and clothing to their students, the 20 per cent who pay for “vital resources” for students such as paper, pens, books, or the one per cent who own 50 per cent of the nation’s wealth...

Read that list again. Take your pick.

There just comes a tipping point.

Why is there not a revolution?

This is Education Extinction!

Anyway, there I was in mid-flight failing a few targets, while the inmates dozed. Thump! Wallop! Things went dark and I keeled over. Most of the class didn’t notice. Most were terrifically dormant.

Maybe I’d bored myself – or them – literally senseless.

Behaviour may have been marginally better.

We tottered to the end of the lesson.

Pip! Pip!

Ask not for whom the pips pip!

“Time to go, sir.”

Not half. After 40 years at this lark.

The class drifted past my still form. Daisy asked about the homework, but rigor mortis had set in.

Still, some good may come out of this.

I’m now a member of Posthumous Teachers Inc. and can be rented out to remedy the recruitment crisis or used as a visual aid for say, “The Ancient Mariner” or do a turn as King Lear.

I’ve been safely embalmed and mummified and can thus afford pupils a chance to brush up on the universal playground insult of “your mum!”

Just prop me up conspicuously in your classroom and I will effectively deliver most of the national curriculum.
I’m dead good.

  • Ian Whitwham is a teacher of English, now retired, who spent many years working in the state school system of inner city London. He has written for SecEd since 2003. Read his most recent articles at http://bit.ly/2UIMd1O


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