The atmosphere in school is somewhat different these days – an air of tension hangs around the corridors as moderators mix among the hustle and bustle of the school day and exam tables fill the sports hall and studios.
Teachers are holding extensive and exhausting revision classes and students now have timetables that keep them occupied until long past 4pm, even during the recent end-of-term break.
For me, without exam classes for my NQT year, the biggest issue I have to deal with during these challenging weeks is the limited availability of the studios and subsequently of practical space in which to teach my performing arts lessons.
This seemed a trivial problem to face in comparison to the pressure of seeing your exam class moderated, although I did for a second wonder who had it worse as I attempted to teach my year 9 drama class around the dinner tables and chairs in the canteen! It became more of a flat pack lesson as I taught the kids how to unscrew the table top to vertical so that it takes up less space – an interesting starter activity that I’m sure Ofsted would agree was “outstanding” (even if health and safety wouldn’t).
At one point, this particular lesson saw them delivering a “poignant silence” within a dark societal issue, only for them to be interrupted by the juxtaposed beat of Wake Me Up Before You Go Go blaring from the kitchen, complete with the head chef’s best karaoke harmonies.
I contradicted myself by going against my golden drama rule – “always stay in character”. I certainly left my professional teaching character behind as I burst out laughing at the situation I was teaching in.
Elsewhere, I have been receiving an obscene number of cover lessons lately – let’s be honest, nobody likes losing their precious frees to babysit someone else’s class or attempt to teach a topic you know very little about. However, I’m lucky to be in a school where the children are so firmly taught to be self-motivated, and most of the time we set the kids off and use cover lessons as a chance to catch-up on marking – though that probably shouldn’t be admitted.
As I think ahead, I begin to shudder at how I will be feeling this time next year when a number of exam classes, a fair few of them thanks to our school’s new GCSE in one year system, will be relying on me.
The immense pressure that comes with our job is unprecedented – it is no wonder I read so many newspaper reports about the overwhelming hours teachers are working.
I am a fundamental cog in the education machine that is creating a firm stepping stone for our students to move on and progress. This thought makes me very nervous – and yet I realise some NQTs may even be jumping in the exams deep end this year.
For me, I feel that however many times I read the specification, or phone AQA, or rewatch the video examples, or pick apart sample exam papers, I will never be fully prepared for that first year of entry. I hope that after that, things will suddenly make sense – however, at the moment the prospect of being at this point in just one year’s time fills me with dread.
It makes drama in the dinner hall alongside George Michael and Wham! definitely seem the preferred option!
Our NQT diarist this year is a teacher of drama and dance at a school in Essex.