As I tried to ignore the many updates of the early half-term freedom given to my teaching friends working up north, I had one final week to push through until I was able to revel in the sweetness of a week off.
It seemed most teachers within the school had elaborate plans for the half-term (although the odd few simply answered “marking” – a response I have little time for).
People’s plans invariably started with a prompt 3pm exit on the Friday – we should have known that was just a dream!
The final week was tough in many ways. The children became restless as they saw a week off on the horizon and so there was a definite increase in behaviour problems.
The teachers became restless as they too saw a week off on the horizon, so there seemed to be a few behaviour problems with us as well! This actually saw one staff member signed off for stress and eventually relocated to another department with a “calmer nature”.
This meant our final week was filled with extra rehearsals that we’d previously had no involvement in, last-minute show panic and a large number of cover lessons to eat up our frees – exactly what we had all hoped would not happen as our to-do lists grew ever-longer.
Data entry for every year group also took far longer than anticipated as we completed the supporting magical Excel spreadsheets for each year group in order to calculate progress and distance from target grade within each designated unit/module.
I think I finally knew I’d become a fully fledged teacher when I was secretly amazed by what this spreadsheet could do!
We were also hit by some senior leadership team book scrutiny – they collected their samples and gave feedback, although not much could be said, marking at our school is exceptional and simple.
Our marking policy states that it should be three weeks between each book marking and all must be dated as evidence. Marking only includes a simple positive point, target and literacy focus for each piece of work. Three bullets and your marking is complete. Seems simple enough.
However, as I struggled to mark 50 drama coursework reviews I felt a pang of sympathy for English teachers with the volume of marking that they must go through. No wonder they are spending their half-terms catching up.
I was expecting children to cheer as they ran out of the school gate, and yet surprisingly many seemed reluctant to go. “I miss school in the half-term, it’s good here,” a usually naughty student told me as he walked alongside me to the staffroom, where I had an emergency meeting.
It stopped me in my tracks and reminded me why I entered this profession – among all the stress and drama, we must be doing something right.
So my 3pm Friday fantasy definitely vanished, but as I traipsed out of the school building at 6pm feeling defeated, with bags under my eyes larger than the bags of reluctant marking I was taking home, I was very thankful to be given a week away to rejuvenate and regain my positivity to continue contributing to an outstanding school that our students, and I, are proud to be a part of.
Our NQT diarist this year is a teacher of drama and dance at a school in Essex.