As the year draws to an end everyone reaches their tipping point of exhaustion, stress and anger. An innocent remark can be met by a snippy reply, leaving the recipient wondering what they did wrong besides get out of bed that day.
Colleagues who are normally congenial towards each other would quite happily throw anyone’s body under a school bus should they stand between them and their final year end marking and reporting. It is like watching Lord of the Flies play out before your eyes.
Then lo, on the last day we all run around, bitchiness forgotten, as we wish each other well and as soon as the last student has left the grounds and the staff fridge is emptied, we race for the staff car park and head off for six weeks of renewal.
People outside of education always remark on how many holidays teachers get, but they don’t understand the real situation. For one, we are paid as if we work a 30 hour week to stretch our salaries across the down time. How would you like to work all that overtime for nothing? Teachers do. Any activity after 3pm is on our own time – that includes those parent teacher meetings parents all hate. We appear gratis.
Secondly, it is mentally and physically exhausting righting all the wrongs in our young that society appears to expect teachers to do. If a parent can’t bring out the best in their child, how do they expect teachers who see them a couple of hours a week to do so? The media, is their clamour for moral outrage against teachers, rarely stops to consider the raw material that parents send to us. And it is not just one child we are dealing with, a teacher can have a hundred and sixty or more students in their classroom in a day. Individualised attention, sure. How much time did you spend talking with ( not at, but with and that includes listening to them speak) your child today? You only have two or three; try twenty eight.
Yet, after six weeks, some of which are spend in preparing for the new school year and learning new skills, teachers turn up again, just as committed to their profession and to giving your child the best opportunity they can. We even forgive each the preholiday nastiness (well some of us, some of us have a stick list) and embark upon a whole new set of grievances towards those that annoy (and there are always those that annoy, whatever the profession).
Then the full reality of the dreaded return of the students sinks in, and we set to trying to right the wrongs of the world.
So remember that, when buying gifts for teachers. Less mugs (do you know how many “teacher” mugs a teacher can clock up over 40 years?) more alcohol (stuff that someone would want to drink, and not regifted) and chocolates (expiry date beyond 2011). It is not going to win any favours for your child, but may just ensure that the teacher makes the effort again next year.