In my last few days of freedom before returning for a new school year, I have decided to reflect on some of the important days and events of the academic year and write about how these are different as a teacher, compared to when I was a student.
As a student: Unsurprisingly, I was a little bit of a nerd at school and never really messed around. This meant that for me, parents evening was the highlight of the school year. Ok highlight is a little extreme, but what’s not to love about going around and listening to all of your teachers say nice things about you to your parents? As a student, parents evenings caused minimal stress and was over within an hour.
As a teacher: Parents evening as a teacher consists of three hours sat at a table, armed with class data, exercise books and an appointment list. On the parents evenings where you have a full list of parents to see, this is three hours spent having mostly similar conversations with the parents, either “Yes they are doing very well, they just need to keep this up.” Or a nicer way of phrasing “He/she needs to learn to shut up in my lessons and actually start doing some work.” Before my first ever parents evening, I did worry that the parents would question my ability to teach their darling child based on how young I look, but luckily that hasn’t been a problem. So far, I also have not had to deal with any really difficult parents, the worst just being a Mum who demanded “So if you say my son is generally well behaved and ok in your lessons, WHY have you put down that he is under target on his report?” as she held out the report for me to see, pointing at the grade in question. Luckily it was nothing a bit of data couldn’t explain.
As a student: Even when in school as a student, I was aware of the importance of Ofsted inspections and that this is a word that seemed to cause great stress to teachers. On the days of inspection, I remember our lessons, an English lesson with one teacher in particular, suddenly seemed very different. All of a sudden we had a powerpoint and lesson objectives, something we never normally had. Although our school always did well in these inspections, it felt very forced and false and like the whole school was putting on a show.
As a teacher: Last year, our school had both a short one day inspection and a full two day inspection. Being on the other side of this was very strange, as suddenly I became part of the whole forced and false act. The day we found out that Ofsted would be coming in, our whole department had to spend time putting a ‘book expectations’ sticker on the front of all exercise books, something which we should have had all year but most of us hadn’t got round to. A ‘scientist of the week’ board appeared on display and of course all books had to be marked up to date and if they were not, it was suggested to us that we make sure they are locked out of sight during the inspection. As I said, when I was a student, we were all very much aware of the ‘Ofsted effect’ on teachers, and this was no different during these recent inspections. Our head teacher told us in briefing the following day that he was sad to hear a student say to him “Why is everyone being so kind today?”, as if kindness is not the norm in our school.
As a student: Best time of the school year. 4 weeks of no school, lots of lie ins, TV and reading.
As a teacher: Best time of the school year. 6 weeks of no school, lots of lie ins, Netflix, reading, alcohol and food. The only downside is unfortunately my summer holiday has also involved several recurring nightmares about returning to school and having to teach a class when I have not planned anything and have no clue what I am doing. But these school nightmares aside, summer holidays are definitely still as good as a teacher as they were when I was in school.