Monday, 7 April 2014

Ms R's Rad Revision Guide!

With revision season in full swing I thought I would share the revision guide I put together for my Foundation students last year.

It’s aimed at the AQA English Language paper and comprises very basic guides to each of the questions on the paper – both reading and writing.

In terms of achievement much above a C I would say it’s quite formulaic; I’m a great one for acronyms to prompt responses and there are plenty in here. Lots of them I’ve come up with on my own although many are used widely within my department.

Anyway, I hope it’s helpful!

Happy revising...


Thursday, 6 March 2014

In response to Vince Cable...

'Teachers are ignorant of real world, warns Cable' (The Times) 

 'Vince Cable: 'Teachers know absolutely nothing about the world of work'  (The Indie)

I'm off work at the moment, hamstrung by a tummy bug and the fact that my classroom is two floors away from the nearest bathroom (that could be extremely embarrassing. Not to mention the danger of wiping out the entire English department - my husband has already gone down with something similar.) which has left me with ample time to click refresh on the news pages. For the sake of my own blood pressure I've been trying to avoid education stories in the meedja, however the above two articles did their click-baity job.

Gosh, well, this is a little embarrassing isn't it?

Notwithstanding the gaping ignorance shown by stating that 'most' teachers are graduates (I don't think the anti-QTS agenda has penetrated quite that far yet - as far as I know a degree is a basic requirement), Cable manages to further make ridicule of himself through stating that teachers 'know nothing' about the world of work within a week of the Teacher's Workload Survey being published, in which it was announced that the average primary school teacher works 60 hours a week; for secondary teachers it’s over 50. Quite the workload, for those who 'know nothing' of work. 

It is a shame that Cable has so crassly misrepresented a very valid view – Careers advice in schools is often woeful. This is due to lack of funding and adequate support from LEAs, and the scrapping of Connexions. (This is an old article, but seems pertinent). Furthermore, the erosion of ‘Work Experience’ placements (traditionally a few weeks in the final years of school) has left students of 16 less able to make informed choices about what they want to do, should further academic study not be something they wish to pursue. It's interesting that Careers advice in schools is meant to be subject to a review 'by 3/14'.  

Perhaps, also, we should say very slowly and clearly to Cable - Teachers. Are. Not. Careers. Advisers....

For what it’s worth, I happen to agree that, in many cases (and my own experience) some of the best teachers are the ones who did not go straight into teaching immediately on graduation. However, it is insulting, unfair and untrue to say that teachers have no ‘experience’ of the world of work; as though it is nothing at all to achieve A levels, a degree, a teaching qualification and a year’s induction before becoming a main scale teacher. It also rather undermines the  argument prevalent amongst the goverment during Tristram Hunt’s debate on QTS that great teachers are ‘born to teach’.

Is Vince Cable suggesting that these people in particular should abandon this dream in order to do something they don’t really want to do for a few years instead? Or was it, instead, simply a misguided and transparent attempt to garner support from the manufacturing industry executives he was speaking to?

Friday, 17 January 2014

'Take-a-risk Thursday'.

Yesterday at school was ‘Take A Risk Thursday’ – a day chosen as one in which in every lesson we, as teachers, would try something we wouldn’t ordinarily do. I like to think that in my own lesson, and certainly in my department, this is something we do try and do with each ‘re-working’ of a scheme of work. Certainly some of my colleagues’ ideas have revolutionised my teaching, and we make a point of peer-observing for ideas every half term. We’re lucky, I think, in that we are actively given time to be covered, and in department meetings, to do this.

Whilst there was endless fun in the staffroom on what constituted a ‘risk’  - lessons from home over Skype, food tech practicals with no oven gloves and re-enacting the charge of the Light Brigade were all mooted – it did get me thinking about what I actually do in planning day-to-day lessons. As an individual, as part of a department, and as a school our results are more than good. But I am also increasingly aware that with 4 GCSE groups and a full-to-capacity timetable, my lessons are tending to follow a similar route; a ‘think-start’ task, success criteria, modelling and then self or peer-assessment. Without a doubt, I am making use of recently-discovered ideas like silent debates and ‘Investigate’ lessons. But I know what my go-to lesson plan is. Loath though I am to mention the ‘O’ word, the recent announcement that inspectors won’t be looking for a certain ‘type’ of lesson has inspired thought that we should be mixing things up and ought to be taking risks.

I want to make it clear that for me, this isn’t about what OFSTED want, or what is going to work best in forcing kids to regurgitate chunks of learning in an exam format (indeed, that’s a whole different post itching to be written!). In fact, the purpose of this post is to consider what might ‘spark’ kids’ learning. The question in my mind was ‘Why not?’ If it doesn’t work, I’ve tried something different. If it does, then that’s a seam to be mined which can only benefit the kids – because whilst school is ostensibly about exams and qualifications, in reality it’s so much more than that. It’s about developing skills as people: working collaboratively; problem solving; I could even go so far as to quote Gove (!) and say that it’s about developing the ‘thirst for knowledge’ (though I’d substitute ‘knowledge’ for ‘learning’).

Here is my outline for 'Take a risk Thursday':

P1&2 - Year 10= Controlled Assessment. Short of mixing up the papers and getting them to complete each others’ (JOKE!) there’s not much I can do about taking a risk in these kinds of lessons.
On Friday we'll be starting Speaking and Listening. I will be asking students to choose their favourite songs on YouTube. We will play the songs and then students will use 'talk phrases' to explain to each other why they are their favourite songs. This is something I would probably not do for a whole lesson ordinarily but I am providing 'question cards' to maintain focus for those who are 'listeners' at different stages of the lesson. Planning to make a fool of myself by rhapsodising about something by the Spice Girls as my favourite song.... Don’t worry though, I’ll pass it off as ‘retro’. Maybe.
Talk phrases
P3: Year 8 – *NB This lesson will now take place next Thursday as students were in a Learning Assembly – I’ll keep you posted.*
This was intended to be the first time I will meet this class. I will be teaching them once a week so I will be starting a novel with them (Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone), and spending time each week reading or using extracts as a starting point for creative writing.
 I will introduce a version of the Cornell note-taking method for them to record the events/unusual vocabulary/their thoughts about the chapter that we read. I have not used this method before and am sure that students haven't either. The idea is that they will be ‘active listeners’ and it will serve better than simply ‘make notes’. Because, thinking about it, what is that? How will they know what’s effective if I don’t actually show them what good notes are? I found this idea on @HuntingEnglish’s blog.

P4: Year 11 - My lovely set 4s (who I worked with last year on their Language GCSE) have found the demands of Literature a bit of a step up. The wonderful @EnglishLulu sent me some work on getting them to move away from the ‘clunkiness’ of their Point, Evidence, Explanation approach to questions and more towards embedding their quotes within a ‘thesis statement’. This has worked really well and so I was ambitious with my subject, posing the question ‘How far is An Inspector Calls a didactic play?’ The ‘risk’ here was pushing my students beyond what I would ordinarily prepare for aspiring C/B grades. I was hoping that this would translate to an exam-style answer, using their newly-gained skills in structuring their writing.
Having established understanding of the word ‘didactic’, I then provided A B C cards (add/build/challenge) to structure a debate – hoping to foster some ‘talk into writing’ - and was over the moon when one student actually broke off her argument to look something up in the text! (Bit of a  breakthough moment, that..!). To some extent, this was a hugely successful lesson – the kids were engaged in arguing how far they agreed with the question.  So, was their quantifiable progress in the form of an exam-style answer, with embedded phrasing, in their exercise books? NO! But to hear kids stumbling over the word ‘omniscience’ (we’re working on using sophisticated vocabulary) and how it helped them to prove their point was a step forward to me. I could have cut the debate off, and told them to channel their ideas into writing. Nevertheless, with twenty students who have been gradually coming down off of their ‘high’ (passing their GCSE Language) and finding Literature increasingly tough, this lesson was an important breakthrough. I’m more than happy to ‘revisit’ this lesson on Monday to consolidate and build on these gains.

P5: Accelerated Reader – silent reading in the library with Year 7

P6: Year 8P4 = Again, this idea was magpie’d from @HuntingEnglish. (I really can't recommend this blog highly enough - always worth a read.)
Students will be starting a new scheme based around the film 'Despicable Me'. They need to know the events of the film so we will be watching the first section of it, and I will be introducing students to the idea of 'triplicate note-taking'; rather than making a timeline of events students will split their page into 3 columns -
Column 1: Core information. The events, characters and  any quotes that jumped out at them. 
Column 2: Key questions sparked by the information in Column 1. It's unlikely that there will be any vocabulary they don't know but at a later date we will be looking at how a name can create an impression of a character, so I will ask them to note down any connotations they might have with names like 'Doctor Nefario' and 'Gru'.
Column 3: Memorable images and mnemonics to help students consciously embed the events/imagery of the film in their memory.

I am really pleased with the amount of information each student garnered, and this will help them at a later date when we discuss character, pathetic fallacy, camera angles and mise-en-scene.

So, what did I learn? Have I ‘taken risks’? For me, yes. I am sure that there are many teachers who will scoff at the feebleness of my risks. Indeed, as I was teaching my final lesson one of my colleagues was conducting some kind of amazing ‘Imagery Quest’ with capes, and an invisible dragon. But I know that in terms of pushing my own boundaries as a teacher, and having a positive impact on my classes, there were gains. Isn’t that what it’s all about?
What constitutes a ‘risk’ for you? How willing are you to take them?

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Why I will be striking....

Striking is a last resort; something a body of people do when all other ways of negotiation have been exhausted or somehow blocked to them.

Teachers are by their very nature, against strikes, despite what the tub-thumping press (not to mention our esteemed leader, Gove) would have you believe.

Though my reasons for striking are manifold, I've sort-of split them into two broad trains of thought. And I've tried to keep it brief couldn’t, sorry.

Firstly, my personal reasons; me, myself. I cannot speak for anyone else.

The Teachers' Pension. As a profession we’re now expected to work longer, pay more and get less than we agreed to when we started the job. Why yes, we ARE living in times of austerity. Indeed, we're all being expected to 'tighten our belts' (not that this seems to apply to the ministers telling us that's what we must do). But let me just point out that £43 BILLION pounds has gone into the teachers’ pension pot (paid for by serving, contributing teachers) than has ever come out. How then, can it be said that this needs input from the taxpayer? How is it not viable on its own? The enforced increased contributions, combined with the current pay freeze, equals a 15% real-terms cut since 2010. In the private sector, you’d go and find another job. Teachers can move schools, but not employers (the government).

The new pay structure (which, incidentally doesn't apply to leaders in schools) means that I have a very real chance of being stuck on the same pay point for the rest of my career. Again, something that is common –place in the private sector. But… school is not the private sector (yet)! Let me place it in its context; we’re being told that now is the time to ‘pay good teachers more’. Without blowing my own trumpet, I think I’m pretty good. I know I work in a school that’s more than pretty good – in fact I think my school’s amazing. Last year out of my GCSE class of C/D borderline kids, 88% achieved a C or above. The national average hovers around 62%. That’s over 20% above average. However, the way that students’ grades are predicted is extrapolated from their SATs exams. So if students achieve a Level 5 at primary school, by hook or by crook (revision, endless prep, primary schools flogging themselves to the bone) then the data says they’ll achieve a grade A at GCSE. Excellent, I’ll do my best to get them there. What price, however, the primary schools who support their students ‘too much’? The ones who find funding for 1:1 support, who award extra time, readers or other helpers? Not that I blame them; they’re only looking to boost their own results. But they create a legacy of students who truly struggle – and are now damned with a GCSE target they cannot achieve. (I’m convinced I have a whole separate post brewing on the gradual eradication of TA support in secondary education). What I’m essentially saying here is that in the event of my students failing to make three levels of progress from their entry-point at GCSE - regardless of the intervention and excellent teaching I put in –that can stop me moving up the pay scale. How is that paying good teachers more?

I stand up all day. Most days, I get to work at around about 7.15.  I often leave at around 5 or even 6 pm. There is rarely a weekday evening in which I don’t have something to catch up on be it marking, planning or correspondence. I am TIRED. Granted, I get great holidays, (though I also run holiday schools, revision session and plan the years’ schemes of work in my holidays). But we’re now being told we must work until we’re 68. Do you want a 68 year old teaching your kids PE? Is this what’s best for children?

Those are the personal reasons I will be striking.

On top of that, I am striking for the kids I teach. In recent years Gove has removed the Educational Maintenance allowance. I received this as a sixth-former. Without it it’s doubtful I would have remained in full-time education. The knock-on effect of this for many of the students I teach is becoming obvious. Last week I comforted a student who was in tears over the fact that their parents think that in July they should be starting work. This student longs to be a nurse, and would be the first in the family to go to university. Will they make it? EMA would have helped in ‘narrowing the gap’ in this specific circumstance.

 University fees have trebled in recent years, whilst funding has been cut by up to 80%. This means that many young people, on leaving school at 18 are not even considering university. The Conservatives last week announced that ‘’We know that profit, wealth creation, tax cuts, enterprise, (…) really are the solution because it's not government that creates jobs, it's businesses.’’ How are young people going to get into these jobs if they’re prevented from doing so because they’ve not been able to get to university? Why is it that big business is getting a break from paying tax at the expense of children currently studying at school and college?

The double-speak of what we’re being told to teach is baffling. On one hand, we have Old Etonians like Nick Hurd telling us that young people ‘lack grit and character’. I took that to mean a lack of inter-personal skills - the handshakes, the confidence; in short the ’soft skills’ which seem  to come so naturally to those who were privately-educated. As an English teacher I teach communication; that sort of thing is down to me to teach! And yet, just four days before term started in September, Speaking and Listening was removed from the final grade scores in GCSE English. This means that the carefully-embedded tasks I had planned to include in my teaching throughout the year, now no longer ‘count’. Oh, wait, we still have to DO it, and record it, it just won’t COUNT…. If you were 15, how would that leave you feeling?

Since the dismantling of the Building Schools for the Future program, schools have been left in limbo, in crumbling buildings in need of a total overhaul. Many classes, even in my own school are taught in huts; freezing in the winter, baking in the summer, and totally uninspiring learning spaces. My own Dad came to pick me up from my school a few months ago and commented on the state of repair. Let me make it plain that my school is a bright, welcoming and inspiring place. It just happens to be housed in the exact same building it’s been in for generations. Our children deserve better!

In the last month, we have effectively been told that our GCSE students who re-take a GCSE at school are cheating, whilst at the same time created a new rule in which if they haven’t passed English and Maths they need to re-sit at college. The same college many of them won’t be attending, as they’ll need some sort of income, due to the lack of EMA.

I could go on about the looming school-places crisis, the continued denigration of the role of teachers in society and the slashing of teacher-training budgets. But frankly, if you’ve read this far I hope you’ll understand why I and many of my fellow teachers will be striking this Thursday. 

Just to spell it out. 
TWO personal reasons pertaining to pay and conditions. At least SIX  grave concerns I have about the state, and future of education. 

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Why we need our summer holidays...

Ahh, summer on Bognor Beach

I’m a bit poorly at the moment. I’ve spent some of the last few weeks in hospital, with an illness that is more often linked with people in their latter years than a normally-healthy 28 year old.

Or it can be linked with someone who’s a bit stressed.

I’ve mentioned before how much I love my job – it’s truly no exaggeration that I am in my dream school. I love it! But that doesn’t take away the fact that I work (at the very minimum) 60 hours a week, and very often more.

So the news that Michael Gove was intent on dismantling the current school term system was just one more attack in his self-declared ‘war’ against us teachers. Despite my ongoing seething rage at the current plans to destabilise my pay and progression structure , the dismantling of funding for Early Years which will store up troubles I will need to unravel when students arrive to my classroom aged 11,  the poking around with the GCSEs I have been working my socks off teaching, not to mention the removal of my professional status by allowing for unqualified teachers to remain so, you might think I would be too exhausted to be worrying about one more thing. Indeed, the right-wing rhetoric would probably say that if I have all this time to get angry, I am not working hard enough. But, I am.

My summer holiday is my reward for the year’s work; for leaving the house whilst it’s still dark and my husband’s still asleep. For the unending evenings spent not seeing friends or family, but planning the next day’s lessons. For the lost Sundays marking endless essays. Indeed, my job is to plan lessons and mark the books. But I am well aware, too, that it’s not in my job description to feel guilty whenever I spend time doing something that isn’t working. Most of my friends are teachers. A quick straw-poll confirms I am not alone in feeling as though I could – SHOULD – be working all the time. So, my summer holidays are my time to recharge my batteries. To do those things I don’t get the chance to do in the school year or the shorter holidays (which are often taken up with extra classes or going into work anyway); creating interactive displays, thinking deeply about how I can incorporate new pedagogies into my practice, looking at new technology.

So far, so selfish, I guess. That last paragraph was a bit  me me me. So, here are my other thoughts on why the summer holiday system needs to remain broadly the same.

Gove is (whisper it!) perfectly right in saying that the school calendar runs parallel to the harvests, when our children no longer need to be in the fields giving a helping hand. However, he fails to take into account the importance of time spent with siblings, with family members, indeed, time to ‘be bored’.  I was incensed by Sarah Vine’s sycophantic article declaring that the long summer holidays were a feminist issue; certainly aside from the spurious issue of childcare being ‘women’s work’, it certainly highlights the need for affordable, quality, non-academic provision. I could go on in a fairly dogmatic vein about how reducing the long holiday simply frees up the parents to work more and more. This ties in well with the incessant calls for us to ‘win the global race’ (Where to? Where from?) but I think it’s about more than that; our kids – and teachers – need time to recharge, to be themselves, and to follow their own pursuits. It makes for more rounded people.

My next point addresses the problems of those parents with students in different schools. What price the worry and hassle of having to sort out care for two, three, four, or more children?  Granted, many siblings share a secondary school; but there are few schools providing all ‘all-through’ (3-18) education. It just doesn’t seem workable. Indeed, Nottingham City Council has already shelved plans for a 5-term school year, with teachers and parents alike branding it ‘disruptive’. In a family of three children, how is it fair that two of the three should spend holidays together, whilst the other languishes in a sweltering classroom, only to spend his or her holiday alone when everyone else is back at school or has used up their leave?
I’m also interested in Gove’s harking to the success of East Asian schools, and their longer days and shorter holidays. If this is indeed wildly successful, why is it that up to 72% of final year high school students in Hong Kong supplement their education with private tutors? This isn’t intended to be rhetorical; I am genuinely asking how this can be an indicator of the successful impact of shorter holidays. I found information about Finnish summer holidays surprisingly difficult to get hold of – but certainly I can find no evidence to suggest that the success of Finnish education is down to limited holidays.

Many leading academics disagree with Gove on this point too – notwithstanding the vitriol he has poured upon them. Brian Lightman, GS of the Association for School and College Leavers has stated that the plans to shorten the holidays run the risk of becoming a ‘free for all’.

I think the crux of my argument for maintaining school summer holidays is this; forget about the teachers’ need. Students today are being prepared for a world in which there is more pressure and less reward than ever before. They are being prepared for jobs which don’t even exist yet. They are being pushed harder and harder during their time in school, whilst at the same time being fed the rhetoric that GCSEs are worthless. They deserve that time off. Being regimented, and pushed, and disciplined happens enough in later life – surely being a child is about having fun? 

Friday, 10 May 2013

'Work-life balance' and surviving your NQT year.

About a week ago, one of my colleagues asked me to help out with a PGCE training session she was running for all the student teachers in our school. My inner show-off immediately jumped at the chance - that is, until I realised that the topic was 'Work-life balance'. 'What a fine joke,' I thought. 'Work-life balance... what's that?' I thought. My over-riding thought was that I should just stand in front of these bright, keen people at the start of their careers and say, well, here I am... here's what not to do!

Obviously I didn't actually want people to run, screaming, from their placements. So I spent a weekend agonising over how, exactly, to phrase the facts and realities of being an NQT: the highs and lows, the expectations and realities, the exhaustion and the exhilaration.

Here's what I came up with, and links.

The change from trainee to teacher.

Starting my NQT year as an English teacher was daunting. On one hand I was pleased, and excited, to be joining a large and well-established team, and to have control of my own classroom, tutor group, and classes. On the other I was concerned that planning, data, marking and report-writing was now my sole responsibility! I wasn’t entirely sure how I would cope without the support of my university tutor, which leads me on to...

Expectations you should have of your school.

Regardless of how you came into teaching, as an NQT you’re entitled to training, development, encouragement, and support. I saw this year as very much part of my on-going training, and still feel very lucky to have had excellent opportunities, with access to the ITP, a team-and-skills-building weekend away, weekly mentor sessions, after-school training, and opportunities to observe and be observed teaching. This is essential and I feel that I am a totally different teacher in terms of my professional development than I was at the start of my career. Take every opportunity you get to go and look at different people teaching, in as many subjects as you can, that’s what the NQT extra time is for – and if you’re not given it, ask for it. It’s not cheeky; it’s a requirement schools have. I was incredibly lucky to have the most supportive Subject Mentor who has become a wonderful colleague and friend, too.
As a minimum, your school should provide:
  • A suitably experienced Induction Tutor and Subject Mentor
  • Discussions based around your Career Entry and Development Profile (CEDP)
  •  An individualised induction programme, which provides support, monitoring and assessment
  • Observations of your teaching, with timely and constructive feedback, each half term
  • 10% reduction in timetable in addition to normal PPA time allocated

The highs and lows of being an NQT

I sometimes still stop to think ‘Wow.. I am a real teacher!’ This sounds really cheesy – it isn’t; it’s the culmination of all the work you put in during your training year, and the rounds of interviews you prepared for. I’m sure you’ll all feel the same as I do that this is the best job in the world – that ‘lightbulb’ moment is one that just can’t be replicated in any other job. I for one absolutely love planning sessions that I know are going to interest and inspire my students, and that can only lead to great progress. Some of the best times can also be when you get involved as a tutor; as a year 7 tutor it felt that we were all on a journey together. Things like Sports Day and Inter-Tutor activities really do make you feel part of a team and the kids absolutely appreciate the time you put in building up those relationships.  

With that in mind, there are times when things can feel overwhelming. My HOD has a great term – ‘pinch points’. Whatever subject you teach, there are times within the year where the pressure’s on – whether that’s controlled assessment deadlines, data or OMR entry, upcoming parents’ evenings or just a build up of marking. Although I am possibly the worst person in the world at maintaining perspective, you need to be strict with yourself. Some things are never going to get done... and that’s OK! The key is to prioritise your work. Although I would rather plan a creative writing lesson than mark a pile of scripts any day, I have learned the hard way that marking is, actually planning in itself. Having said that, there is no way you should revolve your entire life around work. Each and every teacher has fallen into this trap!

Here are some of my ‘top tips’.

I try to have ‘working hours’ during the week; during the day I get in early and leave late so that come 6pm, that’s my time, to go swimming, cook a different tea, or see some friends. This is, obviously not possible all the time – think of your own pinch points – but it should be an aim. It is unsustainable to work 16 hours a day and all weekend. You will burn out! Do you want to be outstanding for a term and a half and then off sick for a month?!

It’s important to recognise, as well, the people who have supported you this far – your family, partners, and friends. I find it’s easy to get sucked into the ‘school bubble’ but you need to remember that it is not your whole life – it’s a job!

If you end up in a big school, or a training school, you might be part of a big cohort of NQTs, as I was, and that’s reassuring in itself, just because there will be a lot of you going through the same things. However some schools don’t end up having a lot of NQTs in a particular academic year, and if you find yourself one of a small group, there are lots of places you can find support. Unfortunately, there are cases of people burning out or feeling unable to cope – an interesting report from 5Live last week highlighted the case of a HT in Worcestershire who committed suicide due to the stress of teaching.

Support I have found invaluable:

TES forums – it’s free to sign up and it’s also where you can find resources and job adverts

Guardian Education – lots of inspiring articles. In particular, one specifically about work-life balance this week by Marie Hazel which makes for excellent reading. Last week there was also a live blog chat on the subject.

Twitter – follow @TeacherToolkit, @innovatemyschl and @ThatsEarth – the last not teaching-related , but SO inspiring! NB as an English specialist there are so many more awesome people to follow - search #engchat or #ukedchat.

And now let's all take a moment to appreciate this fallacy. Don't worry, the feeling that your head is being slowly filled with boiling water is quite common....

Are you a teacher? Whether student teacher, aspiring teacher or veteran, we all need support; what's helped you cope?

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Please don't feed the trolls.

 I am a subscriber to The Times online - which is great for reading articles I wouldn't necessarily have the time or inclination to otherwise read. I wouldn't buy a newspaper every day, but I do have time to click on the odd article that catches my eye. 

I should have known better than to post a comment on the (deliberately inflammatory) article reporting on the new demands of the NUT; 'Teachers should be in school for 30 hours a week maximum, says NUT.' (I won't link as it's £.) I'm not a member of the NUT, so although I find it a bit hard to get behind this particular demand, I do get the general gist of it. I realise that 'I chose this job'. It isn't a 9-5. I would go mad if it was. It's a job where I am -each, and every day - challenged, delighted, frustrated, but never, ever bored. However, it is also a job in which I have to give 100%, and frequently this means my husband, family, friends and myself come second. I am lucky; I work in a supportive school, within an incredible department. But the pressure is there - it comes if anything from myself. People have entrusted me with their most precious thing; their children, and it's my job to help them to learn, to achieve, to mould themselves into the people they deserve to be. Increasingly, I find I am not just the imparter of what the word 'hyperbole' means and how to pronounce it, but also counsellor, mediator, surrogate mother. Friend. This is ok - it is what I signed up for, and it's what I love. 

So it was in my ignorance, or perhaps indeed my arrogance in assuming that, as a teacher, I could have an intelligent point of view - nay - even an opinion on what it's like to be a teacher in a British school that I posted a comment under the article, explaining that actually I did, often, work upwards of 50 hours a week, over weekends, and during my (apparently endless) holidays. 

I should NOT have fed the trolls. 

Let alone some of the less stable suggestions as to what teachers should do (my favourite was 'North Korea, all of them. Let them live out their socialist fantasies there. The REAL workers here won't miss them' or something to that effect), some of the replies directly to me were as follows: 

   'Are your working conditions standard in the teaching profession?  I live next door to one and a friend is also a teacher.  Your job should be a 08:15 to 16:15 job with an hour for dinner.  I have spoken with my neighbour and friend at length about teacher salaries and pensions, both generous, and you are way out on your own with your claims of working a near 12 hour day, an extra 1-2 hours extra per night and most of Sunday. If you do as much time as you say you do, you are over doing it. I recommend you buy another, reliable, watch.'

I love the 'I live next door to a teacher'. That makes you qualified to comment...? I live next door to a pensioner but I'm not sure that qualifies me for anything. I also found this: 6 teachers give their own accounts. They're probably workshy liars too. I would love an hour for dinner though. Especially on Wednesdays - that's Debate Club day. How much would we be able to get covered? I digress. 

Silly old me, I also posted a pithy, yet funny email that has been doing the rounds about value for teachers (I had it sent to me but the original, American one is here.) Wow. What a silly thing to say. Look, alright, I kind of knew it would be feeding the trolls. I didn't expect this: 

   'Your spurious comparison of value vs a babysitter was unfortunately not bolstered by the repeated (and somewhat sinister I find) use of capitalised words [...] if I found out that you were teaching my children I would withdraw them from class immediately. The skewed and somewhat self-serving value system you seem to possess could be dangerously contagious.' 

There we go people. Capitalising DOESN'T denote you STRESSING A POINT, it's SINISTER. Sorry chaps, did that frighten you? I am sorry, too, if my value system is 'dangerously contagious'. Actually, I'm not. I'm pretty secure, in fact, in thinking that I am helping to turn out well-rounded, balanced individuals who understand that you need to work hard to achieve something, that some things are worth going the extra mile, but that, also, a good teacher is one who has a life and isn't sleep-deprived! 

My favourite comment of all though, is this: 

   'I don't think you are a teacher [...] this is all a joke. A sad, unfunny joke.' 

There is a joke to be had there... (I must resist the obvious 'didn't realise I had stumbled onto the Mail site...) But I think my 'Learning Outcome' here is simple. I MUST NOT feed the trolls. 

Should I do lines...? 

My husband and I. Every day...