Another snow day…

After going into work yesterday to a crazily icy site and no heating in the block I work in, snowfall overnight has resulted in some kind of common-sense.

This means that in a little while I get to go back to sleep for a while and keep warm safely at home and not having to brave roads practically closed by snow.  The M4 is down to one lane.  Many roads are closed or passable only with extreme care.  I’ll also be keeping myself, and others, safe by not travelling along side-roads and the school-drive and ‘roads’ in school that aren’t exactly clear of snow/ice in my little Smartcar aka Deetoo (as in Smartoo-Deetoo).

I like snow as long as I can stay safe and warm inside and look out at it safely from my windows.

I do not like the sensation of slipping/sliding on snow in uncleared areas, nor do I like the fear of my car sliding into someone else’s.  I do not like the sensation of slipping and sliding as I walk or drive, carefully, on compacted snow/ice.  I do not enjoy the fear of falling over and hurting myself, which is always a distinct possibility with me as I can trip over thin air on dry, safe surfaces!  The fall always hurts.

Last time I fell over, I ended up in A&E with a very painful foot.  The foot wasn’t broken, luckily, but there was ‘soft tissue damage’ (i.e. ligaments/tendons) that took weeks to heal. Painful to walk for a couple of weeks it was, and I did not like that at all.

In Britain we are not geared up for snow.  It happens for a few days a year, if that, and that does not justify the expense of gritters/ploughs/other snow-clearing equipment.

Years ago, people lived close to where they work and it was easy to get there by shanks’ pony.  Nowadays, people live much further away from work.  Many live a distance away from public transport and would need to use private transport to get to them, if they are running.  It means that on days like today there may not be enough staff in school to look after the pupils safely.  

Years ago, health and safety law wasn’t a big issue either nor did we have the ‘if there’s blame there’s a claim’ culture that we seem mired in.

I am absolutely sure that those who shout loudest about schools being closed in this weather would be the first to lay a claim if their little darling got hurt while walking around a site that had treacherously icy surfaces or because there weren’t enough staff to supervise the pupils who had attended school.

Don’t get me wrong here, health and safety of people is very important and is always the priority for me, as a science teacher, when planning lessons for my classes.  It’s also a priority for me as I really do not like being hurt or damaged in any way, either physically, emotionally or mentally.

I do wish people would understand that the reason the school is closed is because we do not want any accidents on site, we want the pupils and staff to be safe while there and supervised properly too, and we want pupils and staff to get safely there and home again.  

The school isn’t being closed because the teachers are lazy.  We’re not lazy.  Not by a long shot.

We work hard with the pupils in our care and ‘snow days’ mean that we have to work harder to make up the lost time so that the pupils make as much progress as possible, that they are not disadvantaged when they sit their exams, exams that are needed for their future.

We spend long hours after the end of the school day and at weekends and during school holidays marking work, preparing lessons, preparing resources, writing reports, filling in progress sheets, doing extra revision lessons for pupils after the end of the school day to ensure they do well in their exams, putting up displays of work, parents evenings, meetings, concerts, fund-raising events and so many other things that people who do not know a teacher personally and are able to see how their job encroaches on their personal life are unaware that we do or think it all somehow magically gets done by itself.

I try to manage my time effectively and to achieve a work-life balance.  I remain late in school most days a week to mark/prepare work so I don’t bring it home with me, something I had to learn to do as I was a workaholic for many, many years, and I need to take care of my own mental and emotional health and well-being.

It’s not just the amount of work we do.  There are other aspects to the job we do.  We also have to deal with a lot of stuff, such as poor attitudes, bad behaviour, bullying, being aware of children who may be being abused and disclosures of abuse, as well as many other things that my not be easy to deal with.

There’s a lot of pleasure in the job, laughter and smiles with pupils through the day.  It’s all to easy to get mired in the ‘bad stuff’ and forget how much good is done.

What we are not are babysitters, childcare. We care enough about your children to close the school for their safety as well as ours.  We have a duty of care towards them.  Respect our caring about them, don’t interpret it as laziness.  Respect the fact that we follow health and safety laws and don’t ignore them, not just for the sake of the staff, but for the pupils too.

If we seem pleased about a day off, it’s simply because we know we can remain safe and well, we don’t have to face the hairy-scary journey to work, the difficult movement around the site nor the worry of if we’ll get home safely again at the end of the day.

Inspection – meh

In the next week the school I work at is enduring an Estyn Inspection.  As teachers, we have been under pressure for at least the last two years in expectation of this.  The pressure has increased over time, with so many tasks given with little time to do them in and no sense of priority – everything is the most important.  I have been late in work every day in the past few weeks, went into work over the Christmas holidays, and was there yesterday and will be there today.

There has been little time for art this past week that’s for sure.  Today’s tasks are to get at least one day’s worth of lesson plans completed, along with any extra resources I may need, just in case.  I’d like to get all three done, but that may be expecting a lot, especially as I’m currently having a quiet couple of hours sat in bed drinking tea and letting the ibuprofen dispel a thumping headache I woke up with.  Despite the need to do work, I also know that I need some time to just relax too, as much as I can at the moment.  Finding time to meditate this week is a priority for me!

I, along with many staff, have been losing sleep worrying over this.  My self-belief and self-esteem is never great, but all of this has been putting dents in the dents in the dents that I have, especially doubting myself greatly (despite the evidence of the past that says I’m actually quite good at the teaching thing).

I try to focus on the definite fact that, no matter what happens (well except for school closure due to snow) it will be well over by this time next week and I can get my life back.

We’re expected to be prefect, but nothing is ever perfect; we are all human and humans make mistakes, find it impossible to do absolutely everything or to do everything perfectly.  All we can do is our best.  However, over the past couple of years I feel I have been given the message that whatever I do is never good enough, and it isn’t just me who gets that message.

All I can hope for in the next week is that I make understandable, allowable human mistakes, rather than stupidly huge ones that cause problems.  I hope I can do my sparkling self, that the core of difficult pupils in my classes will cooperate for once, and that my voice actually lasts the week (my voice has been breaking on and off all this week and the voice enhancing equipment installed in my room has been deemed unsuitable for purpose, well part of it has, so goodness knows how long it will be before that is rectified).

I mentioned earlier in this post that the pressure is waking up those inner voices who love to reinforce the idea that I am useless, pathetic, weak, a really poor teacher, a failure, and so on.  I do have evidence to the contrary, but believing that evidence in the clamour of the strident negative self-talk can be difficult, especially when I overhear other teacher’s talking about how they are going to make their lessons extra special dazzling singing an dancing.  The pressure I then feel under to do the same is ridiculous, and that feeds into the negative self-talk.  My past experience of being seen teaching is that when I do things as I would normally do them, perhaps with just a little more organisation and less opportunity for the pupils to sidetrack me with interesting questions than usual, I have done well.  So, I will be continuing in that vein, which is commonsense really.