Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Meltdown Number 1

I blew the steam from the mug of tea that I cradled in my hands.
“My life has been stolen Mags”, I said, my eyes sunken, my shoulders slumped.
“Jeepers Alice, keep things in perspective will you?” she replied.
“Try living with her”, added Hubby, “It’s been like this since day one. How the hell am I going to resist strangling her before July God alone knows.”
“Have either of you scrutinized the National Curriculum for English Key stage 3 recently?” From the blank expression on their faces I made the assumption they had not.
“Well it’s not exactly a riveting read. Shall I tell you the key concepts?” It was merely a rhetorical question because I didn’t pause a for a reply, “Well, within their programme of study for reading, writing, speaking and listening, we expect our 11-14 year olds to be competent and creative and to have a critical and cultural understanding in every task they undertake”. Still no response. I pressed on.
“And then we have to give them attainment targets. For instance, there is a considerable gulf between a level four piece of work and a level 8. You see..”
“Spare us the finer details Alice, please”, implored Hubby, “dear God and you tell me I’m boring”. Boring? This did not bode well. I was training to be a teacher, someone who was hopefully going to inspire young minds to greatness and yet, after only a few sentences I was being asked to shut up. It’s difficult to shut up though. For fear of sounding like Tony Blair I’m eating, sleeping and breathing, education, education, education. Apart from driving to Uni, I haven’t seen the light of day for over a week and when I get to Uni, I sit through lectures with such gripping titles as Strategies and Standards and Scaffolding and Modelling. This it turned out, had nothing to with the building trade or indeed, posing and pouting but was again another educational process, this time offering challenges that encourages pupils to know what they are aiming for and supporting them with ideas by providing tools to accomplish the task. It’s about as sexy as it sounds.
I have had a sheaf of handouts handed out to me all of which I have had to read, digest then annotate and write about. I have my own subject group of novels, poems and plays to read as well as my first written assignment to compose, let alone all the educational theorists and practitioners with whom I’m meant to be au fait. It’s a big ask, especially when I’ve had blood to give, food to shop for and cook, attend a PTA meeting and, before I forget, occasionally engage with four children whom I seem to be forgetting. I am beginning to lose not only my sense of perspective but my everyday vocabulary.
“Well I’m sorry you find me so bloody boring!”, I sobbed, jumping up, my hot tea spilling down my shirt, “And now look what you’ve made me do”. I ran out of the sitting room, furious tears spilling down my cheeks. By the time I’d reached my study, my shoulders were heaving and my brand new laptop that my college had so kindly provided us all with for free, was in grave danger of being dripped upon.
Hubby followed me, put one arm around my shoulders and used the other to diplomatically push the lap top out of harm’s way.
“There, there now love. Don’t be such a non-handler”. Ever the sensitive soul.
“I feel so overwhelmed already”, I tried to explain, “I’m intimidated not only by the amount of information we are meant to absorb but by the bright young things who feel no fear and whose fresh, dynamic brains have the capacity to absorb masses of alien information and who are then, infuriatingly, able to file it away, in some sort of thematic order. Why is it? Oh thanks”, Mags had appeared carrying the kitchen roll, “that since I was at school I always seem to sit next to the kid who likes her highlighters and her plastic pouches and ring binders and rulers and knows instinctively when to use bullet points or spider-grams”, I blew my nose, “By the end of a lecture their work is organised and tidy and filed in the correct pouch. Mine on the other hand, is a ream of A4 paper with a series of sentences scrawled on it?”. Hubby tapped my shoulder in an effort to be comforting.
“I’ll get the hang of it”, I said, attempting an optimistic grin, “It’s just that after all these years of academic torpor, it’s rather a steep learning curve.” They both nodded and smiled benevolently at me like two nurses in a mental hospital who have just managed to stymie a major incident.
“Anyway I’d better crack on. I’ve got to get off my A.S.S”. They looked quizzical.
“Applied Subject Study”. The world of acronyms does not it appears, apply exclusively to the language of the Armed Forces.


DL said...

Hang in there, AB!

We're going through a similar thing at the moment, dealing with huge volumes of work, and trying to grapple with a convoluted framework of processes dreamt up my well-meaning but arguably misguided public servants.

And, like you, our own kids seem to be the ones losing out.

But there's light at the end of the tunnel. Somewhere in the vague distance (or, in your case, July), but light nonetheless.

Best wishes,
D. x

Alice Band said...

Thanks Dl. Just about to embark ona couple of lesson plans. Joy.

DL said...

Hi again. Since you've replied so quickly, I guess you're working at the kitchen table today.

As am I: knocking up a few MODAF views amidst the mayhem.