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From The Socialist newspaper, 12 November 2008

A day at the chalk face

The workload of a teacher

When the alarm goes off at 6.15 I get up and am instantly depressed by the knowledge that tonight there is a parents' evening.This means I won't return home till ten in the evening.

A Huddersfield teacher, member of the National Union of Teachers (NUT)

After breakfast I dash out of the house up the hill to the rail station. For once, the train turns up on time and I get to work for 7.20.

First, I set up my laptop and get all the lesson activities ready on the computer. Then I check my email with the latest calls for help from different departments.

I suddenly realise that today is the deadline for year nine monitoring. Oh crap! I get my planner out and fill in the data forms and send them off via email.

That's one less thing that management can harass me about.

Then it's off to the staff room to do some photocopying and pick up my register and daily bulletin. On the way I remember that my head of department is off again and that I had better go next door to sort his lessons out.

Strike ballot

When I get to my pigeon hole I see a set of NUT notices about the strike ballot that were supposed to have gone out two days before. I put the notices into members' pigeonholes.

I set off back to my classroom with the hope of marking a set of books before the start of school. Five minutes into marking and one of my year 11 students comes in asking for help with her coursework.

I explain a few points to her and then it's back to marking. Fifteen minutes later and more students arrive asking for help with coursework. I realise that the set of books I'm marking will have to be finished another time.

By now its 8.20 and I head back to the staffroom to see if I have been taken for cover for an absent colleague. Yes of course, I've lost my free period again. Looks like that set of year eight exercise books will have to wait again for marking.

At 8.35 the first bell for registration goes and my ill-tempered year 11 form slouches into my classroom. During registration I do the register, read out the bulletin, check report cards, dish out uniform passes and tell off several students for being late yet again. So much for a relaxed start to the day.

Period one begins and five minutes into the lesson a student from next door says the cover teacher hasn't got a clue what the year eight class are supposed to be doing. I leave my class for ten minutes and sort out the class next door.

As the lesson progresses I get several more interruptions. This time from a class two doors down where the cover teacher can't find textbooks. I realise that it's going to be one of those days.


At morning break I let a group of girls from year seven into my room to finish off some homework. I dash off to the loo and get stopped by one of the secretaries on my way back to my room. Apparently, my son's head of year wants to talk to me. I promise to return the call at some point and head off back to my classroom.

I ask the girls if they are ok and then I am collared by a student teacher. I spend five minutes finding some IT resources for her and then realise that I had better set off for the other side of school. Period three I am covering an absent colleague's lesson.

When I get to the classroom there's been a fight and I have a big crowd of kids to disperse. Eventually I get the class into the room and we start the lesson. I mentally prepare for what I've got to do at lunchtime:

At the end of lunchtime I get ready for afternoon registration with my form. During registration I am asked for help by the new teacher (NQT) next door. Of course, I don't mind checking some of the essays that her year ten class have written. I'll do it after school no problem.

Ten minutes into period five and a year seven kid comes into my room and tells me no one has turned up to cover the lesson for my absent head of department.

I then try to teach two classes for the next 15 minutes whilst waiting for someone to turn up. I get back to my year ten class and set the class another homework, which is met with a wave of moans and groans.

3.10 at last and the bell for home time goes off. By this time I'm feeling very thirsty and realise that I've got the year 11 coursework club again after school. I rush down to the humanities office for my water bottle. Returning to my classroom I get stopped twice by different colleagues regarding various new initiatives in school.

I let in half a dozen year 11 students and get them settled with their coursework. I finally get down to marking the set of year eight exercise books that I started about 8 o'clock this morning.

Having marked that set of year eight books I get my classroom ready for the parents' evening.

At about half five I go to the staffroom and heat up some left over curry for my tea. After eating I nearly fall asleep and then return to my classroom. I make a start on marking the books of my other year eight class.

I have eight lower school classes which leaves me with 240 exercise books a week to mark! Never mind the GCSE classes that I've got.

After an hour's marking it's nearly 7pm and my back is killing me and my head is starting to pound. I just want to go home. The first parents start to arrive and I start running on empty. Somehow I manage to keep going until 9 o'clock.

By this time my brain is frazzled and I feel totally exhausted. I make it home shortly after ten. The next day of toil looms like ground hog day.

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In The Socialist 12 November 2008:

Socialist Party campaigns

Defend workers' jobs and pay

PCS union: Strike threat wins talks

Confined to one room

Fast news

Socialism 2008

Socialism 2008 - an inspiring weekend

War and occupation

Iraq, Afghanistan... End the occupations!

Socialist Party Marxist analysis

A political awakening propels Obama to victory

Why Labour won the Glenrothes by-election

Socialist Students

'Students in the Red' day of action

East Anglia region demands free education


NUT leadership fails to call strike

Scotland: Victory for the Vale of Leven Four

The workload of a teacher

Socialist Party review

Prescott: the class system and me


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