A Short Time in the Life of a Teacher

I begin the week by getting up. This is the part I hate the most. I wake up, my breath stinks, my hair covers my face like a mop and I look like I have been run over a few times! No problem, I’ll soon sort that out!
My alarm clock shocks me into a conscious state – it is horrible; it reminds me of the school fire alarm and it is just as loud too! So, not only am I very wide awake but I am dying of a cardiac arrest! Yes, it’s Monday morning and no, it is not a terrible dream; so I throw off my covers and crawl out of bed.
My room is small but snug. I like it like that. The terracotta walls are warm, the bed is a fresh white and my dressing table is a lovely pale wood, which is very hard to come by. I like things to be minimalist and tidy, there is nothing lying on the floor and my dressing table consists of a mirror and hairbrush, I’m not one for make-up.

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As my eyes adjust to the light, I can already tell that it is a pleasant day, the room has a stimulating feeling to it, which is different to any other day, where the sky is overcast and the sea is crashing over the wall outside of my window.
I get washed, run downstairs and cram all that wonderful work that I did last night into my bag. Then I throw on my leathers, jump onto my Honda VTR 1000 sp-2 (the most amazing motorbike in the world!) and I’m off!
I have a bit of a passion for motor bikes, I always have. When I was younger I used to cycle to school. I always wanted a motor bike but I was obviously too young at the age of fifteen and when I got to eighteen, the bike was too expensive to insure. Now I have my bike and I am the biker chic of the century, to be honest, I feel very superior to the people I whiz past when I am on my bike and they are sitting in their dreary cars!
It takes me half an hour in the morning with all the traffic, I can weave in and around all the cars but I still have to wait at the traffic lights, which seem to change red every time I come close to them! There are a lot of people on their bikes in the morning, I do not know why there are so many, I recognise everyone and they all know who I am. Every day I wave or nod to the same people and they return the gesture. It is a friendly feeling when you live in such a small place.
Before I know it, I am at school. I take my black helmet off and stare up at the massive building. It is ugly on the outside but at least it has a story to tell; that is what I like about old buildings, they always have a great history to them. I park my bike by the side of the huge granite stairs that I have to trundle up before I can get to the doorway. When I arrive at the giant door I turn the handle and the door swings open on its own accord, it is so heavy that I have to use all my weight to close it again. Once it is closed I lean against it, facing the inside of the school and breathe in the air which has not yet been moved by any one except for the school cat and the janitor.
No one is here; seven thirty in the morning is a bit too early for most of the students and staff. Most of them will still be in bed until eight o’clock! I like the school when it is empty; it has a nice feeling to it. I sometimes imagine that it is my house and that I live here all alone, that it is my mansion. The illusion is broken when the janitor strolls past me, “Good morning Taisie!” He remarks cheerily. John has been here since six this morning; I cringe to think what time he has to rise!
My form room is on the second floor, so I spring up the staircase that leads from the main entrance. I love the staircases here. The banisters are intricately designed with beautiful patterns and the deep red mahogany shines as the light bounces off it from the tremendous chandelier that hangs from the ceiling.
The stairs twist upwards to the second floor. I walk down the corridor and take in the wonderful feeling of the quiet school; in an hour there will be young ladies screaming down the hallway laughing and gossiping about what they did on Friday night. Now, the only sound I can hear is that of my feet padding down the stone pathway. The walls echo at every sound I make but the feeling of being totally alone is welcomed.
My door has a solid brass handle; it is freezing cold and my hands seem to invite the refreshing feeling of something cool after wearing black leather gloves. As I twist the handle and open the door, the hinges creek. I feel a blast of hot air as the box that is my classroom gasps for a breath. It is always hot in my room but that is the price I have to pay for having a classroom that over looks the tennis courts and swimming pool. I do not mind though, I spent most of my time in the drama studio, English is the subject I teach less of at the moment.
I dump my pack on the floor and run off to the staff changing room to exchange my leather gear for my trousers, shirt and Jacket (not forgetting about my shoes but did you really want to know that?).
After I have organised my books and plan for the day, I force myself to go to the staff room.
I hate the staff room. Don’t get me wrong, I like to socialise with all my colleagues but sometimes I can have more of an intelligent conversation with my pupils. I feel that I am the only member of staff who actually cares about my students. I am fed up of listening to an assemblage of adults who think that they are far superior to the rest of the adult community just because they are teachers. I sometimes wonder if any of them care about the students’ welfare – after all, they’re “just part of the job.”
When I was at college, I wanted to help. All the way through school, I wanted to change the way people thought about teachers but now I realise that I am fighting a losing battle. I am the only one who does not expect the “ladies” to be perfect. I think about their future, I treat them as individuals and talk about them in a positive way, I want to help them and not just treat them as “another case I have to deal with every day.” They are not just a student body, they are individuals and I am fed up of my colleagues always seeing the bad side of the pupils, how is that going to help them? Although I said that I am fighting a losing battle, I live in hope. I still treat them as individuals or young adults and I realise that they are actually people, not just part of the job, even if no one else does.
‘ And this is for your form Taisie’
The deputy head, Sharyn Tinton, shoves a wadge of paper into my hand with rules and regulations plastered all over them – the usual – no jewellery, no body piercing, no blah, blah, blah. The girls already know what not to wear and what is appropriate; I am tired of hearing it over and over! Me telling the students to take their nose piercing out is not going to make any difference whatsoever. That does not mean to say that I do not tell them off if they do have it visible but I think, “what you don’t know, won’t hurt you!”
‘ I have to go to arrange my class for their form assembly, Sharyn.’
‘Alright then, scurry off to your class!’ Scoffed Sharyn, she cannot stand the fact that I might actually care about my form! And “Scurry off” – what on earth’s that suppose to mean – god give me strength!
I decide to take the long way to my form room, which means I have to walk half way around the school but I need time to clear my head. I have to keep a positive attitude; I don’t want to end up like Sharyn Tinton.
‘ Miss. Holcroft?’
Yes, I am a Miss. I am not married and I do not have any children. I am a twenty seven-year old single teacher. I enjoy the freedom but at times I get depressed and I wish I could go home to someone besides my cat that would give me a hug and tell me that everything would turn out okay. Instead, I am going to grow old on my own, with no children and no husband; I’ll be the cat woman….
‘ Miss. Holcroft!’
‘Yes Lara?’ A familiar voice. Lara always has an excuse. Even when she hands her work in on time, she has to elaborate on how her printer made the lines uneven. Maybe it is a compulsive disorder, I wouldn’t know, I never did psychology!
‘ I handed in my essay but I’ve just realised that I never wrote a conclusion!’
‘ Lara, don’t worry, I’ll read it through and you can write a conclusion for next Wednesday, is that alright by you?’
‘Yes thank you Miss.’ And she skips down the corridor, pleased that she has managed to make yet another thing wrong with her work! It is strange, I see so many different personalities and every single one is a pleasure to work with!
Essay. English Essay. GCSE course work essay, which means more marking, which means more staying after school – late!
I have now come to the locker room, which happens to be the only one that is in the corridor. All the other ones have their own rooms, why my forms one has to be in the corridor, I don’t know! As I stroll past the bright orange and grey lockers, a girl passes me quickly.
I know who she is, she’s in my English and Drama classes; we seem to get along just fine but when it comes to passing her in the corridor, she is a different person. She keeps her eyes glued to the floor and swerves as far away from me as possible. I do not know why she does it but I know it is not personal because she does it to every member of staff – especially the male teachers. I do wonder about her sometimes. I’ll speak to her after Drama… maybe.
As I get closer to my form room I can hear laughing and screaming and I can guess where it is coming from, so I rush to my door.
‘ ALRIGHT CLASS, SETTLE DOWN!’ I have to raise my voice several decibels to compete with the racket that manages to come out of twenty-four pupils’ mouths.
‘ Morning Miss.!’ They all announce in unison. I never asked them to say good morning but they always do!
‘ Unfortunately guys, I’m going to have to lecture you all about behaviour, uniform and monthly events.’
Several groans from the class
‘ As you can all see, I have a wadge of paper to get through so for your benefit, as well as mine, you should all keep quiet – that way I can speed through this in no time. But first thing’s first – register!’ I skim through the names, I know them in order by heart now and the routine is the same every day.’ Kelly, Sam, Fiona, Laura… I haven’t seen her. Oh, there you are, hiding at the back of the class – put that brain fryer away! Katie, Sam…’ And it goes on, they do not need to answer, I know who is there already and if I have not seen them, then they have to tell me. As far as absences go, I never have any. Late marks on the other hand, are a different story!
“Now for the lecture, which I know you are all going to love!’
And I trundle through the piles and piles of paper that Sharyn gave me. I look around the classroom as I speak and all I can see are tired, bored faces. They all know what I am going to say before it even comes out of my mouth… ‘ Litter is not acceptable in the canteen area, or anywhere else for that matter – Becky, quiet – school jackets must be worn at all times outside of school, you made them make fitted ones instead of blazers, now wear them!’
‘And what if I cycle?’ Marie shouts at the top of her voice.
‘You wrap the jacket about your head like a turban when you cycle! What do you think Marie, you have already asked me that before! I know it’s a Monday morning but try to get your brain in gear before the day starts!’
‘If she has one!’ Becky interrupts and the whole class laughs, including Marie.
‘Okay, I won’t bring it then?’
‘Actually, keep it in your locker just in case Miss. Tinton decides to walk us all down to the church suddenly, like last week. If it is in your locker, you will always be prepared for her little “surprises”.’
‘ And finally; your shoes have to be FLAT. Yuck, I know but you just have to like it or lump it. Think about it ladies. If you lot look dressed up with belts as skirts – not saying any of you do – and platform shoes for school, you will look the same when you go out at the weekend and what’s the point in that?’
A young lady at the back of the class shoots her hand up in the air. ‘ Yes Sarah?’
‘Can I go to the loo please?’
‘You can… but you may not!’ Sarah sits there with her eyes crossed as the rest of the form laugh. One of the girls next to her is kind enough to explain what my last sentence just indicated and when she finally comprehends, she slides back into her chair, her face as red as a tomato! ‘Seen as you said ‘please’, you may go to the loo. Just remember what to say next time!’
As soon as Sarah runs out the classroom, the form bursts into fits of laughter. ‘I’m glad to see that you’re all awake now. Does anyone have anything valuable that they wish to say?’
‘Georgina loves Simon!’ Screams Becky and the bell rings. ‘Good morning class.’
‘Good morning Miss.’ And they’re gone.
My morning starts with Drama – just the lesson I need to wake the students (and myself) up.
Drama is my subject; Drama is the subject. I have been doing Drama, theatre studies and degrees in the performing arts all my life and now, I am teaching it. I am head of the Drama Department.
My year nine class is preparing for their play. They chose it; they were fed up of my “morbid” plays. But I think that it brings out the true potential of the students. Anger and sorrow are the two easiest (in my opinion) emotions to perform well. The girls seem to think other wise. They have chosen ‘Alice in Wonderland’, which, I must admit, is a wonderful story for both adults and children – so well written.
Luckily the class arrives five minutes late, at least I have some time to get all my things in order. A goblin seems to have rushed about my office and thrown all my lesson plans around and messed up my whole week!
They all sit in a circle and immediately start talking about “stuff”. I don’t know why they always sit down because I always ask them to stand right up again! Scanning the class, I can see that every one is here. It is strange that at the age of 14, the girls are still in their little groups. It saddens me to think that there is always one girl who gets left out. I can’t see anything wrong with her. She is mature, sensible… I see, she’s mature! This lot is very giggly; they sit in their little groups plaiting each other’s hair and singing.
There is one group in the middle of the class. I can tell and have also been informed that this is the “cool” group. In my opinion, they are not cool at all. They are the cockiest, rudest pick of the bunch. I can’t remember when they last handed their homework in. They refuse to enjoy doing anything that involves any one whom is not in their group. In the near left corner are the “geeks”. They look extremely studious, only one of them wears glasses but at this school, like many others, the length of your skirt decides your “class”. The “geeks” have decent length skirts – which obviously makes them really “sad”. Then, in the near right corner are the people who are “semi-geeks”, “gliders” or “sailors” (who make up these STUPID names?) They are the people, who are friendly to everyone, don’t always have perfect homework but hand it in most of the time and don’t fit into any extreme group.
Then there is one girl, who always sits in the far-left corner of the room, reading her book and not hurting anyone. She is quiet and lacks in self-confidence, mainly because of her past with bullying and the fact that everyone rejects her because she likes to read (don’t ask). She is the mature one, the girl who is very knowledgeable but no one finds out – not even the rest of the staff – because they don’t have time for her or they don’t like the length of her skirt.
It’ll never change; it was the same when I was at school!
‘Stand up please’
And I begin the lesson. A whole hour of drama. I warm them up, get them to run about screaming (I know this makes them feel silly but hey!) and finally sit down and watch them do their play, shouting ‘No, no, no. You don’t laugh when you are crying, you do it like this!’ And I fling myself into their world of make believe showing them how to do it.
I told the girls whom they were going to play and when I told them that Danielle (the quiet young lady who sits in the far-left corner) was going to be Alice they threw a tiff. Not after class but right in front of Danielle.
‘It’s alright Miss. Holcroft, I’ll just be a tree or something if no one wants me to do it.’ She whispered. I had comments such as ‘She can’t act!’ and ‘ She’s too fat to be Alice.’ Not only can Danielle act; she is FAR from fat. In fact, she dances eight times a week and is the most skeletal young girl I have seen in a while, I know she used to be a bit heavier but they obviously just kept her nickname.
They are now coming to realise that Danielle can act and is very good at it too. I think they are a bit jealous to be honest. They are doing well and need little direction from me but when things start to slow down; I’ll jump into the scene and throw my ideas around the set for them to catch if they wish. Danielle just stands there. I know she has good ideas, I’ve seen her writing them down and sticking them in her school diary but she is too nervous to say anything.
I get frustrated standing there watching her brain working over and over and yet, she stands there, expressionless. There’s nothing much I can do in class and I don’t want to frighten her off by asking her to stay behind in front of the class but I so want her to say what she is thinking, I want to know why she avoids people in the corridors, why she reads and reads. Why am I so…aggravated? This is why we are not allowed to care; we have to “get on with our job”. But the girls in this school are people just like us teachers, just younger. If one of my colleagues were doing the same, it would not be considered strange for me to try to help. But the moment we try to help a student with anything other than work, we are told we are getting too close. It’s all a big circle though. It will affect their work if it gets worse and I want to stop it before it gets to that stage. How?
After half an hour of watching them I get out strips of paper and write comments on them, of what I think of their work. I do not usually do this but I have an idea. Every one has to improve projection and develop character but there are little things that people are just not doing right. So, I write them on bits of paper and the students don’t get embarrassed, I’m seeing if it changes the way they act.
Everyone starts to walk out of the class, Danielle at the back and I say,
‘Oh, Danielle, can you help me with something in my office, I would just like you to take something to Mr. O’Hara as well.’
No one turns around, no one cares and no one laughs. Good. I did not plan to speak to her, it just came out of my mouth, now I have to decide on what I am going to say to her (this is where improvisation skills come in handy!)
When all but one have left the class I sit down on one of the black bean bags that sits in the far left corner of the class. Danielle is standing there reading her book. So now what do I say?
‘Danielle, your acting is really coming on, what do you think of the play so far?’ Now she’ll tell me what she’s thinking.
‘S’fine.’ She manages to say without looking up. It was not a rude comment, but I could not read any expression in her voice. I need to feed her a longer line.
‘How do you think we could improve the play? I’m sure you have some ideas, I can see you thinking when someone suggests something that you don’t approve with…’
‘Can you?’ She looks up ‘Sorry, I don’t mean to I just…’
‘Danielle, don’t apologise, I think they give the most stupid suggestions too, you and I both know that putting a brown paper bag over someone’s face is not going to work as a mask!’
Relief spreads over me as I actually see a smile spread across her face and she giggles. I rarely see her smile, if ever and when she does, I know it means something, I don’t know what. I just know.
I sit there for fifteen minutes, talking to her about how we could improve the play and I found out that she thinks of the same things as me and spots the same tiny mistakes that people make. She told me that she gave up suggesting things because people ignored her whatever the idea and relied on me to say what she was thinking. I promised her I would suggest that the class does the things Danielle pointed out and I also promised that I would not mention her name and we would see how they reacted to them. She smiled. I returned the gesture. And she went to her next lesson.
That was not hard, and I received a smile! When I connect with a student, it is what makes the job worth while, not when I make one cry (Sharyn Tinton….)
Next period is a break for me, which gives me time to sort out all my lesson plans. I only teach three lessons today, which means I have lots of free time to mark essays and drama assignments. How exciting. Marking has to be the worst thing about teaching. The reason everyone loves leaving school when they are eighteen is because there will be no more homework when they get a job and of course, they are leaving school. Well. For me, it is different, I am still at school and I still have homework and I still hate homework!
The free period passes quickly and I have to come out of my little drama office to teach another lesson. This time it is year eleven’s. Are they still in their groups? Yes. Is there one person left out writing in her diary? Yes. Does everyone hate her? No. This is the difference. In year nine, they reject the out cast ignore her and hate her; in year eleven, they just reject her and ignore her, when they all have to work together, they can have a descent conversation with her but she does not respond so they give up. Why does she not respond? I think it is because she is fed up – fed up of people being so two faced. I would not know.
GCSE drama, a great subject to be doing a GCSE in but what the students don’t realise is that it is not a “dos” subject. Instead of teaching this lesson, I decide to lecture them on tardiness, forgetfulness and respect. They all sit there with long faces probably thinking oh just SHUT UP! But I don’t mind – one of the student’s talks to her friend and I send her out, I believe in giving people chances, but I have had so many complaints from group members about their peers not participating that I just blew it.
None of them have ever seen me shout before, so I think it was very effective. No one talked as they walked out the class and I had several of them come up to me and apologise! Success!
Lunch break. Or should I say, sit in my English “box” and mark homework to give to my next class.
English homework is the worst. I sometimes wish I had been a maths teacher, all one has to do it get it right or wrong and if the answer is wrong, the teacher just puts a cross by it!
English is a different matter entirely. I have to read every single word looking for spelling mistakes, grammar mistakes and punctuation errors. Then I have to see if they have the content sorted out. I have to look for references to Shakespeare and the title etc. The list goes on!
Before I know it, the bell has rung and I have a full classroom. Year nines. I have already had some of them this morning for Drama and it is interesting to see how they have changed from the morning to the afternoon – they have not! In the morning they are not quite awake yet and in the afternoon they are starting to fall asleep! I have pushed all the desks to the edges of the room – this lesson we are having a discussion. I have bought beanbags and cushions and put them in a circle and instead of teaching this lesson, I am sitting listening and taking part. The discussion is about Shakespeare’s (oh whoopdeedoo) play The Merchant of Venice. The class has to take a side a) I feel sympathy for Shylock and b) I don’t!
The discussion goes well, with all members taking part in the discussion, no one talks while someone else is talking and it is a relaxed lesson with no pressure to perform well.
Danielle actually smiles, everyone gives their homework in and I even receive a card from someone! I’ll open it when I get home.
I pack my belongings and work into my backpack and go to the loo’s where I leave my clothes in a locker. I exchange my uniform for my leathers and close the door to the shower rooms. Walking down the corridor, I see happy students running around and collecting their possessions to take home with them. I walk down the stairs and meet the cat at the bottom. Stroking him with my one uncovered hand I tell him I’ll see him tomorrow and seven thirty and I stand up. The huge, heavy door is already open, so I don’t have to open it. I look at the lawn outside of the school and the students catching a lift home. As I walk down the stairs, I receive many goodbyes and smiles.
I jump onto my Honda VTR 1000 sp-2 and just as I am about to put on my helmet I hear someone shout, “BYE MISS HOLCROFT!” It’s Danielle!
“Good bye Danielle!” I reply, put on my helmet, turn on the engine and zoom off!
I arrive home half hour an later and switch some music on – classical, my favourite! Change into my dance pants and tee shirt, sit down, get my book from my bag and I open it. As I do so, something falls out of it; it is the card I found on my desk this afternoon. I open the card and it reads:
Dear Miss Holcroft,
Danielle xx
Some one remembered.

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