Summer(?) half term

I was going to start this post by talking about how much there’s been to do in these last couple of weeks, and then I realised I’m starting to sound like one of those whinging teachers who claims they’re overworked all the time.

I’m not overworked all the time (sometimes I am, but I think that’s true for any job). I am trying to keep a lot of balls in the air – but that’s entirely self-inflicted because I always want to get involved in (or perhaps “stick my nose in” might be more accurate) almost anything going!

Anyway – what’s been happening? The most obvious one is external exams. There are always a number of clashes which necessitate kids being kept isolated over lunch or in extreme cases overnight. Usually exam boards are not too stupid in what they clash – I can sympathise with their scheduling Russian against Further Maths, for example.  This year’s been a different matter. The prize pillocks put GCSE Biology module 1 at the same time as GCSE Chemistry modules 2 and 3. Who on earth thought that was a good idea, eh? Our kids had IGCSE English in the morning too, just to put the icing on the cake.  We had to bring the Biology module into the morning and isolate the entire year group over lunch (think how many individual groups had to be taken out under supervision to the loo… and we had to get everyone else through and out of the dining hall first) before returning them under strict guard to the exam room.  Then there are a number of very light days. In fact, the majority of the exam season this year is following the pattern of Monday being truly horrendous, Tuesday being pretty nasty, Weds and Thu relatively quiet then hotting up a bit on Friday. WHY????

There are always some kids with special arrangements – from extra time to need of a scribe or word processor, or sometimes just needing to be in isolation because they’ve got a vomiting bug. All part and parcel of the exam season, but it all adds a bit more to the logistical complications. I am very fortunate in having a truly brilliant team of “senior invigilators” (mainly retired staff) to help with things; I’ve organised exams before in places where I hadn’t got anyone much to trust/rely on, and having my team, and helpful/sensible colleagues, makes the job so much better and less stressful.

We’ve also had school internal exams for all the other year groups in the week just before half term – so sorting out the invigilation for those, setting up spreadsheets to produce the mark “scatter” for each subject across the year, and, of course, marking my own classes have been the order of the day.

In between this, various students from exam classes wander in, or email, looking for help. Some of them are quite specific about making an appointment (which is a good job as sometimes a couple of hours of time is what they need). Others just come in and grab anyone who teaches the subject to go over their queries.

Then there’s that annual pile of fun – the timetable. I do enjoy working on it (it’s a great big puzzle) but it does take over our lives. Demands from different departments often really are mutually incompatible, alas, so it can be a judgement call. Then we think we’re getting somewhere and someone says “Oh, didn’t I tell you that….”  – at which point much growling and swearing is called for. We are contemplating acquiring a stock of gin in the room we’re using at present!

We’re thinking already about our Open Day at the end of June, as the work we do with some year groups needs to tie in with it, so it’s important to organise what we’re doing when. There’s also other things to sort for later in the summer term, such as organising our last Sixth Form Seminar Lunch of the year (possibly the last one ever? Don’t know if our new Head from September will want to continue with them). More immediately, there’s the evening talk to parents about UCAS and the several sessions setting the Lower Sixth going on the process to sort out. And reports to write, of course!

But guess what? I’m not thinking about any of that now.  It’s half term! Time to visit family, see friends, do revision for my forthcoming OU exam and I guess tidy my house. Maybe the weather will even be nice.

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