I’m a secondary teacher in the English and Theatre Studies departments, with classes in years 7, 8, 9 and 12.When people ask me what I do, I sometimes say that I work with the hormonally challenged in our society which, when you look at a class full of 15-year-olds, is a pretty accurate way of describing them.
Teaching is very much an immediate, be-on-your-game-at all-times job. If you wanted to skate through a day, barely putting in any effort and just doing the bare minimum, you’d do so at your peril. Those kids can smell weakness at a hundred paces and they hunt as a pack. When the bell rings at the start of the day, you have to be at the classroom, unlocking the door, right on time. All throughout the day, if you’re timetabled on for a class, you can’t be late. If you forget an item that you need to teach, you can’t leave the room to go and get it. You have to send a kid to pick it up for you. You are there, in front of those kids, for the 48 minutes that the class lasts for.
Having said all that, I have to say that I love my job. Teenagers are often hilarious, sometimes thoughtful and are rarely boring. I laugh huge belly-laughs every day when I’m at work and I love how every day is different. However, it’s a tiring job. When you’re timetabled on, you’re ON. You have to be passionate about your subject and you have to hold the kids’ interest, otherwise you lose them. This means that most classes are high-octane, get-in-there-and-razzle-dazzle-’em and have fun sessions. Well, at least the way I teach. I figure that if I’m bored, they’ll be bored so I like to keep things moving and for classes to be varied. So for 48 minutes at a time, (or 96 if it’s a double), teachers are trapped in their classrooms in front of their classes, waving their whiteboard markers around like wands, using their interactive whiteboards to show documentaries and to annotate documents, all while monitoring what the kids have on their computers and turning off their games and shopping sites using a program on our own computers like absolute troupers.
A couple of days ago Deb, a retired teacher, came back to school to get some papers for her passport signed for a trip she and her husband were planning. She arrived just before recess. I had that period off so we had a bit of a chat, then the bell went and people started coming back into the staff room after class.
Harriet, the woman Deb needed for the papers, came back, saw Deb and dumped her books on her desk.
“Hi Deb,” she said. “I’ll sign those papers in just a second, but I’ve been teaching all morning and I’m BUSTING to go to the loo.”
Deb laughed. “Oh, I remember those days!” she said.
I blinked. OMG.
Retirement means that your toilet breaks fall when you actually need to go, not when the clock says you can. When you’re a teacher you can only go to the bathroom before school, at recess, lunch or after school. If you neglect to go then, you just have to cross your legs and pray for the bell to arrive. No way can you leave a class to go for a tinkle.
I’ve imagined many things about retirement. The travel, the sleeping in past 5:30am, the ability to go out for lunch/walk the dogs/see my friends whenever I want. But being able to pee when I want?!?
Imagine the freedom…