The idea of getting into my car every morning and sitting at traffic light after traffic light, enduring the irregularities of the British motoring public fills me with a sort of dread.
This post answers the 38th question from my TeacherToolkit Thinking page of Thunks.
Thunk 38: From bed to classroom by @pjcann
I’ve never had to commute to work, though I do live further from my classroom than I have ever lived before – all of 300 metres. I can see what some people might find attractive about commuting – searching for that elusive work/life balance, trying to switch off at the end of a day and “get away from it all” – but I can’t really understand it (and I suspect that it’s mostly practical for many, anyway). It’s all so alien to how I think.
I live in a school flat, next door to a girls’ boarding house. Every time I open my front door there could be pupils there. Some people find that oppressive, limiting to their private lives. I think we all recognise that the interactions we have with the pupils outside of lessons affects how we see them in lessons, and how they see us. Whilst this can go to extremes, for me, living cheek-by-jowl with the pupils just extends that interaction into almost every sphere of life, and it’s just normal for me.
Photo Credit: Coolmonfrere.
When I lived in a boarding house in a previous school, the housemaster’s son would come through to the dining room to have his breakfast just as I was finishing reading the Obituaries and Engagements, and demanded we read the Sport pages. He thought I knew a lot about football, though I was just reading the captions faster than him. It became a ritual that year, and I did learn a lot about soccer. Breakfast in an institution seems full of rituals – the same chalkies are there each day, sitting in the same seats at the same table – not some tradition that must be maintained, but a habit that is hard to break.
A year into a new job, and it is still strange for me that breakfast here comes with conversation rather than early-morning-grunts of recognition; it is often headlong into “talking shop” – discussing rugby training that afternoon, or catching up with a colleague about a tutee – or generally discussing life at school. As a young teacher cutting my teeth as an inexperienced HoD, it has often been these conversations that have challenged or moulded my conceptions about education, though sometimes it can be too much at 7.30am on a bleak February morning.
Photo Credit: Asher Isbrucker
Last year’s addition to Common Room of bean-to-cup coffee machines means an essential 7.45am trip for a cappuccino (with an extra-shot of espresso – another ritual) and perhaps a first look at the cryptic crossword. The usual couple of people will be there, reading the paper, doing some administrative work or just passing through. It’s time to bite the bullet, though, and “open up the shop”. A wander through the cloisters might elicit a few ‘good mornings’ but it’s time to ensure that the department coffee machine is switched to go, that the fridge is stocked with milk and that I am fully prepared for what I’m teaching.
I don’t mark in the mornings unless I’m really up against it, though I’ve often thought that I probably could. There are conversations to have with colleagues instead, often administrative, but importantly social – though I dread the Monday morning “how was your weekend?”; working in a boarding school, as I always have, the concept of a weekend seems as alien as commuting, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. And by now it must be time to hit the chalk-face …
What do you think? I’d appreciate your comments below.
Pip Canning has just completed one year as Head of Classics at an independent school on the south coast. He is currently completing a Master of Teaching qualification through the Institute of Education. You can follow him on Twitter at @pjcann.