While students don’t get to enjoy (or is that endure?) too many meetings, unless you count lessons, we teachers meet in various groups with the aim of oiling the wheels of our educational bus and either speeding it on its way to academic improvement, or at least giving it a push in that direction.
All too often, meetings can feel more like the second option, with half the group arguing with the driver about the right direction to such an extent that it seems we’re stuck on the hard shoulder waiting for rescue. Worse still are those meetings when the driver seems to have lost the map and we sit waiting for directions that never arrive. It’s no wonder that some teachers want to get a note from their Mum to be excused. Unfortunately, we’re not playing games. These decisions affect our students’ lives even if, at the time of the meeting, it seems like an exercise in trivia.
Deadlines, on the other hand, hang over students and teachers alike. Round about now, those taking exams have particular dates that are pinned up prominently in their households and seen daily by the whole family as they get the milk from the fridge or clean their teeth. For me, the end of this month will allow me to let out a huge sigh of relief as I dispatch, either electronically or through the post, batches of coursework of various kinds that make up part of the exams the students do later.
Before getting to the stage of having a parcel of papers with all the necessary forms attached in the right order and signed in the right places, it is necessary to extract (and I use the word deliberately because in at least one case every year it is like pulling teeth) from each student the necessary pieces of work, ensure they are marked and (often a surprisingly difficult task) that every student has written his or her name on it. I am at the stage of wondering if I’ll ever make sense of some of the spidery scrawls and even more, will I ever get these unmanageable piles of paper into the right order with nothing missing. In my more paranoid moments I worry about the house burning down and taking two years of the students’ and my work with it. No building insurance covers this. Fortunately in these days of word processed and electronically stored data, there really is back-up… (but what if the computer’s in the fire?)