20 Mar 2010
Oh Fuck STED
On Monday we had the call. The call that strikes fear and untold panic into the hearts of every teacher in the land. The one that loosens bowels and compresses bladders.
OFSTED were coming in.
OFSTED is a portmanteau of Office for Standards in Education. They are the government's inspectors. They give you notice two days before they are due to arrive and then descend - in flash cars I might add - like a biblical plague.
They operate like the SS at the start of Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds. They come in all smiles 'yes we're here to help you improve' before whipping out the MP42s and shooting at the floorboards.
No stone is left unturned. They will scour your school for any hint of something not quite right. This could be on any one of the 15 billion initiatives that have come into force over the last ten years. "What do you mean you haven't included a policy on creative development in lower school with a focus on community cohesion and its application across the Every Child Matters agenda? That is a 'Focus 12' priority and as such should have picto-implementation by now you twat" to someone who spluttering between sobs mummers "I just want to teach kids how to play hockey".
But that's an issue for the people with much larger pay-cheques than I. What I care about is when they just saunter casually into your classroom and stony faced ask for your 'Lesson plan, data sheets and motorcycle'.
I had this happen to me first period on Wednesday...
I was midway through my lesson. The kids were working well and I was circling the room checking the pupils' work. There was a thud on the steps leading to my classroom. I knew what was outside of the door. The handle slowly turned. The glass on the window was misted by the breath of the unspeakable horror that lay beyond it. The door opened with a sickening and somewhat cliched creak.
"Is this Year 9" the thing said, reptilian sibilance rasping in its voice.
"Er...yes. Yes it is." I stuttered with terror forcing my speech to quiver.
"Good...I will require a lesson plan and a data sheet". Its words inflicted primordial terror, my flight or fight response was coming into the fore. "Don't look into the eyes" I reminded myself aloud. She looked at me quizzically. "At the back" I squeaked, pointing to the chair I'd put everything on.
She sat. I had to do everything I could to be normal. I realised after three minutes that I had marched around my room thirteen times. I needed to calm down. A deep breath and a sip of water. Better.
The troll moved towards me.
"Lovely atmosphere in here"
"Well, I think that's unfair I jus...what!?"
"I said it's a lovely atmosphere in here - are you alright?"
"Yes - I've never had a compliment mid-lesson from an HMI before."
"Well, we're not monsters you know."
And then it dawned on me. This wasn't a hideous creature sent from the bowels of hell to torture my yet still living soul. This was a middle aged lady in a skirt suit. Now there is one thing that I know I do better than anything else on this Earth...
Charming middle-aged ladies.
So I cracked a few jokes. Talked about what I was doing with the kids and why I was doing it. How the kids were being loyal and working so well because they knew I was being assessed. She smiled and made notes.
At the end of the lesson I dismissed my pupils and stood awaiting my fate.
"That was fantastic" she said "I'm grading you as '1s' across the board. As an English specialist myself I'm very impressed by the quality of the learning that took place in a class that is quite low ability. Well done."
She left me shaking with relief.
I've worked 18 hours a day for the majority of this week. I've lost sleep. I've panicked like nothing else. The Duchess has had to put up with a gibbering wreck of a man slumped over a laptop - something she did with aplomb and great kindness.
But to be officially graded as an 'Outstanding' teacher made it all worth it - there is no higher accolade in the profession.
Next week we'll be watching videos. Outstanding be damned - I'm exhausted.