Sunday 23 December 2012


Our department is in a precarious position at the moment. Our manager left suddenly (rumours abound about why, but it is no secret that a lot of the figures for our area were found to be completely inaccurate) and we have an interim manager from another department. She is amazing, and I am enjoying the sensation of having a supportive, empowering manager. The other CL in the department is also on extended leave, so I am assuming some of his responsibilities. I'm realising that, while I am not quite the longest-serving lecturer, I am now the most senior non-managerial lecturer.

Questions were being asked about the department's future, and the Director responsible for our department (among others) asked my manager if I was interested in becoming the permanent manager. The short answer is no. The slightly longer answer is hell no. And this is why:

  • I am a teacher. Teaching is what I do. Any managerial position will take more teaching hours away from me than I am comfortable with.
  • We are short of staff. We need more full-time lecturers. And we need more competent full-time lecturers. I have supported students with AS and A2 Chemistry, and AS Physics, in addition to my normal teaching duties. Losing half my teaching hours to management would be disastrous.
  • I left the private sector to get away from days spent peering at an Excel spreadsheet. I certainly don't want to return to that.
  • The £10k extra a year is not worth the hassle.
  • I am unlikely to find myself with a supportive, empowering manager further up the scale, and this will bother me, perhaps to the point of a relapse into the anxiety and depression that has been so paralysing in the past.
  • I'm an aggressive, passionate, sweary mama-bear, and I will do battle for my students to the detriment of my own position. That is not a particularly desirable managerial trait.
  • I do not wish to rise from the ranks and become the manager of my own colleagues. I have no desire to manage my PGCE mentor, or the A-level Coordinator, or the head lab technician.
  • Timetabling seems to be worthy of its own special level of hell, and I would quite like to not have my summers taken up with it.

Finally, when discussing this with Paul, we drew some comparisons between college management and "Game Of Thrones" (which we have finally watched, after months of being told to by my students). Management is a game of thrones, thrusting staff into the line of sight of the Directors, requiring people to play politically or risk being removed from their post. As Cersei Lannister says, "When you play the game of thrones you win, or you die". I have no desire to play the game of thrones. I am, apparently, Ned Stark - best left to be Lord Lady of Winterfell My Lab, and to try to avoid being called to King's Landing for as long as possible, in case I lose my head...

Saturday 15 December 2012


I was at my College's staff Christmas party when Paul showed me the awful news of the mass-shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. We've both watched the coverage of this with horror and deep sadness. There is much to criticise of the things said (the media's continued demonisation of all with mental illness, the continued worshipping of guns in the name of the Second Amendment, and their assertion that only a parent could possibly imagine the grief felt by those caught up in it), but most of those are for another post, another person, another day perhaps.

For now, I want to pay tribute to the teachers, our brothers and sisters in education, whose actions saved the lives of their classes and without whose bravery the loss of life could have been even more terrible. This is apparently going to be the front page of the Independent on Sunday:

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic
Under the photo, the caption reads:
As the shooting started, teacher Vicki Soto, just 27, hid her 16 pupils in the cupboard, and when the gunman came into her room, she told him the class was in the gym. He murdered her, then turned his gun on himself. The children survived.
Three other teachers were also killed while trying to protect their students.

Five and a half years ago, during another massacre at a US educational establishment, Virginia Tech, Liviu Librescu died barricading the door to his classroom and allowing his students to escape. 16 years ago, just four months after the Dunblane disaster, Lisa Potts suffered terrible injuries to her arms defending nursery school children (even younger than those at Sandy Hook) from a machete attack. In Mexico, Martha Rivera Alanis kept her children safe during a shoot-out a block from their primary school, getting them to sing songs while they kept out of the line of fire.

Numerous teachers have surely done the same in their time. In the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, the Executive Director of Gun Owners of America has said teachers should be armed - I have not seen a single teacher saying they agree with this. Teachers with guns would not help in the slightest. Where would we put them? In our desks, locked away? It would take too long to access it. On our person? That just tells a shooter to take out the teacher first and then the students. And where would we fit in the training needed to be able to shoot to kill someone who was trying to kill us? Members of the Armed Forces spend months - years even - being trained to do so.

To suggest that, had the teachers had guns the tragedy could have been avoided, is to lay the blame for this at the feet of the teachers. Yet another thing that is apparently teachers' fault. As with the examples above, and no doubt many more, teachers have shown again and again that when the lives of their students are threatened, they will step in to defend them, to buy them time, to let them escape, to give their lives for the youngsters they love.

We have not had a major incident at my College. We have a lock-down procedure, which will override the computers in each classroom with a warning. We have to lock the doors, switch off the lights and hide away from doors and windows. The doors in our new building can only be opened from the outside with a staff pass and my lab is the furthest point from the main entrance.

My thoughts are with the families and colleagues of all those killed yesterday. I can hardly imagine something like this happening here, on my campus, but I only hope that, if that terrible day comes, I can muster some of the courage of the brave men and women who have put themselves between their students and an attacker.

Thursday 13 December 2012


I worry.

I worry about my students.

I worry that, after all that they've done, the students I've prepped for interview at top universities won't get offers.

I worry that my prospective vet student just won't manage to pull three A grades out of the bag.

I worry that this is my fault for failing to teach him properly.

I worry that trying will do him more harm than good.

I worry that some of my students will slip through my fingers because I'm too busy trying to hold on to some other students.

I worry about the pressure of the HND programme on my frayed nerves.

I worry that Michael Gove is going to do to teachers what Thatcher did to miners.

I worry that it's been so long since I ate proper food that I have a vitamin deficiency.

I worry about why the staff in Domino's know me and Paul by name and our usual order.

I worry that I spend too long at work and not enough time at home with Paul.

I worry that Paul spends too long at work and not enough time at home with me.

I worry about the results.

I worry about the feedback.

I worry about how long I can keep this up.

I worry that Ofsted might be just around the corner.

I worry that I am not, in fact, an excellent teacher, and that all I do is entertain while relying on nothing more than charisma to engage the students.

I worry that I am a charlatan, an imposter, a pretender.

I worry that nothing I do as a teacher is ever good enough.

I worry that I'm too emotionally involved with my students' education.

I worry that one day I'm going to punch a colleague in the defence of one of my students.

I worry about burnout.

I worry that I have slowly regressed to the lifestyle, hours and vices that I had as a PhD student.

I worry about dying young.

I worry that I'm doing this not to impart enthusiasm and knowledge to the next generation but to surround myself with admirers.

I worry that I'm the cool teacher.

I worry that I'm not the cool teacher.

I worry that my hair will break from the bleach and dye.

I worry that underneath the bleach and dye my hair is grey.

I worry for the welfare of the young people I teach.

I worry that they will have their hearts broken.

I worry that sometimes I'm the one who does that.

I worry about worrying.
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