It has been suggested to me that teachers find themselves with little to do at this time of year.
So let me try and set the record straight……..
The weekend begins here. I come home late, after running about after school to get some last minute supplies that the lovely Sharon forgot to get. When I do get home I rush about and pack my bags for a weekend away that I have pushed to the back of my mind until now, when I have to grab what I need and realise that it’s not washed or is at the bottom of the last ruck sack I look in.
I wolf down a very nasty pizza (pepperoni and glucose flavour) before I jump in the car and head up to the north Antrim Coast to join the lovely Sharon.
I arrive at a hostel to find the students and other teachers gone to Portrush for chips. I take this rare moment to curl up on a sofa in the common room and read a little. Other people using the hostel laugh and bustle around me. I am oblivious.
Normally weekends away with students involve ridiculously early starts, but on this one the lovely Sharon is in charge. She sets the pace. Breakfast is scheduled for 10am and she is one of the later ones to arrive.
The day is spent between a long canoe trip on the river and archery. The rain stays off and no apples are produced to prop on heads. Success.
In the evening I find a quiet corner under a staircase. I hunch myself over a low coffee table on a broken chair and I write my form tutor reports fueled by strong coffee. The barbecue is a welcome distraction to break up the task and prevent writer’s hand cramp.
At 3.30 am it is decided that the evening of games and laughter is finished.
Late breakfast again then games, then a big cleanup. Go home. Light fire. Put feet up. Drink wine.
The electronic reports have to be generated today. I spent half my free time roaming the school trying to figure out what subjects some rogue students actually take. I call them rogue students because their entries in the school database is all messed up and their timetables, and thus reports, are up the left. The other half of my free time is spent pouring over geeky code I have written to fix all the mistakes that we know will be created by the system.
In the evening I pack my ruck for the mountains and then fire off some quick emails to the staff involved in the report writing. The c2k email system blocks my mail under the safe text filtering policy. I NEED this email to be sent and will not be in school tomorrow. I pour over every word I have written and keep re-sending the mail. After 1 hour of changing word after word and no success; the mail gets trough. This was after I changed “usb pens” to “usb drives”.
I drive to the mountains. I arrive late.
When I meet up with the gold DOE group and thier instructor they are tired after having been on the hills for two days already. They are not too tired as we sit and chat and the conversation gets deep. We end up discussing philosophy and world politics deep into the night as the midge flys drain us of our essence.
I find a quiet spot and pitch my tent. A new tent I bought a few months back in a sale but had not used yet. When it is pitched it looks like a freak tent. An ugly tent made to be practical and smart, not pretty. I love it.
Over coffee and in front of a backdrop of steep misty mountains I answer emails and texts about the reports.
The gold group head off into the forests leaving their instructor and I little to do until we meet them at a check point later on. We head to the local climbing wall to ‘hang’ out and work off our breakfast.
After lunch the golds head home and I head back into the hills. I walk in to try and figure out where the lovely Sharon might be. She should have arrived into the hills earlier that day with her own students. After a long walk wandering alone in the mountains I stumble upon them shuffling along. The lovely Sharon confides that the biggest challenge, to her as a leader in the hills, is patience. Not patience with the students, patience with the slow speed they walk. She finds it hard to walk slowly in the mountains. I confide in her that I am here to scrounge a free meal with her fellow teachers.
By 8pm, and lots of lessons in campcraft, we are sitting down to our chicken stroganoff.