It's Monday, and we're having a bit of a re-shuffle. Following the exams in November, in the four lower groups one or two of the most able children have moved up a class, one has moved down, but the majority have stayed where they were. There have been some more significant changes at the top. B-Group has become the students who hope to achieve the public "7th Standard" exams, and A-Group has become those hoping to achieve "10th Standard" (I'm guessing that that is approximately equivalent to GCSE ('O' Level) standard in the UK). Five students formerly in A-Group have been moved to B-Group leaving only five at the top. And then there are six students, mostly ex-B-Group, who are older but who won't achieve either exam. I call them the "A-minus" students. So now we have an additional group but no extra teachers. The Head's idea is that we teach both A groups simultaneously, but with the A- group doing simplified worksheets. This will be a big burden on the teachers, me included. We have to produce extra lesson plans/worksheets, and manage two vastly different ability groups in the same classroom simultaneously. I can't see how this can work out well. Trouble is, the school can't afford extra teachers.
Personally I'd just kick the A- students out. Two of them are disruptive and lazy, and the other four are somewhat slow and backward. They must all be 16 and older, and despite investing a lot in them already, they've achieved very little. I can't see the point in spending any more of our limited resources on them which is certain to be to the detriment of the teaching quality for the A+ students. Putting it kindly, the A- students are not academically inclined. Ideally SISP would be able to offer them vocational training but it's proved impossible - we don't have the money or the time. As it is, these kids are doing negligible work in the classrooms in the mornings. In the afternoons some do "work" in the craft workshops - only they chat and disrupt rather than work, despite the best attempts of the coordinators. As I say, I'd kick them out. In my opinion we're doing no favours keeping them at SISP, other than keeping them from sitting around at home doing nothing. However, the management team are more caring than I am and take a softer approach. I lack compassion.
Right... my day starts at 9am with an hour's computer tuition for one of the craft workshop coordinators. She's my age and is entering November's production figures into a spreadsheet. She's done this every month for the last nine months but still struggles. I suppose that she's lived without technology for so long that this is all a bit abstract for her.
Then there should be a welcome cuppa and a sandwich at 10am. The cook has been in the kitchen since 9am so you'd expect it to be ready on time, wouldn't you? It rarely is. There are twenty minutes before the classes start and ten minutes have already passed. So we have 60 or so noisy, hungry kids, running around, creating merry hell. I go to find out why it's so late. The cook is just sitting there, ostensibly preparing lunch. The tea and bread are ready but she tells me that none of the students has been to collect them, and the woman just shrugs her shoulders and can't be bothered to take any initiative. Fortunately, before I blow my top, some older students arrive and carry the tea and food up to the hall. The kids now have less than 10 minutes in which to queue up, drink and eat before the bell goes.
Up in the hall there are still the decorations from Sacrifice Day two weeks ago. It's the same old story - if someone thinks to put them up, no one thinks to take them down. Meanwhile they get destroyed. I remove a string of tatty flags, screw it up and put it in the bin. Within minutes it's out and being pulled over a table-full of tea and sandwiches... somehow again I manage to not go berserk.
The computer lab is really an area at the far end of the dining/assembly hall, which has been sectioned off by some movable wooden screens. Then there is an area for A-Group classes with three blackboards separating it from the main hall. At lunchtime the heavy/awkward blackboards have to be moved, and the chairs have to be taken out of the computer lab and classroom for sitting at the lunch tables. The chairs and tables already in the hall have to be rearranged too. I cannot recall a single day when anyone has moved the chairs or blackboards of his own volition. Not one. They always have to be told. And this is a task that needs doing every single day. Then at the beginning of classes, as now, the boards and chairs have to be moved back again, usually achieved by dragging them screetching across the tiled floors.
There is no sound-deadening between A-Group, the hall, and my computer lab, and the dividers are only half-height. Consequently we suffer from noise pollution. And it's self-perpetuating - if outside is noisy then my students have to shout to be heard, causing the outside students to shout even louder....
My timetable shows that I have one lesson in the morning, but two teachers haven't turned up today and I have to teach in the periods I'd hoped to use to prepare lessons. Consequently, nothing is prepared, and I have to improvise. This happens often, but somehow or other I've managed to never come unstuck, or at least not badly. At worst I might forget that the youngest kids have the attention spans of gnats (hmm ... perhaps gnats actually have good attention spans, but you know what I mean!) and I might try to teach them for 60mins rather than 30mins of computer and 30mins drawing or reading. Normally I take a register and record the activities for every class and that helps my aging memory in continuing tasks already in progress or avoiding duplicating stuff.
Three mornings every week I have free first periods. On paper, at least.
OK, so that's Monday morning out of the way. Now lunch. Guess what? It's EFFING late EFFING AGAIN! The kids are champing at the bit, fighting and running around like half-crazed lunatics. And have the blackboards been moved? Guess!
But be happy for me - feeling grumpy is good for me! I'm not entirely convinced - perhaps I need to relax a bit more and be a bit more Indian. These problems are my problems, not theirs!