I have never made a century on the cricket field, in fact I have never been close – I did once score a gritty 29. On the final day of this term, however, I will complete a hundred terms of teaching and although that may require less talent than that of a conquering batsman, it almost certainly needs more durability. A great deal has changed since I first stood at the classroom crease and began years of pontification; the most obvious difference is that a pupil will not find themselves learning at the feet of a baby-faced 19 year old. I made my debut in 1979 as a Gap student who had a full teaching timetable and precisely no minutes of experience. I suspect more than eyebrow would be raised in question by the parental body were this to happen today! Feet, legs, chest and chin would all make a huge upward movement. I may be marginally less than objective but I actually think I did a pretty sound job although I struggled to contain the exuberant naughtiness of a boy called Von Trott; I have not a clue what his first name was – perhaps it was “Behave” as I seem to remember saying “Behave Von Trott” an awful lot.Equipment at the disposal of the pedagogue was significantly less advanced then. I had a blackboard and chalk, which, if the bursar was feeling generous, might just be coloured. I was forever running out of the stuff and found myself trying to write with the tiniest of stubs which did, at least, not make the same hideous screech as a brand new piece. Whilst there always seemed to be a dearth of chalk sticks, chalk dust was everywhere. My blue blazer was coated with the stuff as were my smart grey trousers, my hands and my hair. Today I would controversially describe myself as a silver fox and, forty years ago, I had a foretaste of what I would look like in late middle age. Until the mid 80s there were no photocopiers to reproduce worksheets; instead we had to use something called a Banda machine (invented in 1923). You wrote your words of wisdom on a sheet beneath which lay a piece of carbon paper; this was then used to duplicate the original many times over. The best thing about the entire system was the heavenly smell – addictive I suspect – that the operation produced.
A year or two ago I went around a museum at a national Trust property and witnessed five and six year olds being mesmerised by the typewriter. For at least the first decade of my teaching innings this contraption represented the height of technology and, as such, was slightly beyond me, meaning that my worksheets were invariably handwritten. The worst thing about this world of antiquity was that half-term and end of term reports had to be produced by hand. One mistake and you had to begin again and attempts to disguise an error by turning an “e” into an “i” were inevitably spotted gleefully by colleagues who proof-read your copy. At Cothill School a child’s half-term report for all subjects was written on the same piece of paper: your mistake lead to everybody having to re-write. The pressure on you when scrawling your opinion on a restarted report often proved too much and the record number of unsuccessful attempts was well over 10!
In those far off days career development was an unknown phrase and you were left to get on with your teaching unpestered by anyone wanting to verify that you were up to the task. Nowadays my lessons seem to be being observed the whole time by appraisers, heads of department, normal peers and an occasional member of the Senior Leadership Team. I appreciate that it is probably for the betterment of the school but the nerves I suffer before such a lesson and the unnatural performance I give during it, make me wonder whether it is for the betterment of Alasdair Romanes. The dreaded lesson observations march hand in hand with short, medium and long-term planning; parental meeting forms; risk assessments; dietary requirement requests and the reading of countless school policies. Those of you who find sleep a problem, just need a copy of the latter and you will be snoring like a baby. All of it is necessary, all of it is good practice, all of it protects both teachers and our charges but… crikey!
What hasn’t changed in 100 terms are the children. Cheeky, shy, intuitive, cheerful, conscientious, idle, stand-offish, affectionate – they come in all shapes and sizes. It is endlessly fascinating, life enhancing and richly rewarding to deal with – and to try to find way to deal with – the infinite variety of the young. And that is why my maiden hundred is 100 not out.Back to all news