Whenever anyone asks me what I do their response to my response is always the same. Once the baffling obsession with the word peripatetic is out of the way, people always say, “it must be nice not being stuck in one place all the time.” Nobody ever adds, “but I bet moving around has its challenges.”
There are two challenges which dwarf all others and, were I ever asked what a new recruit should look out for, I should highlight:
- the lack of a geographical base
- the multiplication of things to remember
I clearly recall taking a long time to get used to the first of these. When it comes to leaving things in the workplace, it’s not so much that you can’t leave them – more that you’ll need them elsewhere. Moreover, certain words lose their meaning and one of these is tomorrow. If a pupil forgets to hand something in then “can you bring it tomorrow, please?” is not a viable alternative. Next week is the only option without involving the already very busy full time members of staff. Forms, letters, external exam fees etc. will be forgotten and one has to write extra time into the plan which means preparing many weeks ahead. Add to this the complication of a holiday or a days in service cropping up and another week must be added. One soon realises that some terms are misleading e.g. a year which really amounts to 19 hours of contact time with each group of pupils. This means that the journey from the start of the new timetable to the practical of Higher Music = June to Feb/Mar = +/- 15 hours minus absence, NABS, Prelims and fire drills. The race is on!
The second of these challenges will, one day, prove or refute the use it or lose it theory of brain/memory. In my current orbit (and there are those with wider ones) I visit five schools per week – three high schools and two primary schools. This means:
5 codes for photocopying; 3 passwords for computers; 5 phone and fax numbers; 2 (frequently changing) door-entry codes for primary schools; the names of 5 sets of office staff, janitors, guidance staff, managerial staff, colleagues and my Exc-el username and password!
Fortunately, my memory seems reasonably intact. I find the job immensely stimulating and regard the pay as extremely handsome for a three-day-week. What’s that? Five-day-week reinstated? When?