Though his actions were not visible …

Mary Shakespeare glued young William to the wall until she had properly read his school report …

Though his actions were not visible, yet

Report should render him hourly to your ear

As truly as he moves (Pisanio, Cymbeline)

When next you hear about – or indeed deride, yourself – the fabulous, wholly unjustified level of holidays enjoyed by teachers, spare a thought in particular for this poor English teacher …

Half-term weeks are usually better described as Admin Weeks – weeks to Get Stuff Done without those pesky kids getting in the way, demanding to learn things.  The cheeky gits.  It’s often said that teaching would be a wonderful profession were it not for all the paperwork, and it’s a view I wholeheartedly endorse.

So.  To this half-term, which has so far comprised marking two sets of books and a set of A Level Coursework essays.  I felt myself burning out yesterday, stupidly staring at books with red biro in mid-air, unable to fully remember what I was supposed to be doing.  What we – almost uniquely as English teachers, with the possible exception of MFL – are supposed to be doing is reading every single word, scrutinising it for spelling, capitalisation, syntactic agreement and effective punctuation.  No ‘tick-and-flick’ here.  This led me to take a break from marking (we have a ‘Health Check’ on the horizon, which has absolutely nothing to do with my personal physical, mental or emotional health, hence all the marking) and move onto reports.

Ah, reports, and in this case Year 11 reports.  Written on the back of a Mock, itself a full three days’ marking (which was on the back of a trial run – another three days’ marking: hence books being behind) and with the real thing looming every closer, despite the general student consenus that it is miles away …

If we are pedantic in our marking, we become positively obsessive when it comes to our reports.  If any reports should be well written and accurate, we as English teachers ought to lead the way.  And under no circumstances would we stoop to copy-and-paste, even when we are broadly saying the same thing to multiple pupils.  They have to be personalised, crafted and targeted to do the most good you can possibly do in about 200 words, bearing in mind that unless you contact the parents directly, this is the last contact you will have with them before the exams.  They need and deserve the truth, AND guidance about what their child should be doing instead of playing CoD, too.

I must needs report the truth.  (Emilia, Othello)

Without an insane workload, reports would be fun.  With the workload there is absolutely no chance of  my writing high-quality and useful reports by next Friday unless I give up an entire day of my holiday to craft them.  I have something on after school every day next week.  Plus, did I mention an impending ‘Health Check’?

They still are fun, in a way.  I pride myself on knowing my pupils well, and I pride myself on my writing. So – because this is the way I like to roll – I put Richard II (audio) on loop in one room, Dracula (unabridged audio) on in the room I’ll be typing in, and get stuck in.  I cross-check data and my detailed marginalia relating to each assessment with my knowledge of them as students.  As human beings.  In many ways, being Y11, they feel a little like a chance to say goodbye and good luck, too …

6,246 words.  Finished broadly as Lucy Westenra is finally staked out.  She gets what she deserves, as far as I’m concerned. Believe it or not, this post is a welcome break and wind-down before bed.  OpenSourceShakespeare suggests I’ve written about 43% of The Comedy of Errors.  Or just shy of 20% of Hamlet. 

It just feels like I’ve written the Complete Works, after all …

Author: Boar's Head, Eastcheap

Hyperactive English Teacher and Tutor; Shakespeare-obsessed 'Villainous abominable misleader of youth'; 'old white-bearded Satan'; Friend of the Orangutan

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