The loneliness of the long-distance BMX rider
Some of the more dreaded phrases in schools, whether as staff or visitor are:
“Can I leave these boxes here in the staff room? Only for a couple of days.” You know that come the end of term, the boxes will still be in the same way. Taking up space or tripping people up. The boxes will be moved to one side, left on tables (or on the only table in the staff room and moved to one side when a member of the staff decides to sit down and eat their lunch) or abandoned in a corner until someone remembers that it’s the end of term and they need the special customised pens they’d ordered back in September. The ones that came in boxes. And no one can’t find the damned boxes…
“Oh, I can’t get hold of So and So. Wait a minute.” Half an hour passes and So and So hasn’t appeared. You are ushered into the staff room, shown where the toilets are and trusted with a fob (guard it with your life, the attendance officer menacingly tells you) and still no sign of the person who coordinated the cycling training.
Two hours later, already on the playground with your first group of trainees, you see the same attendance officer approaching. Her body stoops a bit, her manner is less brusque and her voice is apologetic. So and So will not be here until Thursday. It’s Monday today. But it’s fine. At least the sun’s out.
We need volunteers for/we’re looking for volunteers for… (usually uttered during staff briefing and after a few events for which the staff have already volunteered three or four times in a row). This is a feared phrase, chiefly feared by the type of personnel for whom the word “no” is non-existent. As soon as the request is made, these dedicated members of staff scan the room to see who else is willing to swell up their ranks. But no, perhaps one or two new faces will throw their hat in, yet, on the whole, it will be the “old brigade” chipping in again.
|You won't see a desk in my office, but there's plenty of seating space (photo by author)|
There’s a gender-leveller amongst cycling trainers. Both men and women, do the same sprawl across couches in the staff room, leaving our cycling gear in one chair, whilst plonking our bottoms down on another one. Helmets, saddle tool bags (that’s me) and double panniers (one of my colleague’s) are instant additions to a staff room’s décor.
It’s easy when you have a big space with plenty of tables and chairs. But in these Covid times when signs outside social areas warn to “keep 2m apart” and not have “more than six people at any one time, otherwise use the library as an overflow room”, I feel embarrassed about taking up all that space.
I move my bags and place them on the floor.
One of the differences I’ve noticed in schools is how they approach cleanliness. Some boast top of the range hand-washing soaps, whereas others don’t even bother providing paper towels. Then, there are those with state-of-the-art jet hand-dryers standing next to a traditional turn-on/turn-off manual tap.
Acronyms in education always crack me up. Whether as a former member of staff or visitor nowadays, I find their obscure nature part of a secret language only shared by practitioners. One of the beauties this week was RRS (Ready, Respectful and Safe). When asked to explain what the acronym meant for him, a member of the staff got so excited that I thought he was going to cry.I bet he was the one who came up with the slogan. He deserves a BMX and a fifteen mile-long ride to Epping on it.