Sunday, 8 November 2009
What a Week!
What a week indeed.
My previous post showed no hints of how the rest of the week was going to progress.
We spent a really pleasant Monday night at the O2, in the company of Michael McIntyre.
Despite living only a mile from the venue, it ended up being a fairly late climb into bed for a 'school night'. With the power of hindsight, the late night did me no favours for the rest of the week.
On Tuesday, our school got 'the call'.
It was hardly a surprise, - we have been on tenterhooks ever since the first week of September.
Ofsted last visited us in September 2006. We were told there were some improvements to make, (natch), but they were pleased enough to say they wouldn't be back for 3 years.
Needless to say, throughout the last 3 years we have worked extremely hard to take on any perceived weaknesses plus getting involved in many new initiatives.
I don't think there is a group of people in England who have tried any harder than us to get things right for an audience of faceless b******s.
The problem is, as with referees in football, there is little consistency. Each group of inspectors will have a particular focus that they think is important.
One school, or individual teacher, can get applauded for doing something yet another may get hammered for the very same thing, all depending on the inspection team.
Our planning and paperwork have all been spot on and checked up on regularly.
Unfortunately, the kind of planning you do for yourself and the kind you do for the benefit of a third party aren't always the same.
All of my long term, medium and weekly plans have been on the shared drive for anybody to access once you are onto our internal system for years.
Sometimes, there might be 'blank days' or empty sessions due to being on trips out or speakers / guests coming in.
Just to cover myself, I spent Tuesday night going through my old plans and making sure anybody with an axe to grind wouldn't be able to pick holes.
(This in no way helped or changed the pupils learning experience but it is, apparently, 'important'.)
Most people didn't leave school until well after 9pm. We then had a breakfast meeting on Wednesday morning meaning we were back in again either before or around 7:45 am.
On Wednesday night, most staff had to be kicked out as the caretaker wanted to go home by 8:30pm.
On Thursday morning, we all had to be back again for a chance to meet the inspectors.
Totally unnecessary in my opinion. We all had plenty to do, yet sat around nursing super strength coffees for half an hour from 8:10am onwards while a bloke in a suit prattled on with no one listening.
The next 2 days were a mixture of the most extreme adrenaline rushes, (when inspectors walk into your lessons), crushing lows, (when you hear stories of well respected and experienced staff members being reduced to tears by heartless gits), tales of disappointment, (when the most perfect lessons went unvisited), cases of inspectors arriving halfway through lessons and then complaining they didn't see evidence of features that obviously happened before they arrived, (leading to heated 'discussions' with clipboard holding paper pushers, seemingly unable to read a lesson plan in an open file).
Thursday night was again, long.
Friday went by in the same way of teaching with one eye on the door. Personally, my lessons viewed received good comments from an inspector who had been truly awful to some of my friends so I felt happy but we had no idea how things were going for the school as a whole.
At 3:30pm on Friday, it was clear we weren't going to get any more classroom visits as we waved the children goodbye. The inspection team stayed until 5:45pm so we still had them creeping about.
All I wanted to do was leave the building, tip my head back and pour copious amounts of London Pride or Spitfire down my throat.
Unfortunately, I had to spend the hours from 3:45pm until 8:30pm, standing outside in the drizzle / pouring rain setting up, then letting off, then packing up our school Firework Display.
By the time I finally climbed into a hot bath I really felt like I'd reached my limit.
I was so tired in body and mind I couldn't even be bothered to take a drink!
Over the week I'd managed to miss keeping up with my beloved Philadelphia Phillies and their World Series games against the Yankees from New York.
Despite New York being my favourite city on the planet and thoroughly enjoying my trips to see the NY Knicks play basketball and NY Rangers play ice hockey at 'The Garden", the Fightin' Phillies will always be 'my' baseball team.
I spent a very enjoyable time in my early twenties working in Philadelphia and while there, became a huge fan. From June onwards, we went to every game we could and any games we couldn't make, we watched live on TV.
I still have a framed photo of Lenny Dykstra in my kitchen.
Unfortunately, the Phillies who were the defending champions, went down in game six to lose the series 4-2 to the Yankees. I felt rather guilty as last year I followed everything as closely as is possible from this distance and rejoiced in real time as the Phils won the title.
This week, I found out the results, almost as an afterthought, nearly 20 hours after everything had packed up. To add to my sense of disappointment, I was actually wearing a NY Yankees beanie hat as I checked my iPhone to find that the Phillies title was lost.
Saturday was very, VERY lazy.
We finally raised ourselves on Saturday morning as the clock clicked into afternoon. I really needed the rest, it wasn't just being sloth like.
On Saturday evening, I ambled up to Blackheath to see the skies above Greenwich and Lewisham lit up by the free fireworks.
They were, in my opinion, far better than last year when many people were unimpressed. This year they were totally and utterly amazing.
An estimated 65 -70,000 people were present, meaning the surrounding roads were packed with pedestrians. All the people standing near me were Russian, Poles or French.
I wonder what they made of us celebrating a failed terrorist from 400 years ago?
Today I'm allowing myself to get back to normal.
I'm off out in a minute for a Sunday morning walk in Greenwich and then I'm going to return to see our Charlton heroes live on ITV1.
It's years since I've seen Charlton on the telly.
Generally, if a game has been on TV I've been at the game anyway so it will feel good to see a live game involving us.
The TV audience will mostly be hoping for an upset by the plucky bunch of Northwich Victoria players who will be relishing their chance to show what they are about.
I'm expecting a comfortable win by Charlton but as we all know, we have a history of these kind of games biting us on the bum.
We have never lost to a non league team and I don't expect that record to be broken. However, this is Charlton and we can never, ever be assured of anything.
A bit like Ofsted really.