No number of free morning teas put on by the administration during term 2 can reduce the stress of staff or improve their morale. There is something dark and ominous about this term that has even the most seasoned teacher reaching for the Kleenex and trying to work out an escape plan from the school building.
Just when you think the workload can’t increase anymore, throw in a Victorian Certificate of Education expo, a school production, School Assessment Coursework (SAC) marking or exam marking, and suddenly even the most resilient teacher is struggling to speak — Strepsils, anyone? — and not sleeping through the night.
I have always thought that if you are planning to take long service leave, term 2 would be the best choice. Missing term 1 and term 4 would be pure madness and, while term 3 is a cold and miserable experience, it is not the dreaded term 2.
“Has anyone else not started reports yet?” asks Marion, a Maths teacher who is usually organised to the point of making others feel incompetent.
“No. I keep looking at my pile of exams and SACs and then sit down to watch MasterChef instead. I think I have a problem,” sniffs Cameron, a senior teacher who always gives the illusion of being super prepared and organised.
A general chorus in the staffroom ensues, with not one teacher sitting in a good place with their reports, marking and general workload.
“It’s like the more work I have, the more stressed I get and then I avoid doing it, which makes me even more stressed.”
“When I get home, it’s so dark. All I want to do is eat dinner and go to bed.”
“I’m just exhausted.”
Schools are best avoided at this time of year. The teachers are exhausted, the kids are sick and the buildings are either over heated or freezing. You can never dress appropriately for school at this time year. You will either boil or freeze.
Many a lesson recently, I have found myself sweating it out at the whiteboard, not because I am writing at such speed and intensity, but due to the classroom having the climate of a tropical island, despite the fact it is 12 degrees and hailing outside. Once adapted to this heat, I inevitably find myself unlocking the door of a room with a tomb-like temperature, where a heater stands invitingly in the corner. It is always these rooms in which the heaters cannot be stirred into action, despite the attention of at least five students and a generous time allowance.
“Miss! It’s freezing.”
“I’m so cold. I can’t work.”
“Are there tissues in here?”
“Pardon the interruption, teachers,but this is a reminder that there will be a morning tea provided for staff today.”
No matter how good those muffins are, I’m still going to have a massive pile of work too. But, I might be able to take a pile of muffins back to my desk... and that will make me feel better about things.
Christina Adams is a member of the Australian Education Union (Victoria) and a stand-up comedian.