The news that a Walsall infant school has had to employ a nappy changer to help pupils who aren’t toilet-trained got us thinking about thankless tasks that are performed across the secondary school spectrum. In education, there should always be at least one person who fully appreciates and respects the job that you do – those early years practitioners in the West Midlands are no doubt eternally grateful that somebody else is now on hand to clean up messes best unspoken – however, we would suggest that the following vital roles are relatively unacknowledged by the school at large.
Ever wondered what they do for the other ten months of the year? If so, you’ve lost your right to ever get cross with anyone who thinks that teachers work less than forty weeks a year. Consider how dense and mind-boggling a single exam specification can be, then consider the reams of exam board bumf that the Exams Officer has to wade through. These meticulous administrators ensure that exam seasons run smoothly and without any added stress, which requires painstaking preparation and hard graft all year round; that’s the reason you only ever see them venture out of their office between October and April to hand deliver examination certificates to former students who’ve decided they do want a copy of that grade 3 Business Studies GCSE after all. If these clerical magicians weren’t doing a bang-up job then May would be the equivalent of the Apocalypse, and though it’s still a time that every teacher may dread, it’s partly thanks to the unseen efforts of the humble Exams Officer that we can be confident we’ll emerge intact on the other side.
Unlike the Examinations Officer, they’re everywhere around the school, constantly fixing bugs and crashed systems. The reason that their role is sometimes thankless is because we associate them with everything that goes wrong rather than everything that goes right. Despite the occasional glitch, modern IT is a miracle and these are the superheroes that provide us with the tools to do our job (at least on most days). It’s time to stop taking them for granted and adopt the wide-eyed wonder of our little boy who interrupted the cursing of the home printer to exclaim, “Wow! How does it get from there [pointing at computer screen] to there [pointing at printer, unattached by wires]?” Shamefully, we couldn’t answer that question, but we know somebody who could both answer it and get the damn printer working again, even if their alien code language doesn’t always compute with a Luddite’s tiny mind.
Often caretakers by name and by nature, as well as tending the school grounds these fixer-uppers have been known to come to the aid of stranded staff members, mending broken down cars at an hour when garages are closed, then giving a cheerful wave to the teacher who can now drive home, even though the poor caretaker has to remain on site until after that theatre trip returns at 10.30pm. How can we possibly not be thankful for them? Maybe we’re still holding a grudge from the drive in when every other school in the vicinity had a snow day but our crack-team of caretakers had carefully gritted and made the school safe to open. That and the fact the ceiling of D block still leaks.
Deputy Head of Year
The power behind the throne. Okay, maybe comparing Head of Year to the position of a monarch is wildly hyperbolic, but the point remains that a myriad of crucial duties get delegated to the put-upon Deputy. Besides your own year group, could you name any other Deputy Heads of Year? Yet, there they are, beavering away, without even the reward of a TLR payment. Some may be positioning themselves to sit on the throne but many others couldn’t care less about promotion and just want to sit down.
Misunderstood by the Maths and English departments who are envious that they don’t have their own classroom PAs, these qualified individuals are more than TAs in lab coats. That observation is not intended to undervalue Teaching Assistants, who could easily lay claim to sixth position on this list even though every classroom teacher recognises that a TA’s significance is inadequately reflected by their meagre pay and general status in the world of education. Much as we love our TAs, they don’t have to handle harmful chemicals, high voltage machinery or firelighters on an hourly basis. They also get a break from the eccentric science teachers who dream up classroom experiments that lead to singed eyebrows. The Science Technician, on the other hand, has to be the responsible adult in the room for every hour of the day.
Are there others that we’ve missed? Fellow teachers aside, let us know who you think deserves more thanks than they get.
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