Teaching as an endurance sport

As with endurance racing, teaching requires equal parts toughness, dedication and insanity.

The marathon is run to commemorate the fabled and fatal journey of the Greek soldier Philippides who brought home news of the Athenian victory at the Battle of Marathon by running 42 kilometres, delivering the message, and dropping dead. It is unclear which muscular teacher the arduous ’11 Week Term 2′ was set up to commemorate, but vale, dear colleague, vale.

The hellscape of an 11 week term looks something like this:

The first few weeks are fine; your developing relationships with students are bubbling along nicely, you have just come back from a visit to Queensland, the football team is back together and daylight savings is still ticking along. Things are pretty sweet…apart from that nagging thought, ‘it’s an 11 week term, it’s an 11 week term.’

But that can easily be brushed aside.

Weeks are soon chewed through by classes and assessment and starting to learn the guitar. You attend professional development in Melbourne, you win the wine raffle twice, you tell your year 11 class about the time you escaped from the Brisbane floods on a bicycle, and that child in Year 9 with handwriting that looks like a spider’s tap dance actually starts doing some work. Things are good…apart from that nagging thought, ‘it’s an 11 week term, it’s an 11 week term.’

But that can easily be brushed aside.

Except that now it’s starting to get dark at five thirty and you have to put your heater on when you get home. The SACs your Year 11 students did nine days ago are unmarked and your domain coordinator has decided that now is a good time to review all the unit plans you were going to review last weekend, but didn’t. This takes some time, but you get it done. Things are OK…apart from that nagging thought, ‘it’s an 11 week term, it’s an 11 week term.’

And then, dear friend, it’s Week 8 – reports are due on Monday and you must also write two assignments on the impact of trauma in the classroom. On Tuesday two girls burst into tears in the back of English and Humanities and when a student looks up from their exam paper to tell you ‘But, I haven’t read the book..?’ all you can think of to say is, ‘Well, that’s not really my problem right now’. You are awful to everyone. Things are terrible… you can’t believe that there’s more to come, but it’s an 11 week term.

Suddenly your life becomes a feat of endurance as you push yourself to read essay after essay. All Saturday is taken up marking English exams, even though you were sure it would take three hours, tops. Your football team is on a hat trick of losses. In your dreams you see the rows and rows of drop down report boxes (double click, move mouse down, select ‘acceptable’, click, double click etc.). Your life becomes your computer screen. You realise that you have eaten takeaway for dinner the last eight nights in a row.

‘It’s an 11 week term, two weeks to go…11 week term’

Finally, reports are finished, but in a truly terrifying development, you must start all new units of teaching for the last two weeks of term. Serendipitously, the best teaching method (to hook students in!) is watching a movie, which you do with three of your four classes. You give everyone lollies and talk longingly of how you will spend your holidays (in bed). Your sentences, by this time, make no sense. You have not washed your hair.

Until finally, in a heap, you collapse on your own front doorstep.

11 weeks – done.

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