Or “early doors”, as footballers always call it. Never been entirely sure why, but then football has a lexicon all of its own. Who else has skills “in their locker”, “offers an engine in the middle of the park” and chases after “silverware”?
It’s been a remarkable week on and off the park. Schools have never had to build an entirely new way of working in such a short space of time. If my twitter feed is anything to go by, we’re all struggling a bit to adapt.
That’s exacerbated by the fact that everyone else is doing the same: pupils getting used to working alone, parents to working from home, often while managing younger children; hitherto relatively niche platforms like Zoom becoming household names. It’s only after a few days of using it that I’ve stopped thinking of Fat Larry’s Band every time I log on. And even now, there’s still plenty of opportunity for a rousing chorus of Aretha’s “Who’s Zoomin’ Who?”
A quirk of this year’s timetable means that I have not yet done any of the “live” teaching that Years 10 and 12 are engaging with. I have, though, been setting all the Year 7 History, keeping the Lower School twitter feed up to date, and thinking about what comes next for Years 7-9. It’s a very different world. One of the main reasons for becoming a teacher is that you like children. Mine are lovely, of course, but I would like to see some others; you don’t realise how much you feed off the energy of school until it’s not available. Colleagues, too; video meetings at least remind me that I work with some very nice, very hardworking and very determined colleagues, all trying to make the best of a situation none of us wants to be in.
That said, when this all ends, and it will, I think teaching will have gained enormously from forced exposure to new ways of working. It’s not often you get a chance to experiment with live feeds of lessons, collaborative online projects, brief videos to introduce homework tasks and a new approach to timetables, to name just the things that immediately spring to mind.
That’s not to say all of it will endure. But, as a teacher of US Politics, I regularly remind students of the great Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, who said that the states should be free to act as “laboratories of democracy” – in effect, trying things out to see what could be adopted more widely. Currently, it feels like we are in a giant “laboratory of teaching.” It’s early doors, but who knows what wonders will emerge before the referee checks his watch and puts his whistle to his lips?
Now in his second stint as a teacher in a career characterised more by the verb than the noun, Sam is Head of Lower School (Years 7 and 8) and also teaches History and Politics. Prior to Highgate, a long spell in the Civil Service was bookended by two tours of duty at Presdales School, near Hertford.