How many of you, on a beautiful Spring day (or any day, for that matter), whilst sitting at your desk doing whatever it is you do, have played this game:
‘I’m not a window cleaner in a lap dance room... I’m not a child labourer in Asia... I’m not a coal miner in 1862... I’m not Naomi Campbell’s Personal Assistant...’
So frequently we find ourselves unhappy with our choice of occupation or, more specifically, unhappy with particular parts of our choice of occupation.
We cheeky humans can never be fully satisfied no matter how good we’ve got it, and even though I’m grateful to be a teacher and I enjoy my job (most of the time), there are still elements that grate and cause me to play a round or two of ‘I’m Not A...’ every now and again.
I’m sure you’ll read over the next few paragraphs and feel one of two things:
Firstly, you may relate to what I’m writing, see that it is (mostly) all in jest and understand that, though I am grateful for, and do enjoy my job, as one of those pesky species that happens to be human, there are a few things I don’t enjoy, (though understand are a necessity) about my job.
Secondly, you’ll think I’m having a massive whinge and think I should (as a P.E. teacher I know might say), ‘harden up’ and be more gracious and grateful for the opportunities my job offers me.
Though I could sit here for hours writing about what irritates me on occasion as a teacher, I must use my word limit to instead address one element of being an educator that weekly makes me question my career choice and start a round of, ‘I wish I was a bed tester (made it up, whatever)... I wish I was five-star-resort critic... I wish I was...’
I hate Yard Duty. I whole heartedly accept and acknowledge that it is a duty of care to once a week troll the school yard for twenty to thirty minutes, and I know I’m fortunate to be a staff member at a school so large that I only have to do it once a week, but it doesn’t mean I hate it any less.
Any teacher I know, on their yard duty day(s) finds themselves groaning loudly on the morning of aforementioned duty and possibly throwing a mild tantrum on the staff couch that consists of some kicking of feet and punching of cushions.
At the school I teach at, our duty rotates weekly, so the tantrums can range from minor to extreme depending on where it is you are to spend your time before school, recess, lunch or after the final bell rings.
For example, wandering the VCE area or Performing Arts Centre is actually not a bad way to spend twenty minutes, the students are low maintenance and you might find yourself in an interesting conversation. Major meltdowns over Yard Duty are usually caused by supervising the Canteen (who knew kids could push that hard, jump that high or make that much noise? Darwin would have a field day), trolling the year 9/10 area pulling kids up on swearing or other general middle-school-awfulness (poor buggers), watching the oval and year 7/8 area, keeping a lookout for play-fighting, dangerous (‘I wasn’t thinking Miss...’) behaviour or the dreaded BUS DUTY.
Depending on the weather and your particular frame of mind on the day, front and back gate duty could be an opportunity to sit quietly and do a crossword or, (especially during Winter) freeze your arse off in every piece of clothing you own, with an umbrella over your head as the rain decides to change direction frequently just to keep you guessin’.
We understand that yard duty is an important part of looking out for our students, but there is nothing uglier than having to witness some impolite canoodling between a year 9 couple; nothing more frustrating than watching boys attempt to punch each other in the genitals ‘for fun’ (but they’re quite comfortable saying ‘gay’ out of context, intriguing); nothing worse than witnessing a student who has been singled out and alienated, wandering the yard looking for someone to accept them.
Yard Duty is done reluctantly not only because it takes up the small portion of time we get to socialise with our colleagues and take some ‘mental health’ time away from students, it is done reluctantly because we are reminded, whilst wandering the yard with 1800+ students that we are outnumbered. That if in the event of a riot, we are royally and absolutely screwed.
I’d suggest this is a less dramatic example of how Prison Wardens in a maximum security facility must feel.
Yard Duty is a reminder of how awful being a teenager can be, and how lucky they are that some of them don’t realise it yet.
Yard Duty is a reminder of how over a thousand different personalities thrown together in a restricted space could so easily descend into chaos.
The most terrifying realisation of why it is that I don’t like Yard Duty? Yard Duty is a reminder of what I had to go through to get to where I am.
Upon completing my twenty minute report-writing session at the front gate during lunchtime today, I watched the students interact as I made my way back to the safety of my staffroom. As I wandered along I thought about how hard high school can be and how, for them, this is the only time during the day that (although supervised) they get to relax ever-so-slightly having to live up to our expectations and just be themselves; just be teenagers. Canoodling, immature, ‘I didn’t think Miss’ teenagers. I thought ‘I only have to experience this twenty minutes a week, they’ve still got years ahead of them’. It made me smile to think I was there once too.
I still hate Yard Duty though.