All the members of the Shrewsbury School Common Room have a number of metaphorical hats – the guises and responsibilities that we have in our day-to-day lives at school. My personal hat collection consists of one “Biology teacher” hat– green and leafy with goggles perched on top; “Assistant housemaster of Port Hill” hat – eye poppingly bright in the red and gold stripes of the mighty Port Hill; one “Listening team” hat – warm and cosy with ear flaps permanently propped up; a “J14 Rowing coach” hat – weatherproof; the “RSSH hat” aerodynamic in regulation navy blue and a new hat which I added to my collection last March –“Housemistress-in-waiting of Emma Darwin Hall”, the second VI form girls’ house in Shrewsbury School. This is a bright yellow construction helmet lined in the Wedgewood blue and apple green of EDH. A typical week at Shrewsbury involves a lot of dressing up!
Friday 20th May
Friday morning starts off in Port Hill, a relatively quick cycle from home made even faster without the drag effect of a 2-child trailer towed behind the trusty bike. I check any notes left for me by Struan, PH Housemaster, look at emails and phone messages and walk around the house chatting to the boys to find out how exams are going. The third form have chapel on a Friday so I see them as a group to talk about items that affect them and send them on their way – can’t be late for Rev. Dobbie. Callover is a rather minimal affair, all the lower Sixth are on study leave, so we whiz through that and I make my way to chapel.
I teach 3 upper sixth lessons in the morning, all with the same set – we go through exam questions, topic revision and a few quick-fire questions. This is a necessary evil as they are starting exam leave in a week’s time and need to be fully prepared even though they won’t sit their paper until June 22nd. With several potential medics and top biologists/ biochemists in the group it is important that they are in the best possible position to attain As and A*s in this increasingly competitive university market. Between lessons, on the way back home from the supermarket shop, my dear husband drops off a coffee and some flapjacks (drink for me, cakes for upper sixth).
After lunch, a light spot of marking, lesson planning and emailing local parents about the Day Parent’s Association Jazz Evening on June 9th (get in touch with me if you would like tickets)! I see the fifth form for a revision lesson, for some it is their last Biology lesson ever . With goodbyes and “Good Lucks” I move across to a marketing meeting to discuss girl numbers for 2012. A very productive meeting was made even better by delicious scones baked by Mrs. Llewelyn-Jones. I then spend the next hour or so researching material – snooping on other independent school’s sixth form admissions processes – and write more fifth form tutor reports. Two of the MSH Lower Sixth girls who are transferring across to EDH next term have been selected to apply for Praepostorship, I must remember to send them my best wishes.
At 6.45pm I pop over to Port Hill to report for duty. A few third formers are knocking a cricket ball about outside and one fourth former is in the house tonight. At this stage of the exam season it can feel a little like the Marie Celeste, but at least the quiet house allowed some solid revision to be completed. At half past eight I clamber aboard the trusty stead and cycle home – ‘tis rather chilly now. I arrive home to my husband who is delighted to see me, he can now hand over the babysitting reins and watch Shrewsbury Town (lose).
Saturday 21st May
A genetics and ecology revision lesson with the Upper Sixth followed by an AS revision session with a couple of my Lower Sixth students, they sat trial exams at the end of last term and have vastly improved upon their previous grades. I hope that all goes according to plan when they sit their papers on Thursday. After a bit more report writing and a couple of letters to families that have visited recently I return home for a bite to eat. Later on my younger son and I walk/ scoot back to school to watch the cricket and rowing – aged two and a half he shamelessly makes new friends, particularly with the sixth form girls!
Sunday 22nd May
My husbands’ birthday, we spend the morning getting buffeted by gales in Nantwich whilst watching him compete in the Cheshire Triathlon - I wonder to myself if we can get some of the VI form competing in this event next year? Port Hill has had a number of talented triathletes in recent years and did brilliantly in the first School Triathlon last summer. We pop back to School in the afternoon as I have a few more reports to write and have a look at the EDH site through the private side windows. My sons hope that the diggers in the courtyard will still be there when we move in, I don’t.
Monday 23rd May
The fourth form sat one of their Biology GCSE modules last week, and have been in revision mode for several weeks now. Today they started learning about the nervous system, they were certainly a little nervous when I asked them to do a blind-folded taste test with dried fruit! A quick meeting with the Director of Studies followed, talking about timetables and schedules for next year, followed by another revision session with a lower sixth former. Mick the tiler interrupts the session to ask me about tile choices and borders for bathrooms. During a 6 mile run later we stop in the curtain shop to catch our breath and find out how the curtains are coming along for EDH and the private side.
Tuesday 24th May
The day started with a tutorial with my fifth form tutor group, discussing exams and recent reports. They are right in the middle of an incredibly hectic exam season so it is important to keep up the momentum in revision whilst allowing them a little down-time too. Exam invigilation next, I must remember to wear softer soled shoes in the future, followed by a quick PR meeting and a discussion with my newly appointed Assistant, Clare Wilson, about sporting events next term. Another invigilation session, then a revision lesson and then over to MSH to meet a girl who is thinking about joining us in September 2012. Over a lovely platter of sandwiches, fresh fruit and cakes our conversation evolves from discussing the layout of EDH to evaluating the merits of chickens, mediaeval house renovation, summer trips to Russia and Greece and dinner parties in the South-East. Spending time with prospective students and their families is a lovely part of the job.
Later in the afternoon we meet to discuss the official opening of EDH in September. Esteemed poet and author, Ruth Padel who is Emma and Charles Darwin’s great – great – granddaughter will be cutting the ribbon and addressing the guests. The discussion revolves around food, drink and music – it looks set to be a lovely afternoon – now if only someone can ensure that the weather is kind to us….
Wednesday 25th May
A typically busy day starts with teaching, another revision tutorial and a quick trip to the building site to see how things are progressing there (very well, by the way). Lesson planning, marking test scripts, writing a letter to the family I met yesterday follow. I then take a call from a prospective relief matron and move off to lunch. The girls’ Hunt (cross-country running) photo follows, more EDH and PH admin and then 75 minutes of GCSE CDT invigilation.
Thursday 26th May
Up early to bake chocolate buns for an Upper Sixth set, we have our last lesson today and some students are also retaking their AS biology this afternoon. I drop off the boys at nursery, walk up to School, discuss with Ellie, one of our lovely Biology technicians, the acid rain practical I will be doing with the third form later this morning. Head of department has had news on the external moderation of GCSE practicals, I have 3 papers to send away so need to double check the admin. During my one “free” period this morning I have a meeting with the architects, builders and project manager, a few finishing touches to discuss. At lunch a small group of us meet to discuss Medic Malawi, a new charity project that the School is planning to get involved with. With 2 small children and a full time job, I can’t see myself getting to Malawi in the near future, but I would love to be involved in raising awareness and funds for a community in this devastatingly poor country. When rushing from one meeting to another and fretting about reports, it is sobering to consider those whose very existence is a daily struggle. Now, I need to rush off to join members of SMT to talk about the EDH opening….one more day until half term, when I dispense with my hats and … put on my war paint for a wedding and armour for a week of fun with the family!