Teaching is a job where you never really get everything on your to-do list done. Like most teachers I work on weekends and well into the night. I often venture into school on a weekend or look out of the windows in my classroom and realise it was well after dark.
Working in an international School in Singapore, it’s pretty safe to do such things. The country is safe, there’s always after school fixtures on and we have security on site. However most public schools back home can not afford such luxuries. They will have alarm systems, security monitoring and locks to the doors.
That’s about it.
When the children leave, schools quickly become very eerie places.
Classrooms are often spread out over large areas and the lighting after dark isn’t always the best. Even when I really need to be there, I always feel a small sense of relief knowing that there are other teachers working in the buildings as well.
Because there are often visitors roaming schools during holidays and after hours. Mostly the visitors are friendly. School grounds are used as places to ride bikes, walk dogs and play. However if you hang around for long enough, you’ll find strange and sometimes outright scary characters walking through campus.
It is sad fact of life that schools are often targets of low-level crime. Even with devices locked away in cabinets and cupboards, they are unattended for long periods of time. Graffiti, break ins and burglaries are a fact of life. I always felt a strong sense of anger when crime hits a school. Even a big of tagging is taking away money and human resources away from their job of educating kids.
There’s something really awful about targeting resources for kids.
And also any crime that targets a teacher.
Stephanie Scott, the Australian teacher who was last seen alive preparing lesson plans for her relief teacher ahead of her honeymoon.
We share more than a first name.
Like Stephanie, I’ve come into school to work on weekends, prepared lesson plans in advance for relief teachers. I’ve worked alone in my classroom and walked along empty corridors.
I wish we lived in a society free from violence against women.
A society where Stephanie Scott would be enjoying her honeymoon and Lois Dear was alive too.
But I am also sad that people aren’t thinking more about Stephanie was at school in the first place, to prepare lessons for a relief teacher to cover. She was one of hundreds of teachers that weekend toiling alone in their quiet classrooms and empty school buildings. It’s invisible work that only those who are related to teachers know about. They will be the ones asking the teachers in their lives to stay safe and hopefully nudging them to talk more about after-hours security with their principals.
I wish more non-teachers would think about that too.
Instead of reminding teachers to lock doors, carry whistles and issuing panic buttons, I hope there will be a few principals in Australia and New Zealand out there pondering whether in this age of cloud computing it’s time to make classrooms a no-go zone for teachers when it is time for the central alarms to be set. Aside from physical safety, it might good for teachers to be at home enjoying time with their families.
Those wall displays and extra bits of photocopying can wait.
This was a very real and ongoing concern at the school where I was on the board too. I was too afraid to walk home after board meetings across school grounds, we always made sure we left the grounds in groups or walked people to their cars. Break-ins, thefts, and vandalism were very common, we had an attempted arson not long ago too. I and other board members very regularly brought up these concerns and requested better lighting, better alarm systems, better patrols, but I think you’re right that the better and more realistic way to deal with the evening school-environment is not to require or expect teachers to be there when it puts them at such real risk.
I think the problem is that teachers are often the ones who expect and require themselves to put in long hours. Outside of production, open night and parent evenings we don’t actually need to be on school grounds.
I’m usually the last person out of my school on any given night. They’re spooky places. Although arguably not as spooky as wandering through South Auckland at night to get to the bus depot… I did have a young man start at my school last year who also liked to work late, but was so creeped out by the school after dark that he kept asking if he could work in my room so we could confront the darkness together. That didn’t really fit well with my established work-routine of listening to very loud conspiracy-theory-themed hiphop and shouting to myself about how stupid my students are.
I always think of schools when no one is there to children of men… it’s like civilisation has dropped away. I do love really blasting music which is something you can’t do in apartment buildings.