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Wednesday, 7 May 2014

WATCHING THE CLOCK




Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
T.S. Eliot: Four Quartets


Ever since I first started teaching (which sometimes feels like a hundred years ago) my life has been built around the academic year. For most people, the year starts in January and ends in December, but for educators, it typically starts in September and ends in June or July. In England, the annual long holiday begins in late July, runs through the whole of August and ends around the first week of September when a new academic year begins.

At KYUEM our longest break is in December although we, too, have a fairly lengthy holiday in July. Our busiest and most important time is right now in what I call the testing months of May and June. These are the weeks of Cambridge AS and A Level examinations, on which success our students’ futures depend.

Examination dates, end of semester and holiday dates, these are occasions that help define the teaching calendar. However, they are milestones along the journey of a single academic year; for the details, we have to look much closer. Some years ago, the British comedy actor, John Cleese, starred in a movie called “Clockwise.” It was an amusing look at the life of a Headmaster who was obsessed with time and how his life unravelled when random events caused any kind of upset. I can remember watching the film and listening to laughter all around me, yet I could barely raise a smile: it was all too real to me. Yes, it was an exaggeration, and I would like to think I’m never quite such a time-obsessed control freak as Cleese was in the story, but nonetheless it rang very true. A friend of mine who liked predictability and order in his life had an amusing take on this. His favourite expression was: “Never interfere with a neurotic’s routine.”

Teachers’ working lives are based on time management. From the start of a lesson to successfully completing prescribed content by its end, we try and manage the passage of time through the day. We note when students are on a break, the deadlines for submission of homework, the required dates for us to hand in our reports and the schedules for department, house, staff and parents’ meetings.

The Headmaster’s Office at KYUEM is always a busy place. Seldom has a week gone by when we don’t have a visit from a major overseas university. This week, we will be playing host to the London School of Economics on Friday, for example. There are always prospective parents to meet, potential new teachers to interview, students and teachers with issues to discuss and regular, frequent meetings with members of the Senior Management Team. Don’t get me wrong – I love every aspect of the job and wouldn’t have it any other way. My point here is simply that if these events weren’t timetabled, planned and organised sometimes months in advance, my office, indeed our school, would not function as well as they do.

All of which leads me to my final point for this week. Recently, I took delivery of a new wristwatch. It is solar powered, so provided that it is exposed to enough light during the day, the battery should last a long time. It also links with a satellite to ensure that the time I’m seeing is correct wherever I happen to be in the world. I guess you could call it the perfect watch if accurate time keeping is an essential part of your life. It also rather dates me. I note that many of our students, and indeed some of my colleagues, don’t wear a watch at all these days. They are quite happy to manage with a mobile phone, or just look at the nearest convenient clock as they walk through College. Perhaps I’m closer to John Cleese’s character in “Clockwise” than I care to admit.

2 comments:

  1. Dear Dr Rogers, when the universities come to visit KYUEM, are there sessions held with parents of prospective students? If yes, if we are interested parents, how do we get access to the time/date that these sessions are conducted? Thank you & regards-Junaizee

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  2. I'm afraid all the university visits are scheduled for students only and are during lesson times (or in the breaks between them). They are exclusively for students to hear about specific courses that the universities offer, or in some cases, a general talk about the universities themselves. Attendance is often very full and we cannot entertain the prospect of parental visits at these times.

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