A life in the week of Tom Smith, head of PE at Christ’s School, Richmond
5.30am and the alarm clock has been inadvertently snoozed once already. Monday is the earliest start of my week as I lead our morning cross country running club at Richmond Park. I arrive at the school gates by 7.20am and am greeted by 24 students who are all, quite literally, chomping at the bit to get started. I, on the other hand, am bleary eyed and still slowly waking up. 4km later and red faced, I arrive back to school just in time to grab a shower before staff briefing. With more than 30 sports clubs happening each week I am feeling a little overwhelmed with the logistics of organising, maintaining and facilitating such an extensive sports programme. No time to stress about that though as I head straight into a full day’s teaching which leaves the long lazy days of the summer holidays a distant memory. At 3pm, it’s the end of school and our busiest time for extra-curricular sport. I count more than 90 students in our three sports clubs tonight. First I see off our beginner rowing squad for their session on the Thames with coach Paul Keane before checking in on the busy boxercise and table tennis clubs in the sports hall. At just gone 5pm, I am back in the office to pick up any emails from the day. I catch a glimpse of scrawled pen notes on my hand reminding me to phone the parents of six students who have shown the ability and enthusiasm in athletics and basketball to be considered for training with one of our local link clubs. All six parents are very happy for the call and I leave work high in the hope that we have provided these students with the opportunity to progress in a sport outside of school.
The day starts on the wrong foot as my train is delayed. When it finally arrives, it is packed to the rafters and, to make matters worse, it is an absolute scorcher of a morning. Arriving at work just after 7.30am, I am buoyed by the fact that 14 of our year 7 students have made the effort to attend the morning basketball session. Throughout the day, the mercury red-lines to 28 degrees. I think to myself, is this what everyone means by that most fabled Indian summer analogy. Our only boys’ fixture this afternoon sees our year 11 boys football team play against Hampton High at home. The boys are on top throughout and deservedly win 3-0, although it could and should have been more. I pack away the equipment, put the kit onto wash, apply an ice pack to a student’s swollen ankle before finally preparing for my GCSE results meeting with the senior leadership team early next week. On the journey home, I post the results and pictures of the boys football result to the school Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. I often marvel at all the jobs of the modern day PE teacher.
After teaching rugby all morning to three different year groups, my afternoon is governed by an away fixture in English Schools Football Association Cup first round at Bishopshalt School in Hillingdon. The boys counter attack well and get a deserved 3-1 win putting them in a boisterous mood on the way back. Arriving back through the gates I feel an immense sense of pride as I see more than 75 students at rugby training with our head of rugby Djamal Sedour and the professional coaches from London Welsh. Today,the forwards are being put through an intensive session. With 50 students performing in the dance studio and a further 20 students being coached table tennis by top UK player Darius Knight, the place is a hive of physical activity. Having lost a key member of the PE department last year, and then not replacing her, we are definitely at a point where more of our sports coaching has to be outsourced. It’s either that or these clubs might not happen at all. I am back home through the front door at 7pm and head straight back out with my partner Marianne for a HIT session at the local park. The rest of the evening is happily spent supine on the sofa with dinner and catch up TV.
The day starts with a comical dash through hordes of commuters only to miss my connection by mere seconds. I make it into work just to catch the last ten minutes of our senior basketball morning session. The boys are running suicide sprints. I assume at least one of them has messed up one of the drills. First up is my A Level class who I just love teaching. Today’s topic is the Energy Continuum so plenty of practical examples to capture their interest. Today also sees the relaunch of our indoor athletics club with our resident coach from Belgrave Harriers. After a full teaching day there, I get some much needed respite as I have no fixture tonight. I get the time to mark GCSE PE and A level work which excites and disappoints me in equal measure. Back at home, we watch The Last Leg and catch up with the highlights of Kadeena Cox striking gold once again in the T38 400m final. That woman is something special. A passionate monologue from Alex Brooker about the challenges of disability, inspired by the success of Paralympian Alex Zanardi helps put the stresses of day-to-day work into perspective.
I am in work early to attend a meeting with a parent and then head to my line management meeting with the deputy head Will Graham at 8.30am. We talk about the vision of the department for the forthcoming year and pick our way through my department’s superb GCSE PE and A Level results. I leave the meeting knowing I will sleep easy prior to the annual results meeting with the head and SLT early next week. I use my valuable PPA time to launch our in-house sports leadership programme while the rest of the day is spent teaching year 11 and fretting about their optimistic school target grades. By 3pm, I am glad the weekend has finally arrived. However the weekend must wait as Friday afternoons are set aside for 30 of our advanced rowing squad, so I am off to the University of London boathouse for two hours of coaching with Paul Keane. It’s a painful stop-start journey back along the congested south circular but I make it back in time to see the year 8 girls beat local rivals Orleans Park 12-5 in the first round of the School Sport Magazine Netball National Cup. I leave school for the weekend on a real high having learned from our sports partnership manager Maggie Morrell that we have been accredited with the Sport England Sportsmark Gold award.
After a relatively lazy start after a long week at work, we head off for a 5k park run at Gladstone Park, Dollis Hill. After a quick refuel, I jump on the bike to Highgate Tennis Club for an afternoon at the club’s Saturday social session. As with any sport played at this level, being consistent with all parts of your game is always a major problem. Today my serving is wayward but my groundstrokes are coming right off the middle of the racket. My partner and I manage to scrape two wins from three matches so all in all it is a successful afternoon. After a quick coffee at the club I am back on the bike back home to get ready for a night out with Marianne and friends in central London.
I’ll be honest. I have felt better on a Sunday morning. But it could have been a lot worse had Marianne not coerced me into drinking two pints of water before the night was out. After gulping down a coffee, we are off to the Choral Eucharist at Southwark Cathedral where we are due to be married in 2017. We race back, regrettably, to watch my team Manchester United put in another atrocious display as they get beaten by Watford. To ease my mood, I crack on with the obligatory Sunday roast. Dinner is dispatched with much gusto. Later that evening my head starts to switch onto work mode so I check my emails and ensure the department is all set for the week ahead. I use the last few hours of the weekend watching our new favourite Sunday night British staple Victoria.
A LIFE IN THE WEEK OF