My avatar across the web: a photo of my feet in grey-white socks and brown sandals.

Ben Babcock

I read, write, code, and knit.

Have you got “swag”?

All this week has been “Transition Week” at my school. The school operates across two sites, creatively named “North” and “South”, which were formerly two separate schools. Some teachers work across both sites; others, like me, are based on a single site—I spent my entire year on South site. Next year, however, the entire school is moving into new buildings on the North site. This has been a move several years in the making, and with the departure of this year’s Year 11s, only Years 9 and 10 remained on the south site. They have to go to a “new” school next year and mingle with new peers.

So this week, each year group has had its own Transition Day. They all come to the north site, in non-uniform clothes. They meet their tutor for next year (if that teacher is here already; some new staff aren’t) and participate in a series of structured activities in the morning: graffiti, drumming, and sports challenges/teambuilding. In the afternoon there is a fête, with a few student-run stalls and various supervised activities: Segways, quad bikes, a climbing wall, zorbing, and more. It’s a fun chance for students to relax, meet their counterparts from the other site, and get used to the new building.

I have a Year 11 tutor group again next year, so yesterday I met the Year 10s who will be in it. I’m looking forward to seeing my tutor group again in September, and I can only hope they retain a similar optimism. Yesterday I participated in some drumming as well, but then I had to return to south site to teach my Year 9 English class.

Today was different: I dressed down (ah, T-shirt and shorts, so relaxing). It was the Year 9 Transition Day, as well as the Sixth Form Transition Day, and conveniently I only teach Year 9 and Sixth Form on Thursdays! So I got to spend the entire day on the north site, hanging out with Year 9s and Sixth Form students. I even tried my hand at some of the graffiti! Graffiti depicting letters of the alphabet from J to Q While I wouldn’t say I have “#swag”, I think I didn’t do too badly. At least, I laid some good foundation for the students’ creative additions.

In the afternoon, I wandered around the field and just soaked up the atmosphere (not to mention the sun). I rode on a Segway for the first time. First it’s scary, because you aren’t sure how to control it. Then it’s fine. Then it’s scary again, as your confidence allows you to accelerate so fast you feel like you’ll tip over even though it’s difficult—though not impossible—to do! I also danced a bit, because I do. Finally, I—perhaps unwisely—allowed myself to be put into some stocks, where students paid 50p to throw sponges at me. It was very refreshing, though I wish the sponges hadn’t been so dirty!

It seems like the Transition Day was successful, because everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. I can understand better than most the trepidation associated with going to a “new” school. My high school closed halfway through my four years there. Suddenly I found myself going to a school that was a 30-minute walk away instead of literally just down my street! (I took a bus most days, which in and of itself was a big change.) Most of my peers, and many of my teachers, also moved to this new school. It was, however, a massive adjustment.

The Year 9 and 10 students at Thetford Academy’s south site are luckier, I think, because at least their school isn’t closing, just the location. Many of their teachers will be there (hello!), and the management is staying the same, as are the uniforms and, yes, the rules. A lot is going to change, but plenty will remain the same.

There are four days left of term now. Four days until I’ve completed my first year teaching. Four days until I get on a bus to the airport, to fly back to Canada the next day for a much-deserved vacation. I’m very much looking forward to that. Until then, I shall soldier on in this heat, bow-tie at the ready, attempting in vain to ignore those students who remain bewildered at my unwavering enthusiasm for math.