The school day has changed.
In former times, I would arrive in my classroom at 7 am and have an hour to work before the first of the students in my tutor group would begin to drift in. They were not required to be in the room until 8.35, a warning bell having been rung at 8.30, but most enjoyed coming in to chat with their friends. It gave me an opportunity to catch up with the news, to deal with problems, and to see that all was in order for the day.
All has changed.
The gates do not open now until 8.30 and the students must line up outside. There is an opportunity to have a brief word with my Year 8 tutees, but they are no longer allowed to come to their former room, it now being occupied all day by a Year 7 class.
I miss the morning conversations. There is only afternoon tutor time now, a twenty minute session each day except Wednesday from 1.50 until 2.10. The problems that might have been resolved in the morning are now carried through the day.
Lining up outside is regarded as an anti-Covid measure. How standing in the cold for ten minutes before going inside to line up in the same corridor inhibits the virus is unclear, but this is the advice the school has received.
Sitting in the careers office, that has now become a provisional base since the Year 7s took possession of my room, I looked at my watch at 8.25. The time had come to walk down to the gateway through which the Year 8s come into the school.
“Stand to, Ian,” I said to myself.
“It’s a long time since I heard the order ‘stand to,'” said my colleague, a former soldier. “It had you standing ready hours before dawn.”
I was not even sure where the words had come from and pondered it for a few seconds. “That must have come from my Dad,” I said.
Dad never really ever left his armed forces behind him. Serving ten years in the Fleet Air Arm, he had continued to work as a member of the ground crew of military aircraft for the next thirty years. In his latter years, military history was his passion, he assembled shelves filled with books, each of them read with considerable care and attention and with an eye for detail.
It is years since I learned that “stand to” was to ready oneself for a possible attack. It is unclear what sub-conscious process prompted the phrase as I went to begin the day’s work.