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Bowled over by a change of pace

HAVING played for them for half my life, I was a speaker at Holy Cross Cricket Club's golden jubilee dinner last month. As with Hollywood's Lifetime Achievement Awards, it was an acknowledgement that, if you stick around long enough, eventually folk will start to recognise you.

During the speech, I noticed that the younger members were dutifully attentive as this baldy old buffer hammered on about the Seventies, while the older ones became misty eyed as half-forgotten names and anecdotes were dragged to the surface. After all, cricket is a game that lends itself to reminiscence.

The following day was the Old Crocks' Game and, unaccountably, I'd been selected to play alongside current first-teamers in the club side. The hushed silence as I approached the wicket to bowl owed nothing to respect due to a wily old campaigner. These young whippersnappers were holding their breath, fearful I would either fall over or drop dead before I delivered the ball.

The thin veneer of fantasy that has elongated my cricket career well into my forties is now worn enough to be seen-through, and I'm not too sure I like what I see. Reading the signs is a vital skill in the classroom as well. Every teacher needs to be able to distinguish between the expectant hush and the kind of eerie silence tha presages deep slumber.

In this connection, there are two suggestions buried deep in the McCrone report that offer hope: the notion of a sabbatical every 10 years, and a fleeting mention of appraisal. Teachers need to find the space and confidence to look at what they are doing in class and how they are doing it. Generally speaking, the past couple of decades have seen worthwhile advances, but the way they have been implemented has left many teachers too pressured or stressed to risk having a good look in the professional mirror.

Sabbatical space and a well- structured and supportive system that allowed, encouraged and let teachers feel comfortable with the idea of self-appraisal could rejuvenate even the oldest and most cynical. At present, staff are largely under too much pressure to risk having a close look at how they are performing, yet we can all see the value of observing our colleagues, so it makes sense we get the chance to be supported in gauging our own performance.

The frozen looks at that Sunday cricket match forced me to accept my cricketing days are nearer to their end than their beginning. I really don't fancy walking into the staffroom in 15 years to hear a sotto voce rendition of Jim Reeves's golden standard: "Will I tell him, he'll have to go?"

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