Follow the thread

Bill Hicks takes a weekly look at the hot topics in the TES chatrooms

As it's the last column of the term, I was going to write on a cheerful subject.

I'd planned to follow some threads on the tradition of pupils giving teachers end-of-term presents. I was going to tell you about the thread in which teachers swap memories of their best and worst presents. How, in her first teaching post, supplyforever was given "a little collectable Christmas tree ornament of an ice-skating mouse" which she still treasures, 20 years on. Or how spursgirls says a big "yes" to "alcohol, expensive chocolates, gloves to keep hands warm on playground duty, mugs for staffroom", and a "no" to "scary clown dolls, china masks to put on the wall, twee nick nacks".

We could have gasped in unison at Nomad's favourite present: "a free motor service from a parent who managed a garage. Must have cost over Pounds 200."

Some of us would have sympathised with the forum Scrooge, aka jacob, who says the practice should be "stamped out really on the basis of bribery and corruption. Maybe GTC should look into it."

If it hadn't been for some bad news, we could have groaned at a new dilemma facing teachers: whether they should give presents to their classroom assistants, and if so, as a worried pcf enquired, "how much is it appropriate to spend?" ("pound;5-pound;10 is about right," offers the ever-helpful foxypoo.) But then, as I was saying, on November 21 we heard that something awful had happened. We think. A much-liked poster, Drowner77, had died in a road accident. The news was posted under Drowner's username, as if by a relative or friend: "Hello, I just thought you people would want to know..." There was stunned silence, then the sympathy messages flooded in, along with the doubters, those who suspected - or wanted to believe - this was a hoax, a "virtual" death only.

Drowner77 was an American teaching in the UK who held robust views, rode Harley-Davidsons, and, as his Opinion forum opponent Crucible remembers, had the "ability to disarm you without humiliating you and to do it with a kind josh".

Leviosa, another of Drowner's online friends, asks us to pay tribute. Which is what I am doing. Sometimes posters disappear, and reappear under a new name. I wish this could be the case with Drowner, if only to enjoy once gain his insults such as, "slieber, you are a fawning, preening, jackanapes". Along with Leviosa, I fear this is unlikely.

Bill Hicks is editor of the TES website.

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