I have been absent for the first time in years, aside from a half-day last session due to food poisoning induced by the school catering. I have been struck down by the toxic virus that has been hanging over Greenfield Academy for six weeks.
It spoiled my weekend, and - although slightly improved - I was unable to muster strength for a full day's teaching, and instead spent the day growing increasingly horrified by the degenerate content of daytime television, comprising a selection of prurient and exploitative chat shows. If this is what forms the staple TV diet of our persistent truants, it's no wonder they turn out to be such completely dysfunctional members of society. And it certainly begs the question: what on earth does Jeremy Kyle watch if he's sick?
I returned to school to be accused of "taking a duvet day" yesterday! Fortunately, our depute head Kevin Muir was only joking, as he explained in handing me a "please-take" for Mike Baggs' first-year PE class.
"What am I supposed to do with them?" I pondered aloud to Frank O'Farrell at lunchtime.
"Whatever you do, don't go near the gym, Morris," he advised. "Get them into your classroom and make it CfE-compliant."
"How do I do that? Mike hasn't left any lesson plans or anything, not even for written PE work."
"You don't need them. Just give them some dictionaries, some wordsearches, some hangman sheets, and let them create their own learning. That's what CfE's all about, remember, letting them choose their path of learning."
Whilst I feel that Education Scotland might echo the spirits of his sentiment, I'm not sure if his methods would meet with much approval. In any case, I had decided by the end of the lesson that letting Nathan McBride choose his own path of learning was an extremely ill-advised suggestion, as the boy has difficulty in carrying out the simplest of instructions, let alone coming up with anything creative under his own steam, other than the constant desire to initiate physical conflict with his classmates.
"Yup, that's Nathan," confirmed Frank when I made vocal complaint afterwards. "I reckon he went into the gene pool when the pool attendant was out for lunch ."
Stephanie Jeffrey, our new, and extremely young, teacher in charge of business education (ie. principal teacher on an ordinary teacher's salary) has launched an enterprise week with her third year, which means they are all trying to sell us ghastly products for which we can find no discernible use, but for which we are obliged to fork out cash in a misleading attempt to have them believe they would sell such products in the real world. I spent pound;5 today on two loofahs inscribed with the school badge, and feel that bath time will never be the same again .
Meanwhile, staff have been delighted to learn that our prospective day of strike action has been confirmed for 30 November. Happily, this coincides with the St Andrew's Day holiday that our local authority has decreed.
So whilst colleagues in neighbouring authorities will be losing a day's pay for being absent, staff here will not be so affected - although we fully support the actions of those colleagues in defending our pensions. I think this is called having our cake and eating it.
Kevin Muir announced that our hopes of having the strangest names in Scotland on our pupil roll, already well documented, have been overtaken by a school elsewhere. "One of my pals teaches there, and it's hard to believe, folks," he explained. "But it's true. Brian Mills tells me that they've just admitted a brother and sister called Versace and Armani respectively. With the surname of McLatchie."
"So they're called .?" I whispered, aghast, as realisation dawned. "They can't be? Surely not?"
"You've got it in one, Morris," he nodded. "Armani and Versace McLatchie."
Parents. Some kids do `ave `em, as the TV series (almost) used to say.
Ms Jeffrey's business enterprise pupils have at last come up with a product that has, to my mind, some commercial potential. It is a Scottish Educational version of Monopoly, and when I joined her class for a spot of co-operative teaching this afternoon I ended up helping them to trial it.
I suspect significant staff input (as usual with Enterprise Week products), as they have been fairly entertaining in their replacements for "Community Chest" cards, replacing them with "Education Scotland" cards, while the "Chance" pile is supplanted by "CfE Cards", instructing recipients, for example, to "Return to Go: your new curricular design is lacking in any substance or assessment procedures" or (my favourite) "Go to Dalkeith. Go directly to Dalkeith. Do not pass Go. Do not collect SCQF credits".
Especially entertaining were their "street names" replaced by fictional Scottish schools: Auchenshuggle Secondary and Carnwadric Community High started off the "brown" boxes, moving round to the likes of Calder Hands Secondary, Spittal Academy, Sgoil-nan-Beinn (for the Gaelic community), and the classic Wisnaeme Academy. And on the "green" street representing the denominational sector, their inventiveness stretched to Holy Hurlet High, St Scholastica's, and - best of all, in my considered opinion - Our Lady of Larkhall.
I suspect they might have trouble getting it licensed by Parker Brothers .