A fierce virus has threatened to cast Greenfield Academy into educational meltdown, as staff absences soar and Kevin Muir issues "please-takes" with fearsome regularity. I lost nearly all of my McCrone time last week, and this week looks like being worse, with a real possibility of zero non- contact time.
Frank O'Farrell claims that it's a "sign of things to come under McCormac, and we'd better get used to it!"
Meeting other members of our new first year has at least given me the chance to sample more of the exotic names to have been bestowed upon this fragile generation. This morning, I met a young lad called Jeepster McHardy, whose lineage includes a grandmother with an unwholesome affection for the 1970s group T Rex, an enthusiasm inherited by her son (Marc, obviously), who had in turn kept up family tradition by naming his offspring after one of the group's biggest hits, as well as encouraging a Bolanesque hairstyle whose long curly locks his child kept flicking to the side of his face while I was trying to teach them poetry. It was most unsettling.
I am worried about what the McCormac report might mean for my semi- chartered teacher status. Although I never completed all 12 modules, the extra money I'm getting for the ones that I managed to finish has proved very handy, and I don't want my incremental status to be removed.
I asked our headteacher about it today.
"So, how many modules did you complete, Morris?" Rosemary Slater asked me.
"Two," I explained proudly. "So I'm up to speed in Teaching and Learning, and I'm already a Reflective Practitioner." Mrs Slater snorted rather loudly, then pretended to cough into her handkerchief, but I carried on regardless: "So I just wondered how quickly I could finish the other 10?"
"Well, in the past, you could've moved to a fast-track route. It was a much simpler - though no less rigorous - " she stressed "rigorous" almost too forcefully, "means of becoming chartered. But it's gone. So if I were you I'd contact the GTC: I'm sure they'd be able to give you an update on where the goalposts have moved to by now."
I told her I'd think about it.
Douglas Kennedy's mother has accosted Mr Muir in the corridor, furious that her son isn't going on the geography field trip next week, and accusing the school of "unferr treatment o' ma wee boy, jist `cos he's bin oan referral four times since August!"
Mr Muir asked her to calm down and take a seat in his office while he investigated. A squat, angry little woman, she bristled with restrained fury, and - according to Kevin - refused to apologise once he had discovered the reason for Kennedy's omission from the trip.
"Which was because," he explained to us afterwards, "the letter of invitation went out in the second week of term, while she was still in Cyprus with the boy on an extended holiday. And because, upon his return to school, Douglas never handed her the letter that he was given. And because she failed to phone back after Miss Devine left a message asking whether Douglas was attending the trip."
"So it's her own fault, then?" I queried.
Kevin shrugged. "Not in her eyes, Morris. She's getting on to the council to complain. And they'll probably tell us to take him."
"And will we?"
"Probably," he shrugged again. "I've given up fighting City Hall, Morris. But see once they implement the Cameron Report and let us be masters of our own destinies? That's when little shits like Douglas Kennedy will get exactly what's coming to them! Out on their ears, that's what'll happen, so the rest of us can get on with teaching and learning!"
Somehow, I think devolved school management is supposed to be about so much more than petty vendettas against individual students .
Mrs Slater has sent round the latest SQA information about National 4s and 5s. It looks as if everything is on track for wholesale replacement of an examination system that's been in place for over 25 years, although syllabus details seem a little thin on the ground.
Having said that, a remarkable unanimity has emerged among our staff about the likely improvement in Greenfield Academy's future reputation with the local press.
Or, as Mr Walsh commented succinctly after reading the circular: "Well, at least with National 4s, everyone's going to pass!"
Frank O'Farrell has given me cause to ponder my chartered teacher plans.
"Morris," he asked: "have you thought it through properly, this full chartered status? Because at the moment, you're on a nice wee extra earner for doing bugger all extra!"
I began to protest, but he held up his hand: "Whereas, if you become fully chartered, aside from all the work involved in doing it, you'll have to negotiate a leadership task with the SMT, maybe sign up to become a `leader in learning'; and for all we know, the authority might strip you of the salary a few years down the line - but you'd still be left with a leadership remit."
Put like that, attaining fully chartered status didn't sound so attractive after all. So I have decided to let sleeping dogs lie, and keep my increment as it is. Like St Paul, I have learnt - in whatever state I am - to be content.