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On the naughty step - Conduct that deserves a ticking off

This week: New Year's resolutions

No sooner had teachers finished tucking into their umpteenth mince pie over the Christmas period than they were being told to drop the pastry and make their resolutions ready for the new year.

Whether these encompass quitting smoking, training for a marathon or pledging to be more charitable, vows of personal betterment at the beginning of January have been the starting gun of the year since Julius Caesar reorganised his desk diary. But such (usually doomed) oaths do not apply to teachers, for they exist in a different realm of time dictated not by the Gregorian calendar but by the opening and closing of the school gates between September and July - at least in the northern hemisphere.

For these teachers, New Year's resolutions come halfway through their year when they are already honed, sleek and at full match fitness, and well into their own marathon of imparting knowledge and bettering society.

Teachers don't need to promise to do better in recompense for having spent New Year's Eve guzzling champagne and gorging on chocolate gateaux: they are already dedicated to guiding their students through mock exams or urging them to reach their potential.

So for wasting teachers' time and arriving halfway through an already busy year, it is to the naughty step that the New Year's resolution must go. (And no, it can't have just one last cigarette first).

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