Talkback

As a successful primary head (well, I always thought so even if nobody else did) I owe a debt of gratitude to the horoscopes I read every day. The thing about horoscopes is they never let you down. They always tell you to be positive; essential reading for exhausted primary teachers. I stress primary because the secondary lot can always fall back on their free periods. Thus, when the worst day of your school life does actually happen, you simply tell yourself that with Saturn in Aries, or whatever, you can face things with what my horoscope one morning called "sunny optimism".

Sunny optimism was what got me through a remarkable day. I had the flu and there were two staff away. The gas man was coming to put a new fire in the office and alarm fitters were putting a new system into every classroom. The bright spot was my pal Harry coming up from buildings to look at the rotten front door. This was in such a state that you didn't need to open it, you just walked through the hole. I was thinking "what's the good of horoscopes" when a book rep - whom I'd forgotten about - came in and laid tables of books out in the hall; half-price books, as she knows how desperate primary schools' budgets are.

The educational psychologist arrived next, a rare event in a primary school. "How are you, Dave?" he asked. "Still talking to yourself a lot?"

I nodded and saw my reflection in the staffroom mirror. "Yes," I said to it.

"Any problems?" "Yes," I said. "Look around you. And this afternoon there's a steel drum group coming."

The gas man had finished by the end of the day. The alarm fitters worked on and on. They never spoke to each other and seemed to communicate by telepathy. Some EC directive had put the LEA in a spin and one morning an official turned up to check the primitive alarm system.

The Laurel and Hardy of the alarm-fitting world thus arrived to size the job up. Without a word they looked round, sucked their teeth, made a few notes, tapped the walls, asked could they make a pot of tea, and then departed.

The day they arrived to drill, they moved into the office. Secretary Sue was typing. They climbed on her desk and showered her in plaster. Dinner lady Joan was counting mounds of pennies. They climbed on her desk and stepped on the dinner books. We followed their progress through the school by the white dust on the floor, the footprints they left behind, and the trails of cable. No room was undisturbed but somehow we carried on.

It was a primary adviser turning up towards the end of the afternoon that finally capped that memorable day. This one had a car boot full of training material and he spent several minutes complaining bitterly that here he was, an important adviser, and he was reduced to spending the day being an errand boy delivering "crap" videos, as he put it. As he moaned about his menial role, his eyes darted about the school looking for excellence and good primary practice.

I still have that day's horoscope written in a diary. It talked of silver linings and how, whatever problems I had to face, I would tackle them with a wonderfully sunny, optimistic face. My advice is simple to any teacher. Just read and trust your horoscope. It will not let you down on even the most nightmarish days.

David Thomas is a retired primary head. He lives in Leeds

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