A new world through the looking glass

30th January 2009 at 00:00

The lights shudder on automatically when you walk in. A full-length mirror isn't necessarily the best thing for my eyes to glance but, as I don't have one at home, it is quite interesting to dally a while there. The water is hot, instantly, and the soap frothy and soft.

My current health theory is that the germs that cause all these nasty winter ailments lurk on door handles, banister rails, table tops and taps, and that washing your hands thoroughly five times a day will keep you well. So I pretend to be a surgeon and count my wrinkles as I scrub up.

No matter how long I take, the water still flows wastefully for a while afterwards, which makes me feel guilty. Then I feel guilty about using all that hot air while I dry my hands. But do paper towels do more damage to the environment, when you think about cutting down the trees, time taken by cleaners collecting them and the space they take while they biodegrade? Come to think of it, how long do the lights (which are eco-friendly, by the way) stay on once I have left the room?

Pupils now have to grapple with a security system so tight they can't sneak away between classes and, as they all believe the wee green light that winks in the ceiling of each classroom is a camera, they are slightly put off their usual nefarious behaviour.

All these new things pale into insignificance compared to our disabled toilet. Not only does it have state-of-the-art hoists for easy transfer of wheelchaired pupils, it also has a toilet with a built-in bidet. One does wonder why, in this age of wet wipes, anyone thought that necessary; and also why it didn't occur to them that if you press the bidet button when your bottom is not on the toilet seat, the squirt of water has to go somewhere.

Our new school is beautiful. I love it. I love the clean, white lines, the wide corridors, the lightness, the efficient heating. It brings learning into the 21st century.

Penny Ward is a secondary teacher.

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