A week of tweets, 'toileting issues' and trying to retire

18th January 2013 at 00:00


Already I feel exhausted by the challenges of 2013, especially the difficulties of knowing what lies ahead for my third-year class, whose "guinea-pig" status with regard to National Qualifications is strongly recognised - not least by themselves.

"Surr?" challenged Sandra Fitzgerald today, as I set them a close reading exercise from a previous Standard grade paper, "is this the kind of exam we'll be getting in wur National 5?"

"Well, yes, in a sense," I explained, "in that you'll be asked to demonstrate understanding of a prose section by responding to questions about it. But the question type and range of marks might be different. And it won't be called close reading any more - it will be called reading for analysis and evaluation.

"Christ, that's a mouthful," she declared. "So how're we supposed tae practise fur wur exams if we don't know whit the papers'll be like?"

I ignored her blasphemous outburst and focused on offering reassurance instead: "Sandra, your exam is more than 16 months away, and we'll be given more precise details about the exact assessment structure in plenty of time for you to practise it. OK?"

She appeared mollified by my declaration of confidence. Clearly, she was unaware that my fingers were firmly crossed behind my back.


One of Gail's best friends at Rockston Primary is anxiously awaiting the result of her application for voluntary early retirement (VER). Rosemary Shields has got high hopes, having been turned down last year on account of her being the wrong side of 55. "But this year," Gail explained at teatime, "she thinks it might really happen: the circular made it clear that they're hoping to make savings, and - as she's top of the bog-standard pay scale - she reckons she'll be one of the ones contributing to future council efficiencies!"

I have to confess to a pang of envy at the prospect if she succeeds. And I certainly wish they'd delayed the introduction of National 5s for another few years, so that I might have got out myself before anything hits the fan in terms of our results.


I am still enjoying the novelty of Twitter on my smartphone. I have to concede that I had previously thought "tweeting" to be a complete and utter waste of time, but I have become addicted to "following" several highly respected educationalists to catch their latest curricular outpourings - even if some of them spend a little too much time telling me what they've had for breakfast, as well as when they've had a coffee on their way to an in-service event.

Meanwhile, back at Greenfield Academy, I am more immediately concerned with the minutiae of daily pupil-teacher interaction, with all of the diversity occasioned by such contrasting students as 1N's new pupil Chanel (so named because she is her mother's fifth child) Butcher and Sam Smyth, leader of the (swiftly growing) S1 Scripture Union group.

Chanel still has "toileting issues" and a complete inability to concentrate for more than 90 seconds at a time, which led to her creating an almighty scene this morning when I insisted that she complete a punctuation exercise on the use of the exclamation mark.

"Aw, sod this!" she then (ironically!) exclaimed, throwing her pen to the floor and rising to her full 4ft 11in in order to challenge my authority yet again: "Why the fuck dae ah need tae boather wi this shite? Eh? Anyway, ah need the toilet!"

I moved my face to within inches of hers, mustered my most imperious sneer, and prepared to launch a withering put-down. But before I could begin, Sam Smyth interposed himself between us, then laid a hand gently on Chanel's shoulder, and bade her "Be calm, Chanel. May the peace of the Lord be upon you, and those whom you love, this day and for evermore ..."

She looked startled. But then, amazingly enough, she sat herself down at once and got on with her work.


Rosemary Shields has had her VER application turned down. "She was inconsolable," Gail confided over our chicken kiev tonight, "especially as they're offering it to promoted staff but not the poor bloody infantry. So she's decided to go in June anyway, package or not. She says that the council has obviously planned it this way: dangle it in front of you so that you think you're going to get a package - and then whip it away at the last minute, so you end up conditioned to getting it, and saying, 'Ah, sod it - I'm going anyway, without a package!' So they replace her with a half-price probationer, and it's No Deal for Rosemary."

I argued that this suggested a Machiavellian streak in the council that was unwarranted. She just gave me an old-fashioned look.


Sam Smyth has persuaded Chanel Butcher to join the Scripture Union, in which accomplishment he is certainly obeying Our Lord's injunction to "make disciples of all nations". I noticed him escorting her into their lunchtime meeting, and took him aside to offer gratitude for his disciplinary assistance on Wednesday.

"Not at all, Sir," he smiled unnervingly, before asking, "And I take it your colonoscopy results at the end of last term were all very positive?"

"Er ... yes," I gulped quietly.

"That's good," he confirmed. "We've been praying for you since before Christmas. We'll take you off the list now."

I wasn't sure whether to feel reassured or abandoned.

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