And now, the end is near, and so I face the final classroom
I am still in a daze after last week, when I attained the very pinnacle of every teacher's aspirational hopes: I handed in my resignation.
To explain, the sudden and distressing death of Gail's father last month has resulted in the happier inheritance of a frankly awesome sum that allowed us both to consider our positions.
It took a while for the implications to settle in, but settle in they did - and shortly the council HR department were delighted at the prospect of losing two top-of-the-scale teachers who weren't clamouring for a voluntary early retirement payment. We look forward to a life of initial indolence, followed by a judicious mix of voluntary work, short-term city breaks and lengthier cruises.
I have been overwhelmed by the congratulatory messages we've received, some of them tinged with understandable envy; but I am determined to finish my last three weeks of teaching with the same level of enthusiasm that I have, I hope, demonstrated for the past 29 years.
Frankly, I can't wait to escape this ruddy job and its bewildering self- contradictory twists and turns. This morning, our depute head Kevin Muir confirmed that we are not allowed to admit that we have been doing National 4 and 5 work with our third-year classes for the past eight months, "because this would go against Education Scotland's edict that we should be offering a broad
general education for the first three years of secondary, only offering them the chance to commence National 4s or 5s in August.
"But at the same time," he explained, "I was through at Edinburgh SQA yesterday, only to be told that they want our expected presentation numbers for National 5 candidates by the end of this month. I asked the Grand Pooh-Bah who imparted this information to explain the contradiction with offering only a BGE this year, but guess what? He couldn't.
"And the whole nature of the complete mess was summed up by the situation in the gents' toilets at Shawfair," he continued, "where they've only got three cubicles instead of urinals, so you think you've walked into the ladies at first by mistake. And then, when you've finally done the double-take and checked you're in the right place, you walk into a cubicle, only to be confronted by a large sign above the toilet that says: "IF YOU CAN'T AIM STRAIGHT, SIT DOWN. THE FLOOR IS NOT THE TOILET."
"I mean, for heaven's sake! If the country's national awarding body has to tell its staff how to piss properly, where's the hope for the next senior phase of Curriculum for Excellence, that's what I want to know."
He has a point.
A new student arrived in my S3 class this morning. Her name is Jade McDade, and her parents have already asked: "When will she be sitting her BGE exams? We'd like her to do them a year early here, because they always sat things a year early in her last school."
It is this kind of parental support and understanding - not to mention originality in the naming of offspring - that I know I shall miss in future years...
My first-year class made me a presentation to mark my imminent departure, albeit three weeks early.
"We wanted to be sure you knew how much we appreciated you now, rather than on your last day, sir," explained Sam Smyth, the delightful boy who has expanded Greenfield Academy's Scripture Union at an unprecedented rate, and whose diligence and application give me cause for hope in the next generation.
"Why, thank you, Sam - and everyone," I choked with gratitude as I opened a package containing an enthralling selection of books, including a New International Version Bible with matching Concordance as well as Corrie ten Boom's autobiography. Plus a bottle of Highland Park whisky.
"We thought we should look after all aspects of your, er, spiritual welfare," explained Sam.
I looked down at their smiling, grateful, eager faces, and regretted my decision to leave. How could I bear to abandon such delightful children at the outset of their nascent secondary careers, with all the surrounding innocence of youth?
I was just about to begin a thank-you speech when all hell broke loose with the arrival of multiple bags of flour and several dozen eggs into my classroom. It was the senior school: Billy Logan, Connor Moore, Tegan Kenny, Tracy Spence, Alistair Wise, et al, intent upon making their pre-examination last days at school go with a celebratory bang.
I did my best to protect and dispel 1N, of course, but to little avail, as flour, eggs and assorted missiles made their way into my classroom and covered me - and every pupil in attendance - in a miasmic shower of dust and gloop.
Suddenly, I couldn't wait for the next three weeks to pass.
And so I reach my final diary entry. Thanks are due to all my loyal readers, especially those who have followed my musings since 1984, when I started out as an idealistic young probationer whose column was only supposed to last for two years. Who'd have thought I'd still be here in 2013?
And who knows? If enough people request it, I might come back for occasional supply duties - but they'll have to raise the payment rate before I'd give it serious consideration...
Good luck with National 5s!