Arnold's World

15th May 1998 at 01:00
In schools where senior managers keep the staff's noses firmly to the grindstone, teachers will have been too busy to appreciate that teaching is about to undergo a seismic change. They will soon have to face the alarming prospect of a dramatic increase in the amount of free time they have at their disposal.

Here is the Doomsday scenario. The unions will succeed in reducing the amount of pointless pen-pushing that teachers are expected to undertake; Mr Woodhead will save them from the endless preparatory work necessitated by progressive teaching methods; Mr Blunkett will fulfil his promise and use the Internet to publish detailed schemes of work and a cornucopia of resources. Teachers will have so little extra work to do that they could find themselves with free lessons - and only the haziest notion of how best to waste them.

They could learn so much from those of us who were in the profession during happier times - before the national curriculum, league tables, literacy targets and such like. Lazy days when schools were generally ignored by the population at large, teachers were left to their own devices, and any politician who claimed that education, education, education was his top priority would have been shuffled off to a nursing home or the back benches. Under these idyllic conditions, most of my colleagues worked diligently at improving the quality of the lessons they taught in the classroom. I concentrated exclusivelyon free lessons, constantly striving to master the illusive - and now sadly neglected art - of not doing anything in particular.

Eager that today's teachers should spend their free time as unprofitably as I did, I plan to produce a multimedia package, provisionally entitled What You Could Do When You Haven't Got Anything You Have To Do. It will eventually be available on the Internet, but, in the meantime, extracts will appear in this column. These may be photocopied and used on in-service training days. The first extract: Remember that the devil finds work for idle hands. Since that is the last thing you want to do, always keep them busy. Twiddling the thumbs is a reliable stand-by, but don't forget that your other fingers can be just as usefully unemployed. Trim your nails, clean them, polish them, paint them or watch them very carefully to see if you can see them grow. Cracking the knuckles is another diverting, and futile, pastime - especially if it makes a colleague wince every time you do so. Another way of doing this is to emit unexpected sounds. The more articulate will essay a languorous "heigh ho", but if you are new to the ways of sloth, it would be wiser to settle for sighs, stifled yawns and the sudden inhalation of breath that usually proceeds a snore.

Feel at liberty to whistle or hum, but remember that nobody likes a show-off: any tune can be adequately rendered without having to ever stray beyond D Sharp, C and B Flat. You could also experiment with tapping out tunes on your teeth using a pencil or ball-point pen. A medley of Saturday Night Fever favourites could prove particularly annoying - but it is advisable not to attempt "Stayin' Alive" before consulting a reputable orthodontist. It cannot be stressed too strongly that these activities can do much to enhance your career prospects. Teachers who can keep themselves amused for hours on end doing nothing in particular are generally regarded as senior management material.

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