Beam me up, Scottie

6th May 2005 at 01:00
Who says that these development days are good for the profession? The kids love it. Other road users love it. But me? Give me a good day at school without the pupils and I'd benefit more.

The usual "menu" arrived from the office, courtesy of the secondees who had escaped from the realities of teaching and had been elevated to the ranks of DOs. I could suggest some appropriate words for the initials, but my passage to any future greatness might be damaged.

These days provide six big challenges. First, find the venue. Not easy, even with the faded, over-reproduced map issued by those in the DO-cot.

Windows were rolled down. Urchins summoned. Questions greeted with blank stares, obscene gestures and invitations to perform biologically impossible actions. Eventually, we found the school. Signposts anyone?

Second, find the room. A board displayed the rooms and the courses. When I say a board, I mean one single board. Around 100 teachers and auxiliaries all pushing and shoving to read the list: yes, I did say the list.

It was absolute chaos. Marjorie, our area officer, was swanning around, meeting, greeting, toadying and doing everything except one thing - organising. DOs rushed everywhere, clipboards at the ready, polystyrene cups being put down precariously, as lists were checked.

"Where's behavioural difficulties?" shouted one. "Right here!" shouted Joan. "Anyone for nursery number-crunching?" "Origami in Room 4."

"Management matters in Room 6."

"Where's brainpower?" asked a probationer. "Obviously not here," snarled Joan -again.

I saw my troops off to their respective rooms, having commandeered the list. That left the only person to be sorted out - moi. Would they notice if I slid away to study contemporary trade trends in the retail sector?

I looked at the door. I estimated the paces required for escape. I started off on my great escape. "Brenda!" shouted the director. He had a penchant for names. "The primary headteachers are in the hall."

He had one letter wrong. They were in hell. The speaker was a professor from some education department who had reinvented the wheel. He had written a book which proved conclusively that brighter children needed to be kept interested or they became bored. Shock. Horror. Hold the front pages.

He spoke and he spoke and he spoke. He showed the obligatory slides - of tables of pages from his book. Only he could see them. The rest of us were spared. After only five minutes, the waves of indifference set in. Joan started her shopping list for a visit to Tesco. The director, who had introduced Professor Plum, had to leave - another budget meeting, I think.

Lucky him. Why couldn't we all have budget meetings?

Third - find the coffee room. Plum was so caught up in the excellence of his thought processes that he overran by 10 minutes. By the time we reached the staffroom, the others had eaten all the best scones and cakes. We were left with cold coffee and tea, and a distinct absence of choice in the selection of fine pieces.

Joan fumed. I thought of the ways we could escape. Could we tunnel out? An emergency at school? A medical problem? Bad news from an elderly relative? A power cut? An imminent birth?

Plum and Marjorie drank alone. I couldn't begin to guess the topics of their conversation. Regrettably, the break was over too soon and it was back to the torture chamber. We played noughts and crosses and hangman and I saw Jim and David playing battleships and cruisers. Others, less inventive, simply slept. Plum prattled on. And on. And on.

Fourth - get to the lunch early. The lunch menu was colourful. All sorts of interesting fare was promised, but my heart sank when I saw so many lines being scored out. The kitchen staff look stressed out. "Whit de ye want, hen?" I was asked by the face that lunched a thousand chips.

Flan? Aff. Fish? Aff. Pizza? Aff. I was sorely tempted, but I resisted.

Eventually I was offered a baked potato. Again, I was asked for my choice of filling. I had learnt my lesson. "What's left?" Just cheese.

Fifth - get a change of course for the afternoon session. Plum was "such a big name" that he could only stay for the morning session. There is a God after all. The afternoon was worse. Marjorie took us through the latest 37 initiatives from on high.

Sixth - don't reveal your name on the evaluation sheet. How could we tell them how bad this was? Was it a) like childbirth; b) like toothache; or c) like watching repeats of El Dorado? I told them the truth, but left it anonymous. My conscience bothered me. I filled in another one, even more damning, and put Joan's name on it. I'll never get to heaven now.

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