Blue air, slipped chaplet;School Diary;Further adventures of Morris Simpson
This week sees the annual exodus of senior pupils for work experience, always a welcome alternative to the academic stress they've endured with their examination diet of preceding weeks. And, of course, it's a real opportunity for them to anticipate the real world of employment in the years ahead.
Not that you'd think it from the comments of some fifth year pupils who insisted upon interrupting my carefully prepared pep-talk with some observations of their own.
"Wurk-experience is a loada crap, sur," commented Amanda Connolly. "All they make ye dae is stand around makin' cupsae tea and sweepin floors, like. It's crap," she repeated.
"Where was that you went last year, Amanda?" I enquired with some concern. "Because that's exactly the kind of secondment we want to avoid. And that's no doubt why you've applied for a shot of something different this year?" She shrugged her shoulders. "Ah didnae actually go last year, sur. But all ma pals said that's whit ye dae. So ah didnae go."
I bit my lip fiercely and refrained from swearing. "Well, I'm grateful you've condescended to apply for a placement this year, Amanda." I loaded my reply with sarcasm, but she was oblivious. "Do make sure you fill in your post-experience assessment form after your spell at Donnachie's, won't you? And try to think of some more elaborate descriptors than 'crap', for a change," I suggested frostily.
What a pleasure it was, after such an exchange, to welcome the open-eyed enthusiasm of Marlene Beveridge, whose excited anticipation of a week doing chambermaid duties in the Rusthaven Hotel was a joy to behold.
"I can't wait, sir," she confided in me after the briefing session had finished. "And you should see the sexy little outfit I've got. Wee white apron, feather duster, and all the trimmings!" I gulped and looked away, wished her all the best, and advised her to avoid getting involved with any of the kitchen staff.
Jim Conrad, our assistant principal teacher of computing studies - or RAMBO, as he's known affectionately to the pupils (a passing reference to his computing interests rather than his diminutive physical stature, I'm sure) - has arranged for an Internet terminal to be available for the use of pupils and staff.
This is a tremendously exciting opportunity for Greenfield Academy to be in the fast lane of the information superhighway, and I've put down as many of my classes as possible for early access.
I've always felt that English teachers have been slow to take advantage of IT, and this could be a real chance to make a name for myself. Plus, of course, at this time of year, a session or two of "free surfing" might alleviate the tiresome need to prepare lesson plans.
Marlene Beveridge was on the telephone at lunchtime today. She wants to give up her work experience.
"But, why, Marlene?" I queried down the mouthpiece.
"It's awful, sir," she explained tremulously. "I'm having to make beds, and clean out toilets, and take the dirty linen down to the laundry, and..."
"But, Marlene," I interrupted. "That's what chambermaids in hotels do for a living. That's what working in a hotel's all about."
"But I haven't used my feather duster once! And you never said I'd be cleaning toilets, sir."
"Well, perhaps it wasn't in the job description in that much detail, but surely...?" "It's not fair, Mr Simpson," her voice jerked. "You've... you've... betrayed me!" With which tearful valediction, she slammed the telephone down.
Gosh. Talk about a chaplet falling from my brow...
Today was my first attempt at a whole-class interface with the Internet, and it didn't provide quite the academic enlightenment for which I'd hoped. Having worked through Mr Conrad's introductory notes with 2C and resisted Damien Steele's frequent entreaties to "cut out the intro, sur, an let's get surfin", I issued each group with a set of worksheets to guide them through their first, tentative connection attempts, and then their enquiries of the various "search engines" on offer.
I had set them a little exercise on finding material linked to evacuees in the Second World War (a theme we're covering in their class play at present) and had envisaged myself in a wandering tutorial role throughout, even if - armed with Mr Conrad's staff manual - I was likely to find myself only a few pages ahead of them in terms of Internet knowledge.
Imagine my dismay upon discovering that - with the sole exception of Steven Austin, a very slow boy - my own knowledge of the Internet (and all its libidinous potential) could have been written on the back of a postage stamp, compared to the encyclopaedic and Theseus-like ability of my charges to navigate the labyrinth of sordid erotica on free display. Their nefarious activities first came to my attention as I was helping Lisa Charles and Kylie Donahue to type in "Evacuation" on their "Yahoo" search, and privately congratulating myself on such techno-advancement. Suddenly a raucous cheer erupted from the other side of the room.
"What is it, boys?" I asked Graeme Farr in all innocence. "Have you got anywhere with 'Anderson Shelters' yet?" Before I could reach his monitor, Farr had pressed the QUIT button, and I was unable to ascertain the cause of their hilarity. However, my suspicions were aroused, and, as they ostensibly continued their search, I kept a close eye on proceedings. Imagine my dismay upon discovering that the only Anderson they had in their sights was one with the Christian name of Pamela.
Because there, in full and glorious 16-bit digital imagery when they thought my attention was concentrated on the other side of the room, was what could only be described as a lewd and lascivious picture of the aforementioned actress in considerable and provocative state of undress.
I hared across the room in swift pursuit, and demanded that Farr click his mouse-button to another dimension altogether. Meanwhile, however, in a distant corner, Stuart Monteith had initiated another search that had clearly proved all too fruitful. To explain, the glazed eyes and dropped jaws of Monteith's group revealed that yet another cauldron of erotica had been ignited. Alas, the boy was also too quick on his escape button to let me see the fruits of his labours. I began to feel like a plate-spinner whose attention was diverted in 12 different directions at once.
Fortunately, the bell went soon afterwards. I ordered them to quit their programs, then dismissed them with a peremptory wave and told them that it would be a long time before I considered letting 2C have free access to the Internet again.
It was only with Jim Conrad's technological assistance during morning break that I was able to back-track on Monteith's computer memory and discover what had been causing the lad such pleasure. His initial search enquiry, Conrad explained, had been for anything to do with the term "Big Bazookas".
Unsurprisingly, numerous adverts for some American bubble gum had appeared, plus several hundred sites about military hardware and advertisements for same. Plus, eventually, the touchstone of Monteith's original enquiry and desire - quite a lot about Pamela Anderson as well...
This Internet pornography is really becoming rather serious. I popped into the computing suite at lunchtime to discover Mr Conrad up in arms about some material of the uttermost depravity which had been downloaded in his absence during a fourth year access time by pupil - or pupils - unknown.
Indeed, he was just showing me some of the more distressing examples of still and video clips which he had uncovered when Marlene Beveridge appeared at the door.
"Mr Simpson," she explained, "I'm just reporting back early from work experience, because - oh!" she caught her breath.
"Sir! I mean, Sirs!" she looked at Jim Conrad, as well as his monitor, and then back at me. Her eyes filled with tears. "Sir, I never thought... " Her eyes strayed back to the monitor. "Excuse me, sir. I think I'd better go."
"Marlene!" I called after her. "It's not what you think! It's what some of the fourth year boys have been..."
But she was gone. Before I lost even more chaplets, I resolved to find out the facts, unleash the sword of truth upon the culprits and let Marlene Beveridge judge my guilt. Or otherwise.
Luckily, Jim Conrad was proving adept at hacking into the user interface and, by dint of some detailed investigative work, was feeling confident that he could access the password which had downloaded the offending material.
"But aren't the passwords secret, Jim?" I queried.
He shrugged his shoulders. "Sort of, but - hang on!" he interrupted himself. "There we are. That's the one that got this filth down the line. Initials, D-A-P, if that means anything to a fourth year class-list, Morris. Any ideas?" DAP: I racked my brains for an answer, but found none. "DAP?" I queried again. "Can't think of anyone with those initials, Jim," I confessed. "Now, if you'd come up with BB I'd have been - hang about!" I drew myself up short. What was the class that was in here?" Jim consulted the master booking sheet. "Religious education," he informed me. "With Mr..." his voice tailed off, and he looked knowingly across the keyboard. "Your friend and mine? David Pickup?" "David Andrew Pickup?" I raised an eyebrow and gulped once. Then again. And decided that I'd better put the sword of truth back in its sheath.
But I'm going to have words with Mr Pickup. I really am.