The dark side of the whiteboard - F off with your fancy therapies

9th July 2010 at 01:00

That old adage "Beware of Greeks bearing gifts" has got to be on its linguistic last legs. Since their entire GDP would hardly stretch to a naff birthday balloon, an upgraded version for teachers might read: "Beware of SMT offering a generous well-being programme". Like a Trojan horse, this is concealing an army of malevolent intentions. The only reason any school forks out money on stress management for staff is when it is about to double their workload.

Take last week. We received an email inviting us to participate in an exciting range of Eastern relaxation techniques - Indian head massage, crystal healing and that ancient Ayurvedic ritual of microwaving shiny black pebbles then plonking them on your back. These holistic complementary therapies (please tell me you want to gag) are being offered by a visiting company which, judging by its website, has all the cultural authenticity of a Sharwood's sauce. As well as delivering corporate packages, the company specialises in "hands on" work with children by encouraging pupils to create massage routines based on curriculum texts.

While I can visualise my Year 10s massaging each other's naughty bits to contextualise their understanding of Romeo and Juliet, I am frankly baffled as to what would be gained by adding ylang-ylang oil and whale music to Tennyson's 'Charge of the Light Brigade'.

They claim that the benefits to pupils are enormous and conclude by suggesting that a "celebration assembly" of these routines would give pupils a sense of "real ownership" of their massages. What I can't work out is whether you have to be gullible to teach or whether this is acquired through Inset training.

But I'm not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, so I have signed up. The relaxation sessions are being offered on a brisk 20-minute timetable, which rather defeats their purpose. I have avoided acupressure as my blood pressure is already on the high side and have signed up for an Indian head massage. According to the website, this will relieve my tension, headaches, anxiety and insomnia - a bit like Year 11 leaving. It will also give me improved energy, vitality and mental clarity, which is good since a second email has just arrived.

Subsequently, my "to do" list is incredibly long. All of my gained Year 11 time will be squandered inputting column after column of KS3 assessment data. The reason for the complementary therapies has become obvious: it is the sugar coating on a bitter APP pill. For each KS3 child we teach we have to enter three separate grades before completing a fourth column where we select a best-fit statement from a drop-down menu of grammatical inaccuracies: these student have meet their target; these student have exceeded their target; these student have mostly been in the toilet.

Once this is complete, the boss can compare pupils' attainment across all subjects and identify under-performing departments who will respond by adopting radical interventionist strategies - such as "Just bung in a level 7 next term".

The holistic therapies are clearly meant to combat the RSI we will get from crouching over our keyboards and punching in numbers. It would make more sense to buy in temps rather than new-age travellers as they could do the admin and we could keep our health.

Anne Thrope (Ms) is a secondary teacher in the North of England.

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