The dark side of the whiteboard - My laptop is last Word in defunct

1st October 2010 at 01:00

The English department is back on the naughty step. According to SuperManny, the neo-Nazi in charge of IT support, we are not looking after our computers properly. Maths always comes top of the laptop husbandry league tables: pupils log them out, log them in and polish them. Last year, the head of maths won best working laptop trolley for the third year running, which must give the department some comfort when it compares its GCSE results with ours.

But SuperManny is on to us. Pupils chucking laptops into cupboards at the start of break is apparently not good practice, so now he has confiscated our two computer trolley keys and withdrawn our ICT privileges for the year. My boss is furious. In her role as HoD she is reliant on technology. Without the aid of KS4 "laptop lessons" she won't have time to tackle the departmental development plan or her Tesco online shopping. Last week was the final straw. Faced with 11.9 on a windy afternoon, she chipped her French-polished gel nails while jemmying the trolley doors with a pair of left-handed scissors. After booking herself a next-day emergency salon appointment, she declared war.

I am happy to join in the fray. Last term, they refused to give me a new staff laptop despite my machine's inability to access Windows Media Files or open PDFs. When my shift key finally bit the dust, I thought they would relent. Wrong. I spent June and July struggling without capitals, colons or question marks, teaching English as a Largely Unpunctuated Language to several bewildered classes. The fact that the SMT didn't step in suggests that they wanted me to contribute to the teaching of illiteracy across the curriculum, a recent initiative pioneered by PE and our new head of drama. This month, however, brought a breakthrough. My judiciously worded all-staff email, "has anyone seen kelly johnsons berghaus - shes certain its somewhere in school" got the message across and my new laptop arrived last night.

It's a pyrrhic victory. My "new" machine is a cannibalised student computer, a battle-scarred ASDAN vet taken down by a functional skills student and resurrected by grave robbers from IT support. It's an aberration of nature, a triumph of technical eugenics. It spits in the eye of God and Bill Gates. Imagine an ancient Dell casing but with tighter hinges, refurbished keys and a new operating system inside. Gross but functional, the IT equivalent of Usain Bolt's heart in David Gest's body. And it's OK, except for two things: when I switch it on it whirrs like a spin dryer and its charger doesn't work.

But as long as I treat it like an immersion heater and switch it on 25 minutes before I need it, it should be fine. Aesthetically, I prefer Word 2003 to this slick upgrade, which comes complete with OCD and a multiple personality disorder. Word 2010 is everything that's wrong with modern life: too busy, overly ambitious and obsequiously attentive yet rigidly unhelpful. As I struggle to decide between its three trillion fonts, our newbie in English arrives hugging a bubble-wrapped laptop to her ample breasts.

SuperManny traditionally reserves these for management and the science teacher giving him blow jobs. She switches it on: no chugging noise. Suddenly life seems very unfair.

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

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