Double acts are hard to follow

17th February 2006 at 00:00
I had a friend at university who spent one summer holiday working for the census people. He had to go from door to door asking whether there had been any changes to the household since the previous year. He got rather tired of hearing the reply "only the dug!", followed by a guffaw.

It was a question rather than an answer that I found myself hearing somewhat over-frequently at the start of the new term. For around a year and a half (though it seemed longer, nae offence), the science team at the advisory service was made up of myself and a primary colleague. And what a team it was. Many were the schools upon which we descended with our shared laptop and Powerpoint on the local authority's take on the development of thinking skills.

More numerous still were the times when we ended up insensible with laughter when trying to voice-over a DVD without sounding like reporter Bob Wylie and Roisin from River City. Then my colleague moved on.

"Are you missing your partner in crime?" every other person I met during the first week back would ask me. I didn't mind this, but got bored giving sensible replies and ended up saying: "Ach, naw. It wis all an act. We couldnae really stick each other."

Another change that occurred post-Christmas was my return to school one day a week. "I bet this is a shock to the system, ha, ha, ha!" or similar sentiments came my way on a regular basis. I had to watch my replies.

If I inferred that my seconded post could in any way at any time be more stressful than teaching, I would sound like the character in the Monty Python sketch who berated his coal miner son for turning his back on the family tradition of being a poet, with all the associated hardship of literary lunches and book signings. Instead, I pointed out rather lamely that I did do a fair number of demo lessons.

I suspect that the real shock to the system will come when I am back full-time, not only teaching but reporting, testing, getting pupils ready for exams, playing "catch-up" with Nabs, chasing punnies, blah, blah, blah.

"Secondees never come back" was a phrase I came across several times before I went off. I have to confess that I did consider moving on from teaching. There was a job advert for a physics HMI in this paper not so long ago. I considered it quite seriously, but dropped the idea. The lifestyle, I decided, was too rock and roll for me. Now that's something I bet you don't hear everyday.

Gregor Steele recently faced his greatest challenge as a secondee: to teach his son's class and still be able to face the boy over the dinner table.

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