Fear - and loathing - on Facebook

15th February 2008 at 00:00

Kevin Muir is still "acting up" as our headteacher during the vacancy occasioned by Ms Gibbon's departure.

However, we understand that he has decided to apply for the permanent position, and that what persuaded him was discovering a copy of his predecessor's job-sizing submission in a filing cabinet: Ms Gibbon had apparently claimed an enormous list of clerical, disciplinary and curricular tasks under her remit, nearly all of which were performed by her serried ranks of deputes in some form or another. So he reckoned that, since he was already doing most of the things that the headteacher was paid to do, he may as well be paid properly to do them.

"God may move in mysterious ways," he had apparently commented to the rest of the senior management team: "but PricewaterhouseCooper seemed to work even more mysteriously when they made up these job-sizing kits ..."


Kevin seems intent upon winning staff support for his application, as witnessed by an invitation to several senior and long-standing members to join him in The Rockston Arms for a small libation this evening after parents' night. It was a pleasant event, though Mr Walsh excused himself early on - not because of marking demands, I gathered, but he wanted to get home "in time to get on to Facebook".

Well, I didn't have a clue what he was talking about, but Mrs Harry explained it as a networking site that allows individuals to make friends with each other on the internet across a wide range of social and geographical boundaries, and converse electronically on an enormous variety of topics that are of mutual interest.

Obviously, it is yet another example of technology's rampant march into every aspect of our lives - and, clearly, the irony of leaving our friendly little gathering to go on a social networking site seemed completely lost on Mr Walsh.


I returned from school this afternoon to find Gail clambering down from the loft, a bundle of papers and ring-binders in her hand, and a weary expression on her face. It had apparently been a long day at school.

"Jim Joyce has jumped on a new bandwagon," she reported her headteacher's latest curricular initiative at Rockston Primary. "He's asking us to re-present our planning outlines so that they fit in with the 'Joining the Learning' framework" - at which point she thrust a document in front of me, from which I could see that he had mis-spelt the word "Joining".

"No, no that's correct," she assured me. "It's supposed to be 'Joyning the Learning': I think it's something to do with the happiness of learning, but I'm not terribly sure, to be honest."

"But what does it mean?"

"Jim says it's a practical example of A Curriculum for Excellence. It allows autonomy, enterprise, engagement, stimulation, affiliation, and a holistic approach to the day's learning by teaching everything through linked topics. Hence Joyning the Learning."

"Mr Joyce certainly seems to share his namesake's talent for the language of obfuscation," I remarked. "It sounds like Finnegan's Wake."

"Maybe," she confirmed. "But he's too young to remember that I did all this in college 25 years ago, when it was called the primary topic web. So I've been in the loft getting my student notes out. I knew they'd come in useful some day."

What goes around - as I have remarked so many times before - tends to come around.


Richard Young, our faculty principal teacher, has been berating me of late for not using the electronic whiteboard in my teaching strategies. My protestations that I have been successfully teaching English for 23 years without the need to resort to any forms of electronic wizardry have fallen on deaf ears.

"Aside from entering into an argument about your definition of the word 'successfully', Morris," he rudely challenged my assertion at morning break, "the fact is that we've sunk thousands of pounds into these learning aids, and you're the only member of the department who's yet to use them on a regular - or even occasional - basis. I've had several parents asking why every other class is getting access to whiteboards but yours aren't."

Thus it was that, pestered by parent power, I found myself trying to project some war poetry onto the wretched contraption this afternoon. I must have wasted half the lesson trying to get the text up on the whiteboard, but all to no avail, until Brian Niven of 2N came to my aid.

He it was who pointed out the need to remove the lens protector to ensure we could get on with the lesson. Personally, I don't see the difference between putting the poem up on the whiteboard and the method of display used when I first came into the profession, that is, a blackboard - or even, God forbid, reading it from a book!


I discovered this morning that I have an entry on Facebook. And what an entry it is.

It was drawn to my attention by my Higher class, who acknowledged delight in my appreciation of "rap music and cannabis joints, especially on a Friday night when winding down after school with three cans of Special Brew Lager and a pornographic movie".

Needless to say, I set them some work while I checked their assertion on my classroom PC - without linking up to the whiteboard, I might add. And it was all true! According to this scurrilous and unregulated website, my page - with full frontal picture attached - outlines a life of extra-curricular debauchery and excess, listing several deviant sexual practices as my favoured weekend activities.

My face grew pale as I realised there seems nothing to stop anyone setting up a page on my behalf - as someone has obviously done - and that the laws of slander and libel seem to hold no sway in this electronic equivalent of Bedlam.

Sometimes, for all the technological advances in the world of education, I wish we could put the clock back to the days of Banda sheets and Gestetner skins ...

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