Finally, time for a quiet think;Opinion

8th May 1998 at 01:00
IT'S that time again, when teachers turn philosophical. Folios and investigations are long gone and the exam timetable leaves some space for reflection. Teachers seek answers to the big questions: What am I doing? What am I paid for? Who stole my mug from the staffroom?

Our masters and betters get into the swing as well. Fearing we may be at a loose end over the next few weeks, they obligingly produce more targets for us to take aim at. One cynical acquaintance at a school north of the Tay had his own query: How can an initiative like this get from the Minister's brain onto glossy paper and into schools in a matter of weeks, when I've been waiting three months to get the basketball boards in my gym repaired?

Of course there is no shortage of folk with answers to these questions. A colleague told me of a phone-in programme during which teachers were lambasted from a range of geographical and political locations for being generally workshy and unprofessional.

I unfortunately missed the show. I was driving home after a day that began at 8am and finished at 9.45pm.

Thankfully, the parents at our new fifth year information evening were considerably more positive than those who called the radio show - or possibly just better informed.

We're not above doing ourselves down on occasion as well. This week one union activist was reported in the press as opining that Standard grades are a "charter for cheats" and the "setting of targets" will lead staff to turn a blind eye to cheating in order to improve pupil attainment.

If this report is accurate, it suggests the thought: "With comrades like that, who needs enemies?" Of course, he could have been misquoted. It does happen, as I know to my cost. My son, struggling with a maths homework problem, admitted he had not asked the teacher for help even though he didn't fully understand the task. His teaching parents pointed out that he shouldn't be afraid to ask questions, as that's what teachers are paid for.

We were a little aghast, however, when he came in last Friday with an eyewitness report: "Sinead wasn't listening to Miss Brown in environmental studies, so she didn't know what to do. She put up her hand and asked, but Miss Brown said she wasn't going to answer her as she should have been listening. So I said, 'Miss Brown, you have to answer her: that's what you're paid for.' " Apart from necessitating a fairly meek profile from the two of us at his next parents' evening, it also suggested that he who seeks the answers to big questions should be prepared for a red face.

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