Forget your retirement - there won't be one

18th July 2003 at 01:00
SO this is how the old joke will go from now on: Paris for the Continent; the further education classroom for the incontinent.

Yes, they really are taking the piss aren't they? By they, of course, I mean Uncle Tony and his fellow New Labour brigands who are currently eyeing up our pension funds with such Maxwellian glee.

Let's face it, if the schoolteachers have been told that they have got to plod on till they are 65 to get their full whack, then you can be sure it will be at least 70 for us, the perennial paupers of the education service.

What the students will make of it all is anybody's guess. Already I have started to hear the words "git" and "old" used around me in interesting and inventive combinations - and that is just my colleagues.

When you are 16 someone of my venerable years (that is, a year or three older than their mums) might as well be from another planet. So add another 15 or 20 on top of that and the generation gap turns into a veritable chasm!

And then what about us - the so-called baby boomers? Are we now destined to strut the corridors of colleges across the land, playing air guitar and lamenting: "Hope I die before I grow mould!"

And, talking about my generation, I now can offer exclusively to readers of FE Focus a glimpse into a day in the life of a septuagenarian lecturer: 7.40am: depart house.

7.45am: arrive back at house to collect bus pass.

7.50am: arrive in own house to collect bus pass (thought the wife was acting a bit strange).

9am: start first class of the day.

9.05am: start real first class after re-direction to correct classroom.

9.06am: give brief resume of last week's lesson.

9.56am: introduce today's topic.

9.57am: go to toilet.

10.05am: introduce today's topic.

10.10am: have a little sleep.

10.20am: wake up. Go to toilet.

10.30am: give class interesting handout updating my various medical conditions.

10.32am: class has a little sleep.

10.35am: take advantage of above to go to toilet again.

10.59am: give resume of what's been achieved in today's class.

11am: class over.

11.15am: go into line management meeting with boss (another septuagenarian).

"Yes?" says boss.

"What?" say I.

"What are you here for?"

"Damned if I know!"

"Well, how are your teeth these days?"

"Fine, fine. I just wish I could remember where I put them."

11.20am: go to toilet. 11.25 am: Boss goes to toilet.

11.30am: meeting resumes.

"I remember now," says boss. "We're going to talk about your future."

"Bognor," I say. "A little bungalow near the front."

"Not any more. Don't you know that us seniors are going to be the shock troops for the Government's new skills initiative?"

12pm: college closes for shock troops' nap.

12.30pm: lunch. Narrowly prevent fist fight between colleagues arguing over who saw staffroom copy of the Saga catalogue first. Pacify loser by offer of first read of the new Damart brochure.

1pm: attend in-service training on "Cardigan patterns: their place in the new skills initiative". Session on "Planning for your retirement" scrapped due to lack of interest.

2pm: arrive at first class of the afternoon.

2.05pm: leave room to look for chalk.

2.15pm: return to room having remembered that blackboards were removed in 1979.

2.20pm: give brief resume of last week's lesson.

3.25pm: introduce today's topic: "The Good Old Days".

3.30pm: today's topic poorly received. Decide to win over class by playing them latest hit album, Val Doonican - the Wilderness Years.

3.40pm: go to toilet.

3.50pm: class restive - suggest more Val Doonican.

3.55 pm: class ends early due to riot.

4pm: visit college hairdressing salon for seniors' special. Salon full to bursting due to late run on discounted blue rinses.

4.30pm: try to catch up on administration, but fail to get into computer due to forgotten password.

5pm: attend the lecturers' union Natfhe meeting. Sign up for the lobby to get draught Horlicks machine installed in canteen. Proposal to turn staff bowling green into student disco area defeated unanimously.

7pm: sit down to evening marking. Projects on "That's the way we did it in my day my lad," a distinct disappointment.

9.30pm: retire to bed. Wife wittily points out that that's the only way I will get to retire nowadays. Tell wife that I am a shock troop in the battle to deliver the new skills initiative.

9.31pm: notice wife is asleep, so decide to join her.

Stephen Jones lectures at a south London college

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