Grubbing round for butterflies

7th June 1996 at 01:00
There is something in the air scholastically. Like the bluebells replacing the primroses on the Ladies' Walk and the creepy-crawlies appearing in the garden, it heralds change. I had been planning a series of Internet awareness days, and decided that the first should be in Cromarty. The reasons were obvious. I would not need a roadie to help shift my gear and perhaps the conversation in the pub would change.

Let me explain. Most of the folk we know in the town are aware we do something with the Internet and they like to ask about it just as we are settling into a night off. The response to the Awareness Day was tremendous, with two particularly educational bookings. The primary school secured places for all their staff and Ruth made sure she could get there in the evening.

Throughout the two or three years I have known Ruth she has spoken of her intended future. She is an experienced primary teacher who has committed herself to bringing up three sons. When the youngest starts school she will be keen to return to teaching. But like most returners Ruth has had the occasional doubt about getting back up to speed, coping with the changes in the profession, and whether there will be demand for her skills and experience. She felt that learning a bit about the Internet couldn't do any harm.

Ruth came round later and said how brilliant it had all been. "Thanks. I'm glad you enjoyed it. Getting online is terrific . . . buy a modem and you'll be away. Are you planning your Home Page?" Gently, as is her style, she interrupted my flow of HTTP jargon. Although the session had been to her satisfaction, it was not the reason for her excitement. The primary school teachers had been so keen to attend that they had considered bringing in a supply teacher, and had approached Ruth. She was over the moon. There was only one flaw, one factor that meant she had had to turn down the offer: her registration with the General Teaching Council was out of date and had not been renewed. Since then all the paperwork has been put into place electronically, and Ruth is a practising teacher again. Who said you couldn't use the Internet to get work?

Meanwhile a different age-group is coping with starting at the Cromarty primary school. Next year's primary 1 pupils have had a taster of what school will hold for them; an Awareness Hour if you like. Young Erin, next door, has been telling me all about it. At the school door she was greeted by a friend in her class who became her mentor. They walked off hand in hand, wide-eyed, while the mums and dads watched with a very different look on their faces.

She sang a song and made a caterpillar out of paper and an eggbox (some things really are eternal) but the highlight was that they read her favourite story, "The Hungry Caterpillar". Erin, like so many children over the past 20 years, knows the story backwards, forwards and inside out. It has been a favourite for her at home and at playgroup so she can offer an educated critique on the reading of the story. The Cromarty teachers scored highly on this count, according to my source.

The story seems more philosophical than when I first read it. Does it intentionally reflect on those helpless little grubs we produce, who munch away at everything they can lay their hands on until the time comes for them to spread their wings and be transformed into a more independent being? Or is it just still novel to find a book with deliberate holes in the pages?

Whatever the quasi-intellectual deliberations, there are going to be considerable changes in Cromarty households next term. Some parents with a first child at school will be coping with the newly imposed routine of getting up and organised in time for school to start. Those whose youngest is set to join older brothers and sisters will notice a different change in their days. Some, like Ruth, will be reorganising their own days to incorporate new work opportunities.

There are butterflies ahead; true metamorphosis.

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