Gym can't fix it

12th November 2004 at 00:00
As I'm getting ready for work, Breakfast TV runs an item about the Brain Gym(. It's a trendy thing in education, and the programme shows a primary school where the children do exercises before school, and the head declares this has improved behaviour and concentration, as well as fitness.

It's a beautiful morning, so, enthused by the TV item, I decide not to compete for the last space in the college car park at 7.45, but abandon my car streets away and walk briskly across the park.

They say exercise is good for stress management and this morning I need to arrive calm and in control. In the first session I am due to face the space warriors. This is a group of computer students who, the minute they get bored (which is often), switch the monitors to a virtual war zone. Those who are prepared to complete their assignments struggle against a hail of cosmic interference from the dark side of the room and I am reduced to the role of space policeman.

During the two hours, there are at least ten minutes when there is perfect silence while every student in the room attempts the assignments. By the end, all of the papers contain some answers, a few have most of the answers, and half the world has been obliterated - all in all a relatively good session, even if I am left frazzled.

I fill in my evaluation sheets and note that I must encourage the slow workers to go faster, or they will fail to complete their work and lose marks. And I must encourage the fast workers to slow down, or their work will be full of errors and they will lose marks. Either way, it's hard to see how we are going to reach the targets for achievement.

On to my next group, where checking your work is my key objective for the morning. When teaching adults, the manual says, find examples from real life, and encourage the students to bring their own contexts to the work.

Liam has completed his handout, and I want him to check it through. Taking a highlighter pen, I show him some of the processes that proof-reading entails, and describe the techniques a publisher would use to check copy.

Suddenly a light appears in Liam's eye and a smile on his face: "You mean like Lois Lane." He has brought his own context to the work in hand and I can only hope he doesn't come in his Superman kit next week.

Although the day started with the most challenging of my classes, I have the afternoon free, so I head for the gym, where I will let go the tensions of the morning and return home renewed and refreshed. After a half-hour workout and a swim in the pool, I plan to wind down in the Jacuzzi but I see that it is full of cavorting young men, which is unusual for this time of day. I have no intention of sharing a bubble-bath with a bunch of boisterous boys. Retreating to the sauna, I ask a middle-aged lady what is going on. She explains that this is the city's youth football squad, fresh from training. Is there no escape? On my way out, I tear up my stress management manual and dump it in the bin.

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