To hug a secondee, or not to hug

6th February 2009 at 00:00

Cuddly physicists are on the agenda again today, but not in the same context that they were when I mentioned them 18 months ago. So that's OK, and who's counting anyway? "I know all about the physicist-not-hugging thing," a well-liked colleague once said to me, "but you're going to make an exception today."

It was the last day of my workmate's secondment. What else could I do? I obliged and I'm sure I wasn't the only one who found it difficult, metaphorically, to let go.

Tricky blighter, Johnny Secondment. Having been a secondee myself, and now part of an organisation which seconds teachers, I can see the benefits and pitfalls to schools, seconded individuals and seconders. By default, those seconded tend to be experienced and this experience is temporarily lost to the school. On the other hand, the teacher filling in for the secondee may arrive fresh and with new ideas.

On their return, those seconded should bring enhanced skills and experiences to their workplaces. As did I, they may feel restless when they go back - and not just because they can't go to the loo any time they want to any more. I confess that I felt I had lost the ability to work with the more challenging pupils when I returned to school.

It is important that people like me are surrounded by seconded teachers. I have been in my new, non-teaching job for almost two years. I still feel I know what it's like in the classroom, but perhaps I'm kidding myself.

Even if I never forget, the perception among some will surely be that I cannot but lose touch.

I know someone who asks of every presenter at the courses he attends: "When were you last in a classroom?" When running CPD during my own secondment, I dreaded the phrase "that's all very well for you, but ..."

Secondees will keep me richt. I hope they will poke me with sticks, perhaps not even metaphorical ones, should I ever lose the plot. Then they'll move on. Empty desks. Computers shut down. A funny story that has to be shared by email rather than in person. Sorry (sniff), it's all getting a bit much. (Sobs). Give me a hug, somebody!

Gregor Steele is contemplating the wisdom of making a transition from metaphorical to literal cuddly physicist.

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