I woke up: that's my excuse, and I'm sticking to it

3rd February 2006 at 00:00
You're halfway through a PowerPoint presentation when the door opens and Danny comes in. "Sorry, I missed the bus," he'll say. A fine excuse.

Slept in, had to take my wee sister to school, the handle fell off the door, the man's coming to kill the rats in the flat - these simple excuses are OK by me.

They're also becoming rarer. Excuses for lateness or absence now follow media trends. Most popular at the moment is sleep disorder. So when Karen says she can't get up in the morning because she sits up all night watching movies, she expects sympathy and hand-outs.

Then there are lifestyle problems. You know, things you thought happened only in Australian soaps. Thus we have students texting to say they are delayed because they have to see their lawyer, wait for an important phone call, await DNA test results or have been discovered busking and are off to support the Kaiser Chiefs on their latest tour.

You think I'm kidding? These students live complex, highly-charged lives straight out of Ramsay Street. How can I expect them to spare me a few hours?

The latest report on sleep inertia is a cracker. In a risk-averse society, we now learn that getting up in the morning is about the most dangerous thing we can do. For the first 10 minutes, even up to two hours, apparently, we are a danger to ourselves and everyone else, falling over, dropping things and getting our knickers in a twist.

That's another excuse to add to the repertoire, then.

Of course, sleep inertia has been my excuse for years. I need at least 20 minutes from the sounding of the alarm to getting out of bed. First one eye opens, then the other.

My man, on the other hand, bounds out in a single leap. "You know it's really not good for you," I mumble with concern from the depths of a warm duvet, listening to a whistle-stop shower and dressing routine, the noise of the kettle being filled and the rattle of breakfast things. But he is a firefighter, and concerns about sleep inertia wouldn't go down too well at the station.

And what's a fire, saving a few lives, to worry about? Fear of falling out of your slippers or putting two legs down one leg of your pants is the kind of terrifying risk that will make you hesitate to lift the bedclothes.

Sleep inertia, huh? Sounds plausible to me. Instead of frowning at latecomers, we should celebrate the fact that they risked getting out of bed at all, and hug them warmly.

But it's time the score was evened up. It's time we outlined the risks that lecturers face day in and day out. We could use all the excuses students use, and then some.

Teaching is torment, I read in the press. The risk? Boredom. That's a good one. But I can reveal a few more scary challenges. Sign up for teaching and you risk having to watch Celebrity Big Brother so that you can comment on Pete Burns's coat and show you're a real person.

You have to find out which pubs your students drink in, so you don't risk going there. You have to sidestep the fascination with your private life, if only because you risk revealing it's much duller than theirs.

Being mysterious in your responses can have repercussions, however. My Thursday class presented me with a Christmas card "to Carol and Roger" - which nonplussed my man George.

But you're a lecturer. You signed up. You're aware of the risks, so no excuses. Off to class with you. And mind how you go.

Dr Carol Gow lectures in media at Dundee College.

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