Just another manic Monday

7th February 2003 at 00:00
I remember hearing a song called "Mama Told Me There'd Be Days Like This".

Well, I wish the tutors on the Scottish Qualification for Headship had told me.

I was just beginning to believe I was making progress when it seemed that the world was collapsing in on me. It had started badly - motor problems, laddered tights and a too close encounter with the school gates were the wrong way to begin any Monday, let alone the day of the interviews for the new secretary.

The jannie greeted me with the news that we had had another break-in, our third since my arrival. As usual, the likely suspects were former pupils.

This conclusion was based on the suggestions for the impossible biological attainment targets they had set for both the jannie and the former headteacher.

The targets were sprayed in a fetching shade of red, all across the staffroom wall. If I was looking for positives, at least the spelling was accurate and the writing neat.

First to arrive in school was a rather tearful June, the P1 teacher, who bore all the hallmarks of deep distress. Clutching a fistful of tissues to her reddening face, she spluttered out a garbled greeting, and proceeded to greet for the next five minutes. I remembered the council mantra about valuing staff, and followed her into her room.

June, it emerged, was suffering from a family bereavement. I fished, discreetly and tactfully, for the identity of the dear departed, and was about to suggest she went home. June sniffed between sobs, looked out of the classroom window, and said: "It's Ben! He died in his sleep. We're all devastated, especially the kids."

Ben? I remember her husband's name was Jim. Perhaps this was her father, father-in-law or maybe an uncle. I was on the point of going to get her a reassuring cup of coffee when she added: "We came down this morning, and he was floating on the surface."

I had "fished" correctly - Ben was the family goldfish.

I left June to arrange the funeral and returned to the staffroom, making a mental note for the next career review encounter.

Evelyn was next to arrive, limping badly and struggling to cope with two bags of marked jotters. Her injuries were the result of an over-exuberant Shirley Bassey impersonation at a karaoke evening. She was obviously in pain, and I offered to take her PE lessons for the week ahead.

The probationer, Frances, swept past the open staffroom door and was determined to avoid any contact with the rest of us. I quickly permed the possibilities for her catastrophe. A broken romance? A heavy defeat for her hockey team? Why are young teachers so lacking in the resilience of our generation? I decided that my policy would be one of delayed inquiry.

The phone calls started from 8.25 onwards. Parent complaints about dinners, the office asking for a re-submission of statistical returns (which they had lost), and the inevitable inquiry from the Gazette about the break-in.

They all added to life's rich tapestry.

Mary's husband called to say that she wouldn't be in today. My sympathy for her was as forced and insincere as it could be. Had the poor wee lamb broken a nail? Had she read something in the doc's column of the Sunday Post that she was sure she had? Was Mars in conjunction with Uranus? All sorts of wicked thoughts went through my mind, but my overriding professionalism resisted a response which I might later regret.

My chances of finding a supply teacher at this time of the day were marginally greater than those of meeting Marilyn Monroe and Elvis at the P1 parents evening. I had to take the class. Interviews for the new secretary cancelled. Evelyn to take P3 while I do her PE. June to get a grip of herself. Francis could wait a bit longer. Jannie to talk to the Gazette.

Mary to another school. Gin and tonic tonight.

There - that's it. I really am getting better at this game. One day, I'll write a book about this headteaching business.

The bell was about to ring when Mrs Henderson from the kitchen came storming in. Face ashen, apron splattered in bologneise sauce, fringe singed and cheeks covered in cascading mascara, she blurted out: "Ah'm sorry hen, I've had enough! Ah'm aff!"

I knew how she felt.

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