Me and the fearless 'X Factor' generation

27th January 2006 at 00:00
The Christmas holidays were a blur of visits to friends and relatives, awkward murmurs of "Thank you" for the lovely socks and stomach-rupturing gluttony. All in all, a bit of a whirlwind that left me needing a break to recover.

So, what better time to plan for the next holiday? A fellow probationer and I have now booked an Easter getaway, an all-inclusive all-done-for-you trip to test the tepid springtime swimming pools of Spain.

I can't help suspecting that even there, pupils might spring from Spanish woodwork. They get everywhere!

I don't mind when I'm looking productive and teacher-like at the local library, but I do when I'm puffing out swollen Christmas pudding cheeks during a jogging session to start my (hardly inspirational) New Year's resolution to get fit. Or browsing the deodorants and toilet rolls at the supermarket in my best "I'm marking jotters today" joggers.

And they do enjoy spotting you. A sighting is a great topic of pupil conversation, as if it's amazing for teachers to be seen in public.

Imagine my dismay when in the sauna, growing increasingly faint and mottled in the heat, I hear two pupils come in chatting about their chemistry prelim.

That decided it. I'll just have to get one of those electrical impulse exerciser whatsits, except I'll buy a whole body-sized one, and convulse myself thin in private.

Making New Year resolutions is an interesting ritual. Apart from the symbolism of beginning a new calendar year, you have to wonder why many of us leave it till January to change our lives or lifestyle.

Perhaps increasing the frequency of making resolutions might decrease the chance of them becoming so quickly redundant; in a sense, we'd be formatively assessing ourselves.

Our department sets weekly targets in class - for homework, class work and personal targets - as a way of sharing learning intentions and encouraging responsibility for learning. It is also a way of tuning into learners'

minds, if you track the personal targets. Pupils become aware of their own needs and learn to sculpt their own progress.

That said, making any plans or targets and trying to get going after the Christmas mania has not been easy. And this term looks set to be the busiest, with the first dreaded parents' evenings fast approaching. I am looking forward to them as I would to lunch with Armin Meiwes, the self-confessed cannibal.

I've just written my first reports for S4. What a fun way to spend a weekend, trying to write in parent-friendly language that "perhaps your daughter would progress more successfully in the subject if, say, she did it in another language or had the lobotomy reversed".

I guess that is the way things are sometimes with fourth years. It is such an important year; the reward of two years' investment in work. Yet sometimes it comes down to whether you can permeate through the hormonal haze.

Last month the school was buzzing with pre-holiday spirit. The last day was celebrated with an X Factor-style performance by the pupils, with no sign of the self-consciousness I remember from school. Talented and vocally-challenged alike took to the stage with gusto.

This surely is the personification of Determined to Succeed, the catalyst to creating this confidence. It's the confidence to participate, whether it's offering an answer in German, starting an enterprise project or warbling through a power ballad centre stage. Bravo kids.

Nicola Clark is a probationer English teacher at Lockerbie AcademyIf you have any comments, email scotlandplus@tes.co.uk

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