Mirror, mirror, on the wall, whose kisses are best of all?

4th November 2005 at 00:00

My first year classes have been disrupted today by the refusal of certain pupils to do the work I've set in my Hallowe'en project, incorporating various creative writing tasks centred on themes of witchcraft and sorcery.

It's a little annoying, because their recalcitrance is officially endorsed by another member of staff, our enthusiastic probationer Peter Taylor, who has resurrected the school's Scripture Union.

Although I am obviously in full support of that group's moral and behavioural aims, it was frustrating to have Chantelle McLuskey refuse to complete a worksheet because (and I quote) "Misturr Taylor said at this moarnin's prerr meetin' that we werny tae hae onythin' tae dae wi'

Hallowe'en 'cos it wis the wurks o' the devil!"

It's always difficult to argue the merits of our 5-14 language strands against such powerful spiritual opposition, so I decided to give her - and the other six complainants - a worksheet on etymology instead. That should sort out the sheep from the goats, so to speak.


Half of my Standard grade class is now refusing to study Tam o' Shanter (our chosen class poem, so that they can all do a "personal literature response") on the basis that it invokes demonic associations. Needless to say, Mr Taylor's imprecations at Scripture Union are behind the revolt.

I am not sure whether to take the issue to Simon Young, my principal teacher, or Mr Soames, the school chaplain, or rather Christian spiritual liaison officer, as he's known now. He is easier to get hold of since Simon became faculty head, but he might not be so understanding to my cause.

Meanwhile, a more significant behavioural disorder has become apparent, this time with regard to the sixth year girls' cloakroom and toilet. It has become a source of visual mayhem with the frequent appearance of lipstick kisses on the mirrors.

Rachel Roy and Darlinda George are believed to be the main culprits, but whoever is responsible, the results are the same. Every mirror in the place is, apparently, covered with pulchritudinous ovals of crimson as girl after girl seeks to leave her imprint, for some vapid reason.

Richard Broadbent, our senior depute head, has had enough and this afternoon issued fulsome warning against any repetitions by threatening a loss of privileges for anyone caught mirror-kissing, even so far as to stop educational maintenance allowance for anyone caught breaking the injunction.

I'm not sure if he is entitled to do that, actually.


Gail's (slightly unplanned) pregnancy is, of course, a source of delight, although it will cause us some financial challenges. At least by the start of next session, I should be in receipt of a salary enhancement as a result of attaining my first two modules on the chartered teacher course.

Meanwhile, we are concentrating our thoughts on provisional names for the newest Simpson, and remain conscious of the social revelations that are likely to accompany our decision.

Greenfield Academy has recently welcomed to its first year a Kimberley Chartreuse, a Pocahontas and a Destiny. (This last so named because her parents' honeymoon - and, indeed, her conception - had taken place on a cruise vessel of the same name. It's as well they hadn't chosen the QE2 for the occasion, I am often minded to reflect.) Mind you, Gail's latest intelligence from Rockfield Nursery, whence her school's Primary 1 intake derives, offers the even more astonishing news of twins with the unbelievably garish names of Adidas and Reebok!

Call us old-fashioned, but Gail and I are thinking of Fraser, if it's a boy, and Fiona, if it's a girl.


The work surrounding my chartered teaching course is proving a little more challenging than I had expected. Last night I was up very late trying to finish work on an early assignment in the professional development module.

Also, I have to say that I have been rather disappointed by the numbers attending our lectures and tutorial groups, where I had been hoping to share professional experiences with a wide cross-section of the educational community. So far, I've had a lengthy chat with two primary teachers who wanted to tell me where we were going wrong in secondary schools when it comes to enthusing children (apparently, we don't put up enough wall-displays of their work) and a brief exchange with my lecturer.

He admitted that he hadn't actually taught a class for 10 years but, in answer to my question, he still felt perfectly qualified to advise me on modern professionalism in the classroom.

Notwithstanding the lack of intellectual sparkle surrounding such debates, it is more the paucity of participants that gets me down. Apparently course uptake in this second year of the initiative has been extremely disappointing, and the prospect of six years in such barren company fills me with some alarm.

I was discussing the matter with Bill Chalmers, of the technical department, this afternoon. (He is the only other member of Greenfield Academy staff to have taken up the course.) "It was certainly busier last year," he admitted, "but there were a lot of folk like me, wanting to get out of teaching as soon as possible, trying to hike up our final pensionable salary. Plus, it was a lot easier to get accreditations for prior learning through then than seems to be the case this year."

"You can say that again," I tossed my head in annoyance. "I asked for four APLs to be taken into account when I reach the end of module 1 and so far it's looking as if they are all going to be knocked back."

"Ah well, you should have got on the field of play when they were still putting up the goalposts, Morris," he chided. "I got all six of mine through, and one of them was for organising a series of after-school tekky teachers' meetings five years ago, which I dressed up as a local working party on course developments in technological studies."

"And weren't they?"

"Were they hell!" he scoffed. "It was a glorified social club that started with a quick meeting in the local resource centre, then went on for a game of five-a-side, and ended up in the Rockston Arms for a couple of pints."

Suddenly my own claims for APLs seem like shining beacons of educational research.

"So, if you've got six APL claims recognised, does that mean you'll finish a lot earlier than I?"

"That's right," Bill interrupted. "I was hoping to get through six or maybe eight modules at most before I retire at the end of next session. Thanks to some liberal interpretation of the APL rules, it looks as if I'm going to get through all 12 and become a fully chartered teacher with more than pound;6K on my final salary.

"Plus, I get a lot of the work done in school time, when my Higher class is working on their projects. So, it doesn't impinge too much on my leisure time.

"I tell you this, Morris," he smacked me on the back, "I got under that limbo bar just in time. As far as I'm concerned, the chartered teacher programme is the best initiative since sliced bread!"

Looked at from Bill's end of the telescope, I'm sure it is. Me, I'm beginning to have my doubts, especially as the lure of having my first pound;600 paid by the Scottish Executive seems to have trickled into the sand.


Mr Broadbent will not have to consider axing anyone's maintenance allowance, as the issue of our lipstick-besmirched mirrors in the sixth year girls' cloakroom has been solved at a stroke. Or a wipe, rather.

I was wandering past the relevant chamber when I caught sight of him holding court to an assemblage of slouching adolescent girls, over 50 per cent of them chewing gum as he addressed them.

"I have grown tired," he spoke sternly as I looked around the door, "of repeating my words about the lipstick kisses that are appearing on the mirrors in this cloakroom. Apart from the fact that many of you are clearly breaching school regulations requesting minimal make-up, the mirrors are extremely difficult to clean. And today's collection of marks is worse than ever.

"So, I thought perhaps the best way to dissuade you from this disgusting habit was to ask Mr Dallas for a demonstration of the cleansing methods to be employed by Mrs Dale's ladies when they encounter any lipstick kisses on these mirrors in future.

"Mr Dallas?" he turned towards our resplendent janitor.

"Right youse are, Mistur Broadbent," Dallas complied at once, clutching a mop firmly in both hands. Instead of plunging it into his accompanying bucket, as you might have expected, he strode purposefully into a toilet cubicle, thrust the mop into the bowl, then squeezed it gently in his bucket colander before applying it firmly, vigorously and copiously to the lipstick-encrusted mirrors.

"Oh my God!" screeched Rachel Roy. "That's bloody mingin', so it is!"

"Aw, sur!" echoed Darlinda George. "That's pure rank!"

Twenty girls nodded assent and equal disgust as Mr Dallas concluded his task with a satisfying squeeze of the mop into his bucket and Mr Broadbent set his face grimly.

"Desperate times require desperate measures, girls. But I don't think many of you will be kissing those mirrors in future."

I suspect that our local authority hasn't approved this policy. In which case, it will probably prove extremely effective.

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