Mockery, monkeys and ma Bebo

18th May 2007 at 01:00

A beautiful spring day offered the opportunity to experiment with one of the buzz topics to support my continuing professional development: outdoor education.

Admittedly, the phrase in its fullest sense probably means more than taking 2C onto the playground to conduct our English lesson in the fresh air, but I thought it appropriate for our reading of A Midsummer Night's Dream. It was, at least, a partial success.

It was probably unwise to cast Jason Bonetti in the role of Puck, because the boy has a filthy mind, ready to grasp eagerly at the slightest of straws - or rhymes - in his search for double entendres, but it all went well enough, until Bottom's appearance.

My principal teacher Simon Young said it "should tick a few boxes if the inspectors come to call", but the happiest outcome - initially - was Chantelle McLuskey approaching me back in the classroom at the end of the lesson, to confide that "It wis pure magic, surr, bein' outside. Wur gaunty noaminate ye furr the Teacher Uf The Yeer awards... "

I blinked modestly, about to express reluctant gratitude. But then she snorted as her pent-up laugher escaped, followed swiftly by the rest of the class cheering in mockery, and Chantelle turning towards them and raising her thumbs.

It didn't matter. I don't approve of these awards anyway.


Today was the maths Higher in the SQA's examination diet, and Mrs Bradford isn't looking forward to an inspiring set of results from this year's dismal cohort.

"Honestly," she complained as she scrutinised the exam paper at lunchtime.

"I don't give my class much chance. Still," she proclaimed hopefully, "at least it should be better next year, when they've re-introduced multiple choice."

"Have they?" I asked. "They did away with that soon after I scraped a C at Higher nearly 30 years ago, by sole virtue of guesswork in the multiple choice and only finishing one question in Paper 2!"

"You and thousands of others, Morris," she confirmed, "after which they conceded it wasn't a proper test of overall ability and ditched it once and for all."

"So why's it coming back?"

"Well, it should increase the pass rate," she said, "but it's so they can exercise their lemming-like enthusiasm for online assessment as well as saving pots of cash by doing away with as many markers as possible."

"And you think it'll improve your pass rate next year?"

"Undoubtedly. They say monkeys can score respectably on the basis of chance in such objective testing scenarios, and I've every confidence that next year's candidates will do just as well as that."

Bearing in mind the simian tendencies of this session's fourth year, she's probably right.


Bill Dunbar from maths caused a bit of a stir, having taken advantage of the senior pupils' study leave to absent himself from school for a trip to the leisure centre before lunch. He failed to turn up for his third year at the afternoon's first period - his only class for the day - and arrived just in time for his last (non-contact) period. Apparently he had set his watch alarm when he went into the sauna, but it had failed to go off!


This morning I witnessed a microcosm of the wholesale change that has engulfed at least one aspect of Scottish education in the 23 years since I started teaching.

In the 1980s, I watched a good percentage of our fifth-years walk nervously into the assembly hall for their French Higher. Today, I witnessed seven enter a classroom for the same exam. "It's a searing indictment of the country's policy on modern languages," I sympathised with Pamela Blane.

"Primary initiatives, languages for all - where's it got us, eh? And how are we supposed to compete in the international arena when only 5 per cent of the year group take Higher French?"

"Mmm," she mused. "We had 14 to begin with, but half dropped out when they found it tough going and opted for media studies instead. They said they didn't need to learn another language when the rest of the world speaks English so well. Maybe they're right. It's a pity that none of them speaks English very wel* I Anyway, who cares? I'm putting in for early retirement."

Honestly, with vision like that from their teacher, it's no wonder the subject's on the rocks.


Mr Walsh was absent again, so I had my umpteenth "please take" for one of his classes, a task that was made slightly easier by the fact that 2C is well known to me, so I was on guard for any tomfoolery.

Unsurprisingly, it wasn't long before my disciplinary powers were called into play after a disruption between Pocahontas McLeod and Jason Bonetti during some web research activities they were engaged in.

"Shut it, Pocahontas," growled Bonetti, "ur ah'll swat youse wan!"

"Now, now, Jason," I calmed matters. "What's the problem?"

"She wis lookin' at ma Bebo an' havin' a laff, surr," he complained.

"Looking at your... your what?" I said, unable to believe my ears.

"Ma Bebo. She said it's pathetic, an' wouldny get anywan excited."

I was horrified to think that any sexual shenanigans had been going on under my nose and was about to haul the pair outside the classroom before I took a closer look at Bonetti's screen, saw the "Bebo" logo, and investigated further. It's a social networking site where users post details of their (to me, rather sad and inadequate) lives, but it was news to me. Rapidly assimilating the situation, I told Bonetti not to be so sensitive and Pocahontas to get on with her work.

Just as well I hadn't gone any further with my disciplinary remarks. I'd have had the social work down on me like a ton of bricks.

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