My most grovelling apology;The adventures of Morris Simpson;School diary

29th October 1999 at 01:00

I've introduced a Cause for Celebration system to the guidance procedures of the school. Of course, this is all part of my strategy to land the principal teacher guidance job next month. It's certainly gone down a treat with Ms Lees, who commended the scheme to the senior management team last week.

"I told them it was exactly in keeping with our whole-school aim of encouraging and rewarding positive achievement rather than simply punishing bad behaviour," she confided to me at morning break. "And they all agreed to go ahead with it at once. So we'll get the Cause for Celebration referrals printed out as soon as possible," she continued enthusiastically as we left the staffroom. "Just use the Cause for Concern ones for the present, and amend them accordingly, OK?" I set to work at once with a biro and ruler and left 20 newly minted Cause for Celebration referral notes in everyone's pigeonhole. I feel this could be a career defining moment.


A pay offer of 3.6 per cent has been laid on the table, and I find myself in disagreement with my own union's initial rejection of what seems to me a reasonably generous deal.

George Crumley, for his part, was equally opposed to his own union's acceptance of it!

"My God!" George declared forcefully at morning interval. "Talk about being sold down the river! Can you imagine if the Ford workers at Dagenham had their pay review six months behind schedule? They'd have rioted in the bloody streets by now! But teachers? Not likely! We just sit back and let them string us along until they think we'll get fed up waiting and accept the first offer that looks as if it'll give us a chance to buy the kids some decent presents at Christmas!" "Well, at least it looks like we're going to avoid losing a day's pay by having to go out on strike," I told him.

He gave me a withering glance. "That's not how revolutions are won, Morris."


I've got an interview for the PT guidance job! Having done the job in an acting capacity for several months, perhaps that shouldn't come as a surprise. But I've been disappointed too many times before to have counted any pre-hatched chickens.

I strongly suspect that the Positive Referral System has been instrumental in securing an interview. Plus my support of Ms Lees's dress code initiative - school uniform by any other name. We did have teething problems with the dress code. Joanne Grieves and Kylie Paterson, for example, agreed to turn up in school colours, but they also paraded the most enormous designer logos on top of their clothing. However, yours truly swiftly explained the sweat shop conditions of the employees who produced their designer items, so they had to examine their consciences anew. Plus, of course, Ms Lees instituted a new rule forbidding logos bigger than the school badge.

Meanwhile, Karen Porter and Brian Finlayson of 3B(I), whose parents refused to sign the dress code agreement because it represented a "tyrannical abuse of human rights", have delighted the senior management team by turning up in perfect uniform on each and every day. The offspring appear to have a greater sense of proportion than the parents.


For the third Thursday in a row, I have lost both non-contact periods from my timetable.

The cause, of course, is the absence from the English department of Malcolm Saunderson, our probationary teacher. His initial confidence and enthusiasm has waned considerably under the onslaught of 4C's academic ineptitude and disciplinary mayhem. Saunderson has been off for three weeks with a stress-related condition.

Of course the dearth of supply teachers has led to sporadic relief. All the cover seems to have been on days that coincide with the non-contact periods of our principal teacher Simon Young, rather than those of any other departmental member. Especially mine.

It really is too bad, and I was saying as much to Simon this afternoon as I prepared to take Malcolm's fourth-year class. He has promised to insist upon a long-term supply teacher. But this was little comfort to me as I gave up one of my precious guidance preparation periods for 50 minutes of pitched hostilities with the educational equivalent of Captain Bligh's crew.

It was the most exhausting period of the week, to be honest. Damien Steele and Graham Farr chose to punctuate the lesson with a selection of highly audible, and extremely odiferous, excretions of flatulence. And Kylie Donahue spent much of the lesson sobbing pitifully behind her Standard grade folio after being unceremoniously "chucked" at lunchtime by Steven Austin, her boyfriend of at least three weeks.

Just five minutes before the bell I was frantically trying to get more than 50 per cent of the class to have written in excess of two paragraphs.

At that moment I was presented with the infuriating spectacle of two squitty little first-year pupils bringing me guidance referral sheets from Miss Tarbet. I came down on them like a ton of bricks.

"I simply haven't got time to deal with these at the moment." I screwed each report into a tight ball of wastepaper and threw them into the bin. "But whatever it is you've done, you can each take a punishment exercise that you'll bring me tomorrow morning first thing or I'll want to know the reason why. 'I must not waste Miss Tarbet's time', 50 times each. And get them signed by your parents."

I always think it's best to come down hard on them in first year. Lets them know they can't get away with it.

Plus, of course, they're usually too small to fight back.


The English department had a new supply teacher today. Alas, he knew little of our curricular requirements, as he's actually qualified in geography and religious education. But what he lacked in knowledge of the subject, he more than made up for in his knowledge of Greenfield Academy and its management systems.

Because, at 10 minutes to nine, David Andrew Pickup, lately retired assistant principal teacher of religious education, made his not-so-triumphant return to the B Floor staffroom.

"My God!" he blasphemed. "Of all the staffrooms in all the schools in all the country, they had to choose this one for my first assignment! And that's in spite of me stating quite clearly on my application form that this would be the last place on God's earth I'd want to come back to!" "Maybe that's why they sent you," I chided my old comrade playfully, before shaking him warmly by the hand. "It's good to have you back, Pickup - but why?"

"Why?" He held both palms upward and rubbed an avaricious thumb against his right forefingers. "Have you seen the supply rates, Morris? It's money for jam. As long as I don't work too many days I can supplement my pension quite handsomely by babysitting classes all over the country, without ever having to do a minute's preparation or marking. You should try it."

I reminded him that my youthful demeanour precluded such an arrangement, but arranged to meet him at the end of the afternoon for a quick celebratory reunion at the Rockston Arms. By the end of the day, I needed it.

Alas, yesterday's punishments for the first-year pupils proved a catastrophic error of judgement on my part. Had I not been so hasty to thrust their guidance referrals into the bin, I might have noticed the deleted Cause for Concern at the top of each sheet, both of which phrases had been replaced by my own hand-written Cause for Celebration legend.

In point of fact, Philip Walters and Katie Ross had been sent to me in recognition of their outstanding achievements in Miss Tarbet's home economics class - they had both volunteered to stay in over the interval to tidy up the classroom and make extra muffins for a charity venture linked with the nearby Parkland Nursing Home.

Understandably, both sets of parents wished to see me about their children's punishments I had issued. I found myself having to make two of the most grovelling apologies I've ever made in my teaching career. And that's saying something.

"Never mind, Morris," Mr Pickup consoled me over a pint in the Rockston Arms.

"Well at least it looks as if we won't have to go on strike," I said, "though I presume you'd have been at the barricades with the rest of your militant colleagues?" "Not at all." He drew himself up with dignity. "For me the kids' education comes first, Morris."

"Pah! Since when?" "Since I went on supply rates," he admitted sheepishly.

I couldn't help reflecting that at least he's retained a kind of integrity. Even if it is a little warped.

Next month: Morris Simpson gets interviewed for promotion. Reserve your copy now, and pick up some tips.

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