Now where's that L-plate?

15th September 2000 at 01:00
"THERE'S always someone looking at you (woh-oh-oh-hoh)!" sang the Boomtown Rats, little knowing that they had created something of an anthem for my teaching career. Yes, wherever I go, moderators, verifiers and inspectors are never far behind. It is the Steele curse. Never have me in your department or you'll have HMI, the SQA and probably the SAS popping round in minutes.

My worst experience was having a Scotvec verification within days of starting a new post. It soon transpired that the departing supply teacher had made a complete hog's hindquarters of the modules. The hapless verifier stood puzzled at my board, trying to work out if a ludicrous experiment involving flying lemonade bottles had any validity. It didn't, and all our modules were put on hold. Going into John Harvey Jones mode, my colleague and I strove to put things right. Had the errant supply teacher showed his face, we might have gone into Lee Harvey Oswald mode.

Last year I had a Standard grade moderation and the third HMI inspection of my career. I can say now that it is all over that our department actually liked the inspector, and not solely in a "victim bonds with kidnapper" sort of way. Tears flowed, however, as people reached private bolt-holes following intensive debriefings. They may have been ears of relief but they point to an emotional intensity of the inspection process that may not be appreciated by those in overall control of it.

When we agreed to take on Higher Still courses it was inevitable that we would be picked for retrospective moderation. Perhaps I had tempted fate with a gag about Phil Harrass putting his car into the SQA for an MOT. (He still doesn't know if it has passed, but the certificate shows it got a B for its Higher art.) Forms were filled in, papers cross-marked, points agonised over. Had we been over-lenient or too harsh? If we failed it would not affect the pupils' results but we'd have it all to go through again next year.

Then came the rub. With perfect timing so as not to save our department any work or worry, the SQA sent out letters cancelling the retrospective moderation. Suddenly, I felt one step closer to being the staffroom Father Jack, sitting wild and dishevelled in the corner shouting rude words at inopportune moments.

So here's the idea, inspired by a two-way summer journey on the M6. In these days of mobile phones for all, just stick a "How's my teaching?" notice on my back, with a GTC Freephone number below it. It's got to be simpler.

Gregor Steele is also cursed never to win raffles or lotteries.

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