Oh, the joys of little boy racers

31st October 2003 at 00:00

The latest craze of the classroom is driving every member of staff, er, crazy, for want of a better word.

The junior pupils, in particular, have taken to bringing in skateboards the size of their palms, which they persist in rolling along corridors, scraping up walls and, worst of all, battering firmly on their desks as they try to build up enough momentum for a cross-classroom race.

And all of this while I'm talking to them, no less!

"That's enough!" I shouted at Ryan Hedgcock and Peter Westhouse this morning, as they embarked upon their very own version of the Greenfield Academy Derby in the middle of my carefully-devised lesson on the benefits of proper sentence construction versus text messaging.

"If I see another of those damned skateboards in my classroom it'll be confiscated until the end of the week."

"Mainstream" Michael Kerr clearly viewed this as an obvious challenge rather than a disciplinary threat, because our socially-included iconoclast pointedly removed a deluxe wooden model from his breast pocket, curled a lip in my direction and placed it on the front of his desk.

I decided to look away and pretend I hadn't seen it. Sometimes skilful teaching is about knowing what you can get away with.


It was nice to see John Hardy, from our local teacher training college, in the staffroom this morning, especially because he remains so angry about teachers' current pay arrangements versus his own. His visit to check up on our student placement, Eleanor Farquhar, became, as usual, a chance for him to bemoan the lot of college education lecturers and their apparently diminishing financial returns.

"It's just not bloody fair," he shook his head in frustrated conversation with Simon Young, my principal teacher. "When my escape tunnel came up some 15 years ago - or rather, when I had to reluctantly give up secondary teaching for the wider opportunities to influence educational directions by instructing a new cadre of teachers - well, the least you'd expect was a 35 per cent hike in salary and that's what I got.

"But look at me now! I still have to do everything I did 10 years ago but I also have to pull in research contracts, attract money for educational studies and publish academic treatises that no commercial publisher would touch with a bargepole if I want to stand any chance of advancement.

"And on top of that I'm earning less than most of you guys who are still stuck in the classroom, especially if you're going for the chartered teacher jackpot. It's just not bloody fair!"

Simon nodded sympathetically as I pursed my lips and looked away. I've heard enough of John's complaints since our well deserved increase two years ago. Not for nothing has he become known as The Hardy Perennial. And, personally, I still think he's got a cushy number. He should try coming back here and teaching "Mainstream" Michael Kerr for a start.


Helen Tarbet's feminine charms in home economics seem to have cast a spell of some kind on Michael Kerr because today was the first occasion that he hasn't received a negative score on his behaviour chart for every lesson.

He even let her confiscate his prized wooden skateboard, which she apparently placed alongside six others in the wooden drawers beside her sewing machines.

I asked to be let in on the secret. "Has he got a talent for home economics, then?" I queried when she revealed the exciting news. "Or does he just fancy you?"

She looked askance. "At 49, Morris, I think I'm a little old for the likes of Michael Kerr. Perhaps it's because I understand the adolescent mind.

Perhaps it's because I've taken the trouble to ensure that Richard Dick's socially inclusive policy is fully implemented with Michael, so that he takes part in everything we do as a class, no matter how badly he might behave."

"Oh yes?" I looked sceptical.

"Or perhaps," she shrugged carelessly, "it's because I've told him that I know the Devon monks' secret recipe for Buckfast tonic wine and we might do it as a class project some day."

"Masterful," I said admiringly.

"Mmm," she agreed. "After that he was like putty in my hands."


Mr Dick wants to form a curriculum review group to make a contribution to the debate on the 3-18 curriculum reconsideration. Our publicity-seeking headteacher acknowledges that the national review group's deliberations will be of greater public prominence, but he is looking for volunteers to create a submission from Greenfield Academy to the national group and thereby notch up a few brownie points for himself.

A number of us in the computer suite read his "To All Staff" e-mail at the same time and the reaction was a mixture of scorn, derision and even ignorance from some.

"What 3-18 review?" asked George Crumley. "What's he on about? Doesn't he mean the 5-14 review? Or the Intermediate and Higher reviews?"

I found it hard to believe that someone aspiring to be called a professional could be so unaware of the latest Scottish Executive initiative, so I acquainted George with the Education Minister's most recent announcement.

"You're joking," he narrowed his eyes cautiously. "Tell me you're joking, Morris."

"Not at all, George," I assured him. "If you kept your eye on the educational press, then you'd be aware that a lot of important people view this as an exciting chance to change the Scottish lifelong educational experience for good, and for the better."

"Not again," he groaned. "Not another curriculum review. Please not again.

"So it's 3-18 this time, is it? Why don't they start it at the maternity wards instead? Or what about the ante-natal classes? And finish it at the crematorium? 'From the Womb to Eternity'," he drew an imaginary headline in the air. " 'Education for life from the Scottish Executive.' Whether you bloody well want it or not!"

Astonishingly, he then put his head in his hands, leaned his elbows on the desk and started sobbing quietly.

"George?" I touched his arm. "Are you OK?"

"Sorry, Morris," he collected himself. "Sorry about that. I just I I just I Oh, sod it."

He put his hand on the PC's mouse and brought the computer screen back to life. "Do you want to log off?' it asked portentously.

"I certainly do," he nodded in significant agreement and cut the connection.

Mr Dick's plea was to remain unanswered and unacknowledged as far as he was concerned.


The skateboard craze has not diminished, notwithstanding Miss Tarbet's draconian impoundment of any four-wheeled toy that comes within her sight.

As she sees every member of first year at least once, sometimes twice, in the course of her week, she has accumulated a hefty collection in her cabinet.

Alas, today saw her undoing, as it were, by no less a candidate than Michael Kerr.

It was the lesson after lunch, wherein she had decided on the relatively safe Friday afternoon plan of getting 1C to make some fruit scones to take home for the family tea: always a good ploy in the run-up to parents'


Unfortunately, it would appear that "Mainstream" Michael had grown tired of waiting for her long-promised delivery of the Buckfast lesson and decided to cut his losses with an early exit of dramatic import.

"Michael, get back in your seat," Miss Tarbet had apparently enjoined as he started to lumber around the cookery class, investigating the activities.

"Ah'm just checkin' oot these doughballs," he stared purposefully at Melissa Chalmers.

"Whoo're yoo callin' a doughball, ya lanky crapper?" enquired Melissa.

"Naw, naw," Michael assured her. "Yur doughballs. Ah'm checkin' oot yur doughballs. Fur yur scoanz, like." And he winked.

"That's enough, Michael," Miss Tarbet tried to calm the situation. "Get back to your own workstation please."

"Aye sure, Miss," he acquiesced, before bending down to pull out a full-size skateboard from beneath his desk, jumping on to it and then skating aggressively towards, and out of, the classroom door, his wide-stretching arms flailing wildly, just missing a couple of classmates.

"Michael!" Miss Tarbet called out. "Bring that skateboard back here! It's confiscated."

"Aye, that'll be right!" the loathsome creature challenged as he departed.

"Jist try gettin' this wan in yer drawers, Miss!"

"But what about your scones, Michael?" Miss Tarbet called uselessly after him. "What about your scones?"

"Fuck yur scoanz," came the distant reply as he awarded himself a half day's absence.

Unauthorised, of course.

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