Pack the blues in a black bin bag

22nd July 2005 at 01:00
Winston Churchill is no hero of mine, but I do detect a strange, if thin, connection between us.

Famously a victim of depressive moods, Churchill suffered from what he termed "black dog days" where his despair quite got the better of him. At the end of another hard session, I have to admit that my own particular bete noir, as it were, relates, not to black dog days, but to black bag days.

You would think that, teaching in a state-of-the-art, modern school, where computer technology is omnipresent and highly prioritised, there would be less paper involved in a management post than used to be the case. Sadly, should you enter my office, you would find yourself badly mistaken.

Clearly, there is someone somewhere whose job it is to pile up paper on every available flat surface in my working space. No matter how rigorously I seek to clear my desk on a regular basis, depite my ruthless application of a "route one - wastepaper basket" philosophy to my end of week sorting sorties, every month or so I find myself peering out at pupils, colleagues and parents alike, over a mound of paper like some kind of whey-faced clerk in a Dickens novel.

Years ago, when most of the paper only related to my classroom teaching and not to other folk, I adopted a slightly irresponsible archivist approach to the problem. Basically, I waited until the briefcase or bag I was using was full to the brim, put it down somewhere - and walked away. It seeemd to work and, archivally, was an excellent approach.

Years later, I would return to the bag and, opening it, discover all manner of time capsular goodies: a first edition of the Scottish Daily News; the mark book from my first ever S1 English class; the notes I had made prior to my first promotion interview.

I realised, however, that this modus operandi couldn't continue when a ham salad sandwich, lovingly buttered when loon pants and purple shirts were the rage, escaped from one of these cases.

So now I have black bag days. On a regular basis, I sweep all the paper from every surface into a huge black refuse bag and take it home for weekend sorting. It's an effective method of keeping on top of things, and sobering to note that, generally, only about 30 per cent of the contents need to escape the shredder.

Senior management team colleagues, who can be cruel, slyly suggest I deal with this paperwork by heaving the bags from the car on quieter stretches of the M8. This, of course, is a nonsense, and completely untrue - especially now that I have a car without a sunroof . . .

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