Progress, parental care and a row over 'ma comfy cherr'
Whole-school plans to visit this week's Scottish Learning Festival have been dealt a blow by the non-arrival of several student teachers who were due to visit us for their induction observation week, an absence caused by the administrative disaster that has overtaken their university's IT systems.
"Honestly, that education faculty couldn't organise a large-scale party in a brewery!" complained depute head Kevin Muir this morning. "The students are going to have to drum their heels listening to some regurgitated old tutorials, and meanwhile I can't deploy them on please-takes to cover all the SLF visits we had got planned."
"But I thought their visits at this stage were for observational purposes?" I queried.
"Are you kidding, Morris?" he scoffed. "With a please-take list that's as long as my arm? Anyway, the best way to learn about teaching is to chuck them in at the deep end and let them sink or swim. Soon sorts out the wheat from the chaff!"
I wonder if he's discussed this policy with the university?
Kevin Muir had arranged a meeting tonight for S1-3 parents to explain the school's progress with CfE and National 45, an event I had agreed to attend as part of his quid pro quo regarding my SLF visit on Thursday. Prior to the event, I noticed Mr Dallas moving a leather-backed swivel chair from his janitorial office, and pondered his motive.
"Hah! Ah'm no oan duty fur tonight's `let', Mr Simpson," he explained, "and the relief jannie that's comin' in is the sleekit bastard that stood in fur me when ah wis oan strike last session. So he's no getting ma comfy cherr!" With which proclamation, he fetched in an extremely wobbly orange plastic substitute for our visiting custodian. Talk about petty.
The parents' meeting went well, given that nobody knows a thing about assessment procedures for the N5s that this year's S3 will be sitting, and Kevin actually gave a reasonably impassioned speech about the benefits of CfE, explaining that "the latest HMIE documents on Curriculum for Excellence have proved that Greenfield Academy's getting this absolutely right. These documents," he waved them aloft, "are real game-changers, because it shows that we've crossed the Rubicon as far as CfE is concerned, and they'll grow up to be responsible ."
"Excuse me," a smartly dressed father in the back row interrupted him. "Could I remind you what happened after the crossing of the Rubicon?"
Kevin was halted in his tracks, mouth agape, as the gentleman continued: "Unrest, confusion, civil war, death and destruction, that's what happened! And I'd predict exactly the same here, with this half-baked ."
"Thank you, Mr Milton," Kevin eventually recovered his composure. "There'll be time for questions at the end."
Honestly, there's always one.
A much-reduced cohort of visitors set off to the SLF this morning, while the rest of us nobly manned the fort. For my own part, I was left with the joys of my new S1 class, whose personalities and talents I am slowly beginning to learn. As part of such exploratory dealings, I set them a writing task asking for first impressions of their new school and teachers, assuring them of complete discretion and confidentiality in their efforts. This was just as well in the case of Darren Harris, who had added some information about "Mrs Steele's big erse", a description which - though technically accurate in relation to his form teacher - was not, I felt, the kind of detail appropriate for his audience, ie, me.
I took him to gentle task in private, fumbling around how to explain that such anatomical descriptions were best avoided. He looked puzzled.
"How come, Sur? It's true! Youse asked us tae describe wur teachers. And she hus goat big wans. That's why hur haerr's sae long, tae cuvvir them up."
"Yes, Darren, but it's not polite to - sorry?" I interrupted myself. "To cover what up?"
"Hur ears. Mrs Steele's goat big ears."
"Ah. I see," I nodded, and sent him back to his seat as I made the small, but ever so necessary, spelling correction to his descriptive efforts.
My trip to the SLF proved something of an anti-climax, as I trailed from stall to stall admiring the many educational aids on offer - but painfully aware that our straitened budgets mean that most of them are beyond us. And my hopes to meet up with various colleagues for coffee were soon abandoned as I couldn't actually find many of them.
Instead, most of my time was spent on the stands of various pension advisers, all of whose advice filled me with gloom and despair about the prospects of early retirement that I am beginning to hold dear.
I discovered the reason behind the absence of many colleagues from yesterday's SLF after speaking to David Hughes, one of our second-year probationers, who had taken the event's theme of "Creative Learning. Creative Thinking" to its apotheosis by thinking completely out of the box and - along with several friends - spending most of the day shopping andor in a city-centre pub.
"It was after I visited the pensions adviser," he explained, "that my heart went out of it all. I realised that I'll be working till I'm 75, and that my most likely pension plan is a coffin."
Gosh. Who could blame him for going shopping? It almost makes me feel guilty about wanting early retirement.