Read all about it, I need the sales

23rd January 2004 at 00:00
very so often I am moved to resurrect one of my old writing projects, having convinced myself that "with a bit of tweaking here and there" it is eminently publishable. The current prime candidate is an account of my training year.

Publishers sigh at that sort of thing - an ordinary, unknown person who thinks his life is interesting enough for a book that other people will want to buy. I know this, yet I persist, sexing up a tale of three teaching practices with the more outlandish incidents from the 20 years that followed.

My original title was "All Teachers Great and Small" which was a bit of a porky. It is no tale of fresh-faced vets with arms inserted into warm, unusual places to bring adorable lambs into a picture postcard moorland world. I once saw a biology teacher almost kill a gerbil when he dropped a stopclock on it, but that's hardly the same thing.

I'm still not sure what the new title should be. I've thought of a few alternatives and "Smiling Before Christmas" leads the pack at present.

I began this masterwork more than a decade ago. I'd clocked up a few TES Scotland columns by then so it stood to reason that I must have a book in me, didn't it? Now, going over it again, I am unhappy with some of the things I wrote back then. There is a feeling of "how did I ever think that was entertaining funny grammatical?" But what rankles most is my use of terms like "bears" for unruly pupils or phrases like "foolishly heeding college advice not to be sarcastic . . ."

It jars with the ethos of promoting positive behaviour that I like to think I am a part of in my current situation. I pillory myself in chapter six for introducing a lesson on carbonates with a cartoon of a car bonnet. This had provoked a burst of snide seal-like laughter from one of the bears . . .

from one of the pupils whom I had failed to motivate and I reasoned it had been a stupid thing to do.

These days I would have taken the idea further, adding a fireman rescuing a policeman who was stuck in the car's engine compartment. Heat can be used to extract copper from a carbonate. You'll remember that now, won't you, all you visual learners out there?

It is easy to say "we didn't have promoting positive behaviour and a recognition of different learning styles 20 years ago and we got by without it". It is perhaps harder to admit that these concepts were around but most of us ignored them.

Maybe it was worth writing sixty-odd thousand words that are unlikely to be published just to teach myself that lesson.

But you'd buy the book, wouldn't you?

Gregor Steele is going to try again.

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