Say hello, say goodbye

2nd September 2005 at 01:00
I have a vacancy in primary 7. What a little surprise for the start of the new term!

An e-mail arrived from Irene telling me that Pete had won the lottery and they have moved to Minorca to live. If you have just come into a fortune, enough to buy at least three strikers for Gordon Strachan, or wipe out the debt of a Third World country, the wee matter of a period of notice seems irrelevant.

Who would I get to take primary 7 now? I tried Janette, our regular P7 supply cover, but she had agreed to help out in Helen's shop for six months. Sandra, our former P7 teacher, had gone to live in France with Lindsay, an artist she met at the festival last year, while my last chance, the recently retired Ishbel, had gone off to the Highlands to write a book about Nessie. As a last resort, I contacted our beloved area officer, the redoubtable Marjorie Dawes.

She found me "a real gem". Enter the lovely Tanya. I had never seen the lovely Tanya, she hadn't met me, and she had no idea what kind of school St Pats was. Ideal preparation.

Tanya duly appeared on day two. Marjorie forgot when we really started back. Too busy thinking about her fortnight in Cuba, no doubt. Tanya swept into the car park in an open-topped BMW. She looked like something out of Vogue magazine.

The Gucci shades were perched atop the windswept blonde locks, and the dress must have cost the equivalent of this year's per capita. Judging by the height of the hemline and the depth of the cleavage, it must have cost about Pounds 100 per square inch.

Jannie Jim was sure she was related to someone famous, but he couldn't think who. She greeted me like a long lost friend, in an accent reminiscent of the stereotypical Russian spy in a Bond film.

Tanya came from somewhere east of the Urals. She was of model proportions and, even to me, looked an absolute stunner. Primary 7 loved her. The boys sat transfixed, drooling and waiting on her every word. Pencils were dropped with monotonous regularity. The girls loved her too. In the first few days, the P7 girls turned into Tanya clones. They all bought the Matalan equivalent of her clothes, and walked like her, talked like her.

There was hardly a sound from the normally boisterous P7 classroom, apart from the sound of pencils clattering on the floor, and I began to wonder what kind of work was being done.

I stopped Gordon in the corridor. Gordon was as transparent as anyone I had ever known. He duly fetched me his language jotter. His latest piece of creative writing was entitled "Vot I Did At The Veek-end". I asked to see Jim's work. A nice wee piece of film appreciation - "Villie Vonka and the Chocolate Factory". Enough was enough.

I arranged to have a showdown with Marjorie about her "real gem".

Meanwhile, I watched the crowds of dads and "uncles" arriving at the school gates at home time, hoping to catch a glimpse of the hottest property to hit St Pats since they had a visit from Ruby Murray back in 1957. Tanya duly waved as she sped off in the BMW with the personalised plates. Each day the crowds grew in number.

Marjorie had interviewed Tanya as part of a new Government initiative to increase teacher numbers in order to meet targets. Tanya had been fully aware of "the philosophy underpinning the curriculum" and totally conversant with "differentiation". More than I am.

I asked her if she knew anything of Tanya's background. Marjorie consulted her diary, dropping a business card as she turned to the relevant page. She blushed as she quickly retrieved it from the floor. I'm sure it said something about Sexy Salsa Sessions. Marjorie thumbed through her notes.

"Yes. Her dad's something in rockets. She must come from a good family."

Poor Marjorie. Too gullible. Too naive. Marjorie was convinced that Tanya had excellent English and would make an excellent primary teacher. I explained my problems with Tanya. Marjorie promised to double-check her papers.

By one of those strange coincidences, I was watching the umpteenth rerun of From Russia With Love while waiting for the Incredible Hulk to return from the rugby club after his 10 pints of Saturday refreshment. I listened closely to the accents of the femme fatale. I heard. I understood. I panicked.

Tanya had told the truth. Her dad was indeed in "rockets" - rockets like drugs, cigarette smuggling, blue movies and money-laundering. Tanya was quite upfront about her lifestyle back home, when we chatted. She had even appeared in some of her dad's films. That's why Jannie Jim "kent her face" - and probably other parts of her as well.

I have a vacancy in P7 again.

Bridget McElroy

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