School diary - Dogged by demand for medicine and placards
It was difficult to drag myself into school this morning, having been absent on Friday with a most virulent bout of flu. Needless to say, my classes refused to believe that I had experienced anything beyond a mild cold, despite my protestations to the contrary.
"I can assure you," I informed the fourth year, "that I certainly wasn't `dogging it', as I believe the vernacular term to be."
For some reason, this led to a most uproarious response.
"Ah'd certainly hope youse weren't daen' that, sur!" shouted Charlie Connelly at the top of his voice. "Otherwise we'd uv bin readin' about youse oan the internet!"
"Aye!" chimed in Alistair Wise. "An' in the papers too - an' ye'd uv had tae resign!"
I shook my head in bewilderment and told them to calm down. Sometimes I think I'm losing touch with young people.
"Coarse Davie" McManus (biology) has enlightened me regarding the fourth year's hilarity yesterday. It appears that the commonly-understood term for truancy has a more sinister meaning in the murky world of internet- inspired - and outdoor - sexual shenanigans.
"So you didn't read about our professional colleague at St Ainsley's who was found out last week?" he asked my dropped jaw.
I gulped a denial and he elaborated as my jaw lowered even further. Gosh. I've always thought that a private life is a private life, but it does seem rather foolish to post one's interests - along with matching photographs - on the worldwide web.
Pauline McDonald of modern studies is trying to enlist support for another protest march on Saturday, this time in support of colleagues in another authority where the local council is trying to introduce non-GTCS- registered recruits for half a day of curricular enrichment across all primary schools - and get rid of 60 teachers.
To be honest, I don't fancy losing a Saturday to this kind of unprofessional conduct, and I don't really see that it's got anything to do with me. Apart from anything else, even if it was affecting our own authority, then it's only applying to primary schools, so I made my excuses about signing up and went off to teach my fifth-years.
Not for the first time this session, I was infuriated by a pupil consulting what appeared to be a mobile phone beneath his desk during the lesson, so I really went to town on Brian Niven, accusing him of a complete disregard for his examination chances and explaining that I wouldn't be held responsible when he emerged in August without a Higher English to his name.
"But, sur." he interrupted.
"But me no buts!" I stopped him in his tracks. "Put that contraption away, and don't let me see it again."
He looked slightly pale, so I must have frightened him with my vehemence. It's good to know I haven't lost my touch when it comes to disciplinary matters .
Brian Niven's mother came to see me this afternoon to ask why I'd stopped her son from using his diabetic self-testing kit.
"I'm sorry?" I queried. "What d'you mean? He was using his mobile phone - I think - wasn't he?"
"On the contrary, Mr Simpson," explained Mrs Niven. "He was checking the digital readout on his diabetes kit. Fortunately, he'd got the reading before you stopped him, and all was well, but I wanted to make sure that this kind of thing wouldn't happen again."
"Oh gosh, Mrs Niven, well, of course not. Obviously. Was that why he was so pale? I mean, why didn't he say that.?"
"He tried to," she raised a sceptical eyebrow, and I shut up before digging an even larger hole for myself. Fortunately, she seems a forgiving woman, unlike most of the parents I have to deal with, so I jumped at the chance when she accepted my apology.
I have decided to join Pauline McDonald and 25 other staff on tomorrow's protest march. What decided me was her impassioned plea this morning, wherein she revealed that 60 teachers were being discarded and replaced by - in her terminology - "a bunch of travelling entertainers whose only qualification for the job is that they've not had a job for six months because they're being paid out of a two-year fund to alleviate unemployment!
"And not only that!" she continued. "Do you realise that this scheme's supposed to be saving pound;1.1million - yet the directors who've dreamed it up have had a 23 per cent pay rise over the last two years totalling pound;350,000, ie. almost exactly a third of what they're supposed to be saving!"
She could see I was wavering when I heard that, so she pressed home her advantage: "And don't think it won't happen here, Morris. Remember Pastor Niemoller's words: `First they came for the communists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a -.'"
"Oh, all right, Pauline," I gave in. "I know the rest of the quotation. And I'll join you - although I'd say that comparing the actions of an education authority to those of the Third Reich is laying it on a little too strongly, don't you think?"
She looked balefully at me, and said nothing.
All this protesting activity reminds me of my first years in teaching back in the 1980s, and I said as much to Davie McManus as we picked up some banners to put in our cars for tomorrow's march.
"Remember it then?" I queried. "When everyone was hell bent on stopping the introduction of Standard grades at all costs because of the damage they'd do to the education system?"
"Hmm," he pondered. "And look how successful we were at that."