School Diary - Face facts - shortage of apologies and the truth

19th June 2009 at 01:00


Tension in the faculty of English and communications grows, with Madeleine Nichol (our faculty head from a modern languages background) announcing at today's departmental meeting that most of next session's minuscule English requisition would be consumed by extra copies of Lord of the Rings, to satisfy her belief that Higher examinations guarantee a question on it.

A bitter argument ensued, but she stood her ground, ending discussion with the memorable proclamation: "Look, I'm all for collaborative management, but sometimes leadership involves taking a stand on what you believe to be right. So I will, because I am."

"Fac-head by name, fac-head by nature," Patricia Harrison used her somewhat improper nickname as the English department had a "group huddle".

"Give her a chance," I said. "It must be difficult looking after a subject you know nothing about. She tells me she's going on an in-service course: maybe she'll come back a changed woman."

"Let's hope so," Patricia muttered. "Let's bloody hope so."


Truancy is rife in the final fortnight of term, some of it parentally- condoned, as families take advantage of cheaper holidays before the official break begins. Indeed, I was sharing concern on my blog about the teaching time being lost to Standard grade classes, whose timetable started only two weeks ago.

"I wouldn't worry," typed back Spudulike, who has been something of a blog mentor. "Most of them forget everything by August, anyway, and you have to start all over again. But it would make an interesting twitter, to see how many of your followers have the same problem."

I was uncertain of the reference, so asked for elucidation.

"Don't tell me you've never head of Twitter?" he wrote.

Within minutes, a host of other comments deluged my blogspace, and I was made to feel the shame of online ostracism! Having said that, once Spudulike had condescendingly outlined its delights - 140-character messages designed to tell the world the minutiae of my life - I decided I didn't want to know any more.

"If I had thought blogging to be the refuge of the sad and the lonely, it's nothing compared with twittering!


I received a football in my face as I walked across the playground after lunch. Fortunately, I had just taken off my glasses to give them a quick polish, otherwise the force of the full frontal blow - which sent me crashing backwards into a wall - would almost certainly have resulted in damage to my eyes. As it was, blood started dripping from my mouth, and a large bruise started to form beneath my eye.

Luckily, I was able to identify the culprit - Billy Logan - as I awaited the ambulance that I insisted be summoned. Alas, it took so long to arrive that Kevin Muir put me into his car and drove me to Aamp;E, where a brief examination revealed that nothing was broken - although I am going to look a frightful mess for tomorrow's Achievements Awards Ceremony. My face looks like a burst peach, as Kevin helpfully commented on the way back.


Fortunately, nobody paid me much attention at the awards ceremony. Instead, all interest was focused on the embarrassing spectacle that took place as a prelude to the awards, wherein Mrs Slater had arranged a multi- media presentation celebrating the achievements of Greenfield Academy over the past 12 months.

Proudly introducing "We Are Going on a Greenfield Journey of Excellence", our head asked for the screen to be lowered at the front of the stage. Alas, its final resting place meant that all of the platform party (comprising assorted councillors and members of the senior management team) were partially obscured, with only their knees and lower legs on view.

This might have proved of little importance if the subsequent presentation had been of sufficient merit to capture attention. It was impossible to judge, as we watched the image of a PC desktop and cursor flashing frantically from icon to icon, trying to open the presentation. Eventually, the sound file opened, whereupon Mrs Slater decreed - after a whispered confab - that we would listen to it and imagine the accompanying images.

Most of us instead began a game of "Guess Whose Knees?". As a prizegiving, it seemed a long cry from my memories: eager lines of biddable pupils queuing up for copies of Swallows and Amazons and Collins Classics, even if such memories seem ridiculous in this day and age. But, given the technological fiasco today, maybe we should consider a return to a more traditional form of prizegiving .


Unbelievably, Billy Logan won't be disciplined for hospitalising me on Wednesday. Mrs Slater informs me - and my union confirms it - that, as there was no intention to harm, "then the boy can't be blamed for what was, after all, an accident. So his apology will have to suffice".

I wouldn't mind if he'd seen fit to offer one.

Madeleine Nichol returned today, and seemed very coy about her course: she claimed it was about "GIRFEC", or "Getting It Right For Every Child".

I made the observation that "GIRFEC" sounded more like something one would hear on Father Ted than within an educational establishment, and she was still smiling when I realised she had just told a bare-faced lie!

For there, in her hands, was the course folder, its title emblazoned across the front: "How to Deal with an Underperforming Department".

I stared at the folder, then looked up at her - and she realised her cover was blown. Somewhat flustered, she muttered something about that being "an extra course option", then faded into unconvincing silence.

What a way to prepare for the summer holidays: a face still resembling an over-ripe strawberry, and a fac-head on the warpath for August. Roll on the last day of term.

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