School Diary - Hi-tech power play in a black and white world
Latest news about A Curriculum for Excellence reveals that the October date for publication of final outcomes has been postponed until January. Needless to say, this is a severe disappointment for those of us anxiously awaiting the next instalment of a saga that is starting to resemble Peyton Place. However, some staff are managing to conceal their distress better than others.
"Great!" said Davie McManus of biology. "Another three-month delay; another three months closer to retirement. If this keeps up, I should manage to avoid any involvement at all before I hand in my jotters in 2011."
I upbraided him for these sceptical remarks.
"Morris," he said with a withering look. "If I thought this was going to be any different from other curricular changes I've ever witnessed, I might be a bit keener. What do they think I've been trying to give the kids all these years: a curriculum for adequacy?
"I ask you," he continued. "They're telling me they need to be successful learners! And all these years, I thought I was meant to be trying to teach them how to be unsuccessful learners!"
I told him he was twisting words to suit his own ends, and hoped none of the probationers would be affected by such cynicism.
I have decided to enhance my teaching with interactive whiteboard technology. I must confess I have been a little uncertain about how to make best use of this teaching aid, having previously used it only for the odd viewing of an end-of-term DVD and some Friday afternoon fillers such as "hangman" with the first years.
But Rosemary Slater, our new head - already nicknamed "Heid first" by the pupils, for what are presumably very obvious reasons - is very keen to ensure best use of technology, so I have decided to convert my lessons to PowerPoint. It is a time-consuming process, but I have a long-term vision of enthralled students captivated by the wizardry on display as I jump from image to image, slide to slide, and hyperlink to hyperlink.
And who knows? Maybe they'll even remember some of it.
I mentioned my innovative plans for the improvement of classroom pedagogy to Davie McManus, but he seemed unimpressed, pausing in the completion of his Sudoku puzzle only to comment that it was interesting to notice the appliances were still being called "whiteboards".
"How d'you mean?" I asked.
"Well, don't you remember back in the Nineties, when we were all prohibited from calling our main teaching aid a 'blackboard' in favour of the term 'chalkboard'? Yet now, it's OK to call the new appliances 'whiteboards'. It's just a thought, Morris ... ".
I suggested it was a thought well worth keeping to himself and headed for the IT suite to put the finishing touches to tomorrow's lesson with 1N - they are a challenging class, and just the kind of group that should respond well to such modern teaching methods.
My hopes for the dawn of a new teaching age have been somewhat dashed by 1N's reaction to my presentation during today's last period. It seems that the old complaint about "death by a thousand worksheets" has metamorphosed into "death by a thousand bullet points".
"Aw, surr!" cried out Connor Moore. "No' another PowerPoint! We've jist hud wan in history!"
"An' wan before that in home eccy!" chimed in Tegan Kenny. "Kin we no' just go on wi' the play we wur daen' yesterday?"
One child in particular was more than simply resistant: he was positively offensive. Of course, I've come to expect little else from Lee Bonetti in the few short weeks I've know him: he has all the appalling behaviour characteristics of his fourth-year brother, Jason, multiplied by three. However, the inheritance of abnormal genes in no way excused the foul language he used as I brought up a slide of a famous footballer whom he appeared to dislike.
"Jason!" I called out. "I've had enough of that kind of language!"
"An' ah've had enough o' this pile o' crap," he retorted. "It's a loadae pish!"
I sent him at once to Mr Atkinson - our recently appointed and somewhat corpulent depute - for summary reprisal and did not see him for the rest of the afternoon. The lesson passed off without further incident, or indeed any further comment. Clearly, my decisive action in dealing with Bonetti had an effect - on at least some of the class. Alas, it also has to be noted that many of the others fell asleep.
Lee Bonetti has been suspended. It seemed a rather drastic response to the indiscretion in my class, but I told Frank Atkinson that I was glad to see that he'd taken a stand on my behalf.
He puffed out his admittedly chubby little cheeks and wiped his brow.
"It wasn't what he said to you that got him suspended, Morris," he explained. "It was what he said to me."
I tilted my head in question.
"I told him I'd had enough of him, that I'd seen him nine times on discipline reports in four weeks, and I wasn't having it any more. And he gave me that insolent look that nearly sent me over the edge, then curled his lip, shrugged his shoulders and started chewing his gum again.
"I grabbed his tie - no witnesses, don't worry - and shoved him against the wall. 'Listen, Bonetti,' I told him. 'You think you're a big man, don't you? But let me tell you, son: I eat little boys like you for breakfast!' And d'you know what he replied?"
"He looked me up and down and said: 'Is that why you're such a fat wee bastard, then?' It was all I could do to keep my hand from going further round his ruddy throat."
Maybe it's as well we've got the October holiday coming up. It should give Frank Atkinson's blood pressure time to calm down.