School Diary - Phones, fiery parents and financial futures

21st January 2011 at 00:00


My third-year class is causing ever-increasing disciplinary problems, especially the female members. I don't know what it is about them, but it never ceases to amaze me how the most demure and angelic of first and second-year girls seem to grow horns by third year. Among other things.

A case in point is Tracey Spence, who spent most of this morning's discussion on folio preparation peering at something on her lap.

"Tracey!" I interrupted my advice on the important matters of length versus substance and quality: "What are you playing with beneath the desk?"

Needless to say, my innocent enquiry prompted ribald comment from Connor Moore, comprising a completely inappropriate answer, but I quickly silenced him and fixed Tracey with a glare.

"Well?" I queried, secretly aware of the answer to my question, and - in the face of sullen silence - providing it: "You're texting, Tracey, aren't you?"

She looked crestfallen. "How did youse know, Sur?"

"I can tell you're texting because you're concentrating too hard. It's not something I'm used to witnessing. Hand it over."

She proffered her phone with a sigh, then made great issue of resting her chin in her hands and staring straight ahead, after which she refused to communicate for the rest of the lesson.


Our probationer teachers are an enthusiastic sample of young blood in the staffroom. Pauline McDonald (modern studies) is a case in point, with a particularly feisty approach to challenging the cuts to education budgets.

Alas, her enthusiasm for political protest (to be demonstrated this weekend in a local "March Against the Cuts") is unmatched by her literacy skills, as her carefully-decorated banner demonstrated when it was unfurled in the staffroom: "Say No to Cut's In Educations Budget's", it stated in apostrophic disarray.

I just hope that the Government pays attention to Mr Donaldson's recent comments about pre-testing putative teachers before they enter initial teacher education.


Tracey Spence continues to irritate with low-level disruption. In this afternoon's last period, she insisted on getting her blusher and mascara out five minutes before the end of the lesson, while the rest of the class were working on a tricky close reading passage.

"What are you doing, Tracey?" I inquired, as she ran a forefinger across her eyelids.

"Ah'm gaun' hame soon," she replied artlessly. "Ah pass some boays oan the way hame."

I bit my lip in frustration but decided to treat the response with some light humour. "So are you trying to be a `boy magnet'?" I smiled gently.

She looked genuinely shocked. "No way! Ah'm no' like that, sur!" she protested.

"Haw" chimed in Lee Bonetti. "Whit are youse then, Tracey? A lesbian, eh?"

I thought it best to nip this in the bud before it escalated. "That's enough!" I announced to all and sundry. "The suggestion that Tracey is Sapphic, Lee, is completely speculative, and even if she is, it's no concern of yours or mine."

I don't think any of them will have understood a word of what I said, but it sounded impressive enough to calm them down. I wonder if I should ask to see Tracey's parents to discuss her work?


Tracey's father came in to see me rather sooner than expected, and of his own accord. He is a heavily-built man with a lifetime of labouring skills behind him, and didn't seem keen to discuss his daughter's academic prowess, or lack of it. Instead, he wanted to know why I had called Tracey "so thick", an accusation I flatly denied - until I remembered my classical allusion in refutation of Lee Bonetti's insult, a response obviously misheard by Tracey.

It took me some time to convince Mr Spence that I had not insulted his daughter, but he did eventually accept my word on the matter, although his evident continuing distrust was made clear by his admonition that I should "nivvir ca' her that again - an ye've nae right tae take hur mobile aff `er, either!"

I've often thought that it's a lot easier to understand the child when you've met the parents.


I have been a while catching up on back issues of TESS, so it was only this morning that I discovered a report on the likely abandonment of conserved salaries by our council employers. I saw red at once.

"This is appalling!" I brandished the paper aloft in the staffroom. "Dead right," confirmed Davie McManus, formerly principal teacher biology, now subsumed as science department member on his former exalted salary.

"When is a promise not a promise, Morris? When it's made by our bloody council, that's when. It's reneging on a cast-iron commitment to conserve promoted post salaries after the brewery piss-up that was the job-sizing exercise nearly 10 years ago."

I launched into a tirade of vitriolic abuse that spared nobody, from government ministers down to the lowliest council employee, and condemned this disgraceful breach of trust.

"Calm down, Morris," McManus stopped me in my tracks. "It doesn't affect your APT guidance salary conservation. Assistant principal teachers are on assimilated salaries, whereas . ".

"Oh, right," I relaxed at once. "That's not so bad, then. And I suppose, on reflection, you can see why they've got to make savings in these difficult times, can't you?"

McManus narrowed his eyes and shot me a vicious look, then reminded me of his impending retirement and the likely effect on his pension as his final salary looks to be cut by several thousand pounds.

"Not in your case, Davie, of course," I assured him. "I mean, for you it's a disgrace, I agree."

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