School Diary - Tattoos, totem poles and greater use of Glow
Our in-service day started with a whole-staff meeting, wherein our head urged us to make greater use of Glow in the coming session: "I know that some of you are already committed," Ms Slater admitted, "but with a national price tag of pound;57 million, the council's wanting an audit of how it's being used locally, and what it's being used for. So it would be a start if those of you who haven't used your user name yet got started on it."
Otherwise, the day offered the usual demotivating starter to a new session, including a depressing review of SQA results and a reminder of our headteacher's party line on Greenfield Academy's readiness to implement Curriculum for Excellence - to which end she has sent a newsletter to all parents stressing how "well prepared the school is for the most exciting curricular change in a generation."
"Well, if you're going to tell a lie," muttered Davie McManus (biology), as he scanned it, "you might as well tell a big one".
"I see we've got some new faculty heads as well," I pointed out the two latest staff, both female, and both looking significantly younger than any of our current faculty heads.
McManus agreed: "They look about 18 years old! Everywhere you look, any new PT posts are going to young women. And d'you know why? They do what they are told and are supine to the wishes of any head wanting to impose new CfE teaching strategies on old dinosaurs like us."
I bridled slightly at his reference to my professional status: "I'd remind you that I retain a great deal of enthusiasm for CfE, Davie - and maybe the reason that young and energetic teachers are being appointed to these posts is because they might actually introduce some of the CfE things we're claiming to be ready for!"
"Hah," he guffawed loudly. "Roll on retirement, Morris, that's all I can say."
Our new first-year intake is a very lively group and certainly seems to have taken curricular reform to heart. Indeed, 1N objected most strongly to being asked to sit in rows when they entered my class this afternoon, instead asking where their individual "learning posts" would be and demanding to know when they could "get started on the Curriculum fur Pestilence ."
We also very nearly had the first exclusion of the session after an assault, verbal and physical, on Ms Bradley (one of our new faculty heads) by Douglas Kennedy, a first-year who took exception to being told to hand over a pack of cigarettes after being caught lighting up after registration.
Ms Bradley was incensed and upset by the event, and expected the boy to be excluded. She hadn't reckoned, of course, upon Ms Slater's desire to keep the school's non-exclusion record intact: it has been seven months since we excluded and such matters are considered important in the "school quality indicators" that our education authority holds dear.
Fortunately, after a talk with Ms Bradley, Ms Slater convinced her of the pointlessness of excluding Kennedy at this early stage of his secondary career, and persuaded her to commit to rebuilding a positive relationship with him.
Part of me applauds such a modern-day solution. And part of me hears Davie McManus chortling: "See. Amanda Bradley's doing what she's told. What did I tell you, Morris? Completely supine to management diktat."
Our new, PPP-financed, school building is beginning to strain at the seams, as the roll grows uncomfortably close to the number it was destined to accommodate as maximum: the central atrium with 1,500 children milling around closely resembles the Tower of Babel.
This area is also used for year group assemblies, and seats 250 comfortably. Unfortunately, this year's intake was 300.
Couple that with the fact that the main school doors open to the west winds, and will soon be blowing winter's icy blasts throughout the corridors . and add that to the fact that the sub-standard classroom furniture which purported to be "extra-strength-hard-wearing" has proved decidedly shoddy . and the numerous problems with heating, cooling, lighting, general facilities, parking, classroom design . and, well, you can see that those of us in the early vanguard of PPP have ended up unequivocally sucking the fuzzy end of the lollipop.
Or, as Mr McManus puts it: "Our last school lasted 30 years. This one will last 15, but we'll be paying for it for 30 years!"
One of my fifth-year pupils, Brian Niven, has expressed an interest to me, and I am always pleased to be taken into pupils' confidences like this, especially when the request is slightly unusual.
"So you want to do some research into totem poles, Brian?" I queried. "Are you interested in wild west Indian culture?"
"No' really. Ah want tae check it oot fur ma next tattoo."
"What?" I protested. "You've got to be 18 to get a tattoo. You shouldn't start getting ."
"Ach, surr!" he looked at me scornfully. "Ye just need fake ID - an' yur a wee bit late tae tell me no' tae start gettin' tattoos ."
At which point he rolled up the lower half of his shirt, to reveal a back already fulsomely decorated with a bewildering array of dragons and birds - to which he would soon be adding, no doubt, an impressive totem pole.
Unless he plans on putting it somewhere else.
I am determined to improve my use of Glow, so logged on this afternoon and joined the "Greenfield Glow Group". Unfortunately, the only news of import on our message board was an impassioned plea for Christmas dinner bookings to avail ourselves of an "early booking discount".
Gosh. I suspect that most commentators would have hoped that - at pound;57 million and counting - it might be getting used for something more important than arranging staff Christmas dinners. Especially in August.