School diary - When it takes a fax to move a photocopier
Although many of my colleagues are enjoying the second week of their holiday, I have agreed to help at our Easter Crash Course Revision events, part of the school's strategy to raise attainment levels.
Margaret wasn't too happy being left at home with Fraser (now approaching his third birthday) and suggested icily that I needed my "head examining" as I left the house this morning.
"It's only for a couple of hours," I reassured her, "and it should help to get me into the good books." Needless to say, I chose not to mention the relief that I would be afforded from Fraser's tantrums, which are becoming increasingly frequent. I wonder, not for the first time, if he should be examined for ADHD?
Today's revision class proved further respite from Fraser's temper, as I supervised the three students who had bothered to turn up. In truth, there is not much by way of academic demand as I sit at the front of the room and run an occasional eye over the practice papers they are attempting in timed exam conditions.
However, I was moved to comment on Rory Drummond's critical essay on Of Mice and Men. "Rory," I looked over his shoulder, "isn't that the same essay you gave me when I took you for Standard grade? You can't use it again for Higher."
"Why not?" he questioned. "Ah must've goat a good mark fur it in ma Standard grade, and ah know ah goat a good mark fur it in ma Higher prelim."
"You used it for your prelim as well? But surely... "
"And ah'm plannin' on usin' it fur the exam. As soon as ah see a question about two central characters, ah'll be off!"
"And what's Plan B?" I asked. "What else have you prepared in case that doesn't come up?"
He looked at me as if Margaret's questioning of my mental abilities was an accurate diagnosis. I sighed, gave up, and went back to the front of the room, ready to dispense wisdom to any who required it.
I have to say that "crash course revision" seems a misnomer for what we are offering. Still, it should help us tick a few boxes in the school development plan.
My tutoring services were not required today. Patricia Harrison had shown up instead, so I turned tail and headed for a spot of light shopping, although not before noticing an attractive new photocopier that had just been delivered in the school reception area.
And I was just in time to catch the exchange between Kevin Muir and Mr Dallas, our long-serving janitor (or school custodian, as he prefers to style himself these days). "If you could move that into the office for tomorrow," our depute head was asking, "it can be set up in time for the new term next week?"
"Ah'm sorry, Mr Muir," he responded. "Movin' office furniture disnae come under ma remit any longer. Ye'll need tae contact the regional FMT tae authorise that."
"You what? Get the facilities management team to move a ruddy photocopier?"
"Naw. Get them tae authorise that it kin be moved, and then they'll issue a works directive order an' arrange a mutually coanvenient time tae send someone... "
"Right, right!" Muir interrupted before holding his head in his hands. "My God! It's like being back in a 1970s car plant. Talk about the benefits of public- private partnerships... "
The revision courses finished yesterday, but Kevin Muir called to ask if I could "pop in for 20 minutes" to help him out with a small problem. Thus it was that I found myself squaring up to a shiny new photocopier in the school's reception area.
"So," I questioned, "the FMT said they couldn't move it into the office?"
"No, not exactly. They faxed me to arrange it, but only after I'd agreed to authorise the Pounds 180 facilities fee! I said there was no way they were going to lay hands on it for that kind of money, especially when two years ago I could have had the damned thing shifted by Mr Dallas."
"I see," I nodded. "And that's why I'm here."
"Too right, son. Get your jacket off and take a side."
It took some time, much grunting, and an occasional oath from both of us, but eventually we manhandled the beast into its new home, plugged it in, and were delighted to see a green light for "Start" twinkle at the bottom right of the keyboard.
"Thanks, Morris," Kevin wiped his brow. "D'you know what I fancy faxing back to the facilities management team?"
I shook my head.
"How about 'Get It Right Up Ye, FMT!'? Fancy a pint?"
I did, so we repaired to The Rockston Arms. I wonder if such procedures will be any easier under the Scottish Futures Trust?
Today saw me arrive at a workshop for Higher English, a commercially-arranged course which the school's main union representative tried to stop me attending, on the grounds that it fell during the school holiday. As I don't belong to his union, the pleas fell on stony ground, and I'm glad they did.
In short, it was an extremely worthwhile day, partly because of the course materials on offer and the tutelage that we received. But of far greater importance were the luxurious hotel surroundings and the delicious three-course lunch we experienced, not to mention the muffins and pastries on offer at coffee breaks.
I was sharing my thoughts with another delegate, a slightly coarse youth from one of our neighbouring schools.
"Och, aye," he agreed. "The food's great, an' it's wonderful tae be treated like professionals furra change. But maist of all," he opined, "it's great tae get away frae school, an' rise above all the pish. Isn't it?"
I gulped a muted agreement, but suggested he might word his comments slightly differently on the evaluation form for the day.
Talk about professionalism ...