Slovenly language and other outbursts

30th May 2003 at 01:00

I have decided to take a stand against imprecise language in the classroom.

Top of my list is the increasing frequency of "random" as a comment upon virtually any statement or remark that my adolescent charges fail to understand.

I had already picked up on Darlinda George for describing the close reading passage I had handed out to 3C as "random", when Rachel Roy made the same description of their homework.

"What do you mean, it's 'random', Rachel?" I quizzed her. "What's random about it?"

"Ach, it jist is, sur. It's pure random, so it is," she assured me.

"Pure random? Even more interesting. What do you mean, 'pure random'?"

"Ach, it jist is, sur. Pure random, like."

"And why do you add 'like' to that phrase, Rachel? It's pure random like what?"

"No like anythin', sur. It's jist pure random, like. Full stoap."

"So can you explain what you mean by the phrase 'pure random, like', Rachel? Can you?"

She shrugged. "Just pure random, sur."

I sighed and gave up. It's just as well they've dropped textual analysis from the English Higher course.


Richard Dick has jumped upon the latest school management bandwagon with his announcement in today's staff bulletin that he has come to the end of deliberations on next year's reorganisation of principal teacher duties. He plans to replace single subject PTs with fewer curriculum PTs covering many subjects.

"Hah!" scoffed George Crumley as we digested the news together over a morning interval coffee. "The plagiaristic bastard!" he referred to our headteacher. "These aren't Richard Dick's ideas at all.

"These curriculum PTs are the latest management-speak in the papers, all designed to strip out layers of promoted salaries. At the same time, they'll strip out the years of experience and speciality that once made our education system the envy of the world!

"It says here," he continued angrily, "that 'the change from subject PTs will mean that promoted personnel can avoid narrow subject boundaries and concentrate instead on issues such as leadership, motivation and management'. Hah! Just like Richard Dick, I don't think!

"It's the beginning of the end, Morris, you mark my words."

I thought he was being a little iconoclastic, but I had to agree with his calling into question some of the stranger subject combinations that Mr Dick is offering our new curricular leaders.

"Principal teacher for maths and home economics?" I furrowed my brow as we pored over the document together. "I can't see there being much of a competition for that post, can you?"

"Not unless Helen Tarbet's suddenly acquired some knowledge of differential calculus and Bill Dunbar's prepared to go to Tesco for the scone mixture," Crumley replied acidly. "What kind of a curricular mixture is that when it comes down to subject status?"

"Maybe it was the only combination left when he'd done all the ones that fitted together naturally," I pointed out playfully. "Like PT of social subjects.

"Will you be going for that one, d'you think?"

"Don't start me, Morris! Frank O'Farrell's been picked out for that job since Mr Dick started drawing up the game plan, never mind planning the team sheet."

"Why? Just because modern studies has overtaken geography and history in the candidate numbers doesn't mean to say he's a better PT than you, George."

"I know that," he snapped back. "But when he introduces bloody psychology Higher as well, and gets half my Higher geography and both of my Advanced Higher pupils transferring half-way through the year, then the warning bells start ringing."

I started to sympathise, but he cut me short.

"Don't worry about me, Morris. I'm coasting towards retirement now. A conserved PT salary till I go, but with none of the snash or crap involved in running a department. I'll leave all that up to Fast Frankie and the rest of them, They'll be like bloody ferrets in a sack when the selection processes start, mark my words."

"I suppose it's a sensible option so close to retirement, George. How long d'you have to go?"

"Nine years at the earliest. And I look forward to the easiest nine years of my career."

Gosh, I thought. That's a lot of salary to conserve. And I don't think it's quite what Professor McCrone had in mind when he recommended a career structure for the 21st century.


Rachel Roy continues to annoy me with her slovenly language in class.

Today, it was the continuous (and blasphemous) repetition of her caterwauling complaint against any imposition or task.

"Oh my God!" she drawled as I issued a list of composition choices. "Do we have to do this, sur?"

I confirmed they did and issued some photographs to start their creative juices flowing.

"Oh my God!" her voice raised an irritating pitch higher. "Look at that photie, Darlinda. It's pure rank, so it is. Oh my God, ah canny believe it!"

I gritted my teeth, but after another two irreverent exclamations, I asked her to stop because I found her consistent use of that 'Oh my God'

phrase ever so slightly offensive.

What I found slightly worrying, however, was not the fact that she challenged my authority on the matter but that she genuinely couldn't understand what I was complaining about.

"Well, in my days at school, Rachel, I would have been punished for saying 'Oh my God' in front of a teacher. They would have considered it blasphemous."

She looked completely and utterly bewildered by my explanation, so I rounded it off by simply indicating that she should consider the phrase banned for the rest of the lesson and that she would be kept in at the interval if she repeated it one more time.

"Oh my God, sur! That's no' ferr!" she blurted out before putting a hand to her mouth. At least she realised what she'd said, for once.


The new management structure has got me rather worried about my future promotion chances. Consequently, I have decided to reply to a recent letter of invitation from the General Teaching Council for Scotland that I apply for a training place related to continuing professional development.

Unfortunately, one of the pre-requisites for application is a fully up-to-date portfolio of previous staff development.

My folder looks pretty thin, I had to admit (after I'd found it). Sadly, its only contents are a letter from the Rockston Film Theatre confirming that I'd attended their "film awareness training" (and cheese and wine reception) last December, a receipt for this year's subscription to The TESS and a half-finished review of some English textbooks that Simon Young, my PT, asked me to compile. It doesn't look a very good offering for the GTC, I know, but it's fuller than anyone else's that I've seen.


A telephone message relayed from the school office indicates that Mr and Mrs Roy wish to see me on Monday about a number of matters concerning their daughter. One of these is apparently their objection to her being kept in during Wednesday's morning interval, which they deemed a contravention of her basic human rights under the European convention.

I don't know where some of these parents get off, quite frankly. What possible message does it convey to their children if they're constantly challenging the authority of the school over every single trivial disciplinary matter?

It certainly didn't put me in best mood for 3C, I can tell you, and I stormed in like an avenging angel.

"Right, third year!" I started, before Rachel Roy - who else? - interrupted.

"Sur, see ma granny? She I" "Pardon, Rachel?" I assumed an air of interested politeness.

"See ma granny, sur? Ah wis I" "No, Rachel, I don't. I can't see your granny anywhere," I explained, at which point I looked in exaggerated fashion around the classroom, and confirmed, "No indeed, Rachel, she's just nowhere to be seen, is she?

"That's just another example of carelessly used language, Rachel, and it's simply not I" "But, see ma granny jist I" "But no, Rachel," I insisted. "That's just the point. I can't see your granny. How could I? She's not here, is she? Where is she, Rachel? Can you see her?"

Suddenly, the girl's bottom lip quivered. "Naw, ah canny, sur. Because she's deid! That's whit ah'm tryin tae say if youse'd shut up," she sobbed breathlessly.

"She collapsed an' died last night, an' ma mum'n'dad are comin' tae see youse aboot it 'cos ah'll huvtae miss next week's exams an' they wanted tae check it wis OK wi' ma guidie. An' that's whit ah wis trin' tae tell youse.

"Oh my God!" A host of memories suddenly hit her with force. "Ma puir wee granny!" She burst into uncontrollable tears and ran out of the classroom.

In the circumstances, I thought it best to leave her language unchecked, not to mention the unauthorised departure from the class.

I sent Darlinda George after her and asked the class to settle down to some work.

Then I tried to compose what I'm going to say to Mr and Mrs Roy next week.

Persecuting a bereaved child probably comes pretty high on the list of indictable offences in Strasbourg.

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