Slowly always does it

6th October 1995 at 01:00
Christine Jones on the lessons to be learned from the world of commerce.

At last, after 20 years' teaching, I think I've cracked it. For as long as I can remember, most things academic or scholarly have been much derided and the brave new world belongs, apparently, to business and to industry. Teachers have been cajoled, encouraged, exhorted and commanded to look to these for inspiration.

So, let's see what the world of commerce can teach us. How should we behave?

* Never open the school doors until about three to five minutes after 9am, especially if queues have formed outside. But do make sure you're visible inside, chatting idly to each other.

* When pupils come into the classroom, never pay any attention to them. Be sure to have a colleague in the room and continue your own conversation oblivious of anyone waiting to see you.

* Make sure some "admin" person goes around, loudly checking when it is everybody's coffee or tea break - generally, from 9.30am onwards. If at all possible, see that such a change-over - "Your time for coffee, Mrs Harrison-Jones" - comes mid-way in a lesson.

* Some companies provide a catalogue to stimulate your interest. You, too, could reveal to pupils what they will be doing. Then, as with "market forces", often out of stock of whatever size and colour you need, don't teach the topic you've announced - surprise them!

* Exam times could be fun. Just emulate the gas board like this: a) Arrive and ask the quivering candidates if they already have a question paper (which they won't). Then say that you did have some in stock, reserved for them, but now they've disappeared. You'll be back in a week's time.

b) Turn up with a set of question papers, but not the appropriate ones. c) Eventually, turn up with the right question papers but say you are not able to give them out.

* Experiences with new cars suggest further scope. I've had a defective gear-box and defective headlights and had to waste time and effort in securing replacements. What's the educational equivalent? Launch a brand new subjectsyllabus and teach a whole section in error, which you then have to "replace"?

* Go out at noon and take a good two or three hours over a "business-lunch" with your colleagues. Forget all those children you usually see in what is laughably and misleadingly known as your "lunch-hour".

* Don't be polite if you can help it. Always start to "shut up shop" and wind up the last lesson about 20 minutes before "time". If a pupil ever approaches you near "closing time" look at your watch and say something like, "I can't clear up and see to you at the same time!" * Never return any calls. If you answer the staffroom phone, either put the caller through all the switchboard numbers possible and, if possible, lose the call altogether or sing a little Muzak tune for about five minutes, telling them to "please hold".

* Always place any blame for anything on the new computer system or on someone who's off sick.

* If you find yourself busy, going from one job to the next, often trying to do two or three things at the same time: SLOW DOWN. Look at the pace in the workplaces we are to imitate. It's nothing like your pace and workrate. "Wisely and slow" said Shakespeare.

So there you have it. A new teachers' charter. Just keep your eyes open and copy all you see in your daily contact with the commercial world. It's easy.

Just a postscript - whatever would happen to British industry if teachers took their commitment, pace of work, efficiency, multi-functional skills and public personal relations acumen into that world? Now there's a thought.

Christine Jones is former head of English and deputy headmistress of Selwyn School, Gloucester

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