Smart teachers moan louder

24th January 1997 at 00:00
Over the recent holiday season TES Scotland readers were treated to a double dose of Sean McPartlin, the Christmas issue featuring both his regular column and a back page piece on Christmas leavers. I would have preferred a double dose of me, though purely for financial reasons as the "rescue the clapped-out Triumph" fund could do with a boost.

A letter appeared in the paper the following week accusing him of sentimentality and suggesting, if I read it correctly, that he must have spent his career in some rarefied educational paradise devoid of social problems and troublesome pupils.

I mentioned this to my sister-in-law Maureen who used to work beside Sean (look, I can call you Sean, can't I - after all, we share a slot in the paper and are both going bald?) and she found it rather amusing in a snorting-over-the-Christmas-pudding sort of way. Of course there may be another Hibs supporting, follicly challenged guidance teacher of the same name in the Edinburgh-West Lothian area but I doubt it.

Regular readers will know that Sean is guilty of something far worse than sentimentality. He is positive about his pupils and, worse still, the job in general. Is it not incredible that an assistant headteacher has failed to learn that, tolerant though many colleagues now are, it is safer to keep one's positive tendencies in the closet?

The correct reaction to the Ridings fiasco is as follows: 1. On hearing that teachers were to strike unless 60 pupils were expelled, immediately say: "Only 60? We'd need to get rid of 120 at our place to make it decent." If someone from another school tops that by saying: "Only 120?", quickly add: ". . . and that's just from the first year".

2. On seeing the kid ejected from class and making strange, bluebottle-like swipes at the door as if to try to get back in, point out that you've had classes where you didn't have enough doors to put everyone out who ought to have been out.

3. Romanticise hopelessly about the times when you were allowed to use the belt and don't forget to mention the other forms of physical violence you got away with - the phrase "good kick up the arse" should appear at least once in your diatribe.

4. Remember that, on those rare occasions when things are going undeniably well, the job still isn't what it was before Standard grades; the abolition of house masters; the raising of the school leaving age; comprehensive education; votes for women.

5. Never simply moan about the Government, the local council, increased paperwork or innovation fatigue. Even positive people moan about those. Restrict your invective to those and you risk being labelled a namby-pamby, sentimental wimp. You have got to moan about everything. Not only that, you have to outmoan everyone else. Once again, the Monty Python "Four Yorkshire Men" sketch should prove instructive.

But what is this? In another of my favourite TESS columns I find something else positive happening as Rosie McShane sends a gift for Morris Simpson's daughter. If something nice can happen in the School Diary, it can happen in real life. I tell you, I felt the emotion well up the way I did when Denzil Washington adjusted the dying Tom Hanks's oxygen mask in Philadelphia, sentimental soul that I am.

Gregor Steele envies Sean McPartlin for having written proof in the letters page that someone not actually related to him reads his column.

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