Sort out the year - and then bin it

22nd July 2005 at 01:00
There is wood on my desk. I moved all the paper and there it was. I knew it was there. I have seen it before. Almost exactly a year ago. That was the last time I went excavating there. That was the last time I threw everything in the bin.

It is interesting what you find when you rearrange all those papers. I remember an advert that was on TV when I was a child.

It started: "These are the contents of a small boy's pockets," and it showed a boy with a blazer holding a mouse. Well, these are the contents of a deputy head's desk. I do not think there is a mouse here but you can never be sure. There is certainly a mouse ball I recovered from Nathan in Year 7 who nicked it for reasons he himself did not understand.

This is a list of students I needed to track for underachievement. I phoned home to speak to Kirsty's mum. Bad timing. She was in the middle of a domestic with her boyfriend.

She never did get back in touch with me. Mind you, she never got back in touch with him. Kicked him out apparently. Kirsty's got bigger issues to deal with than geography coursework.

A message from a local environmental group offering a paper recycling scheme. What do they intend to do with it all? There is enough paper in this office to paper the whole of Belgium and still have enough left over to do a couple of the smaller Dutch provinces.

Leadership team. Minutes of our weekly meeting. How did we manage to spend all that time talking about a behaviour referral form? No one bothers with it. Naughty boys are still sent straight to my office and they invariably blame the teacher.

Here is the allocation of bilingual support for Ayesha. My colleague had worked out a good programme, well thought out and focused. All very sad because suddenly it was irrelevant. Ayesha, a lovely bright girl and an asylum-seeker, was suddenly and unexpectedly deported.

I have a list of girls who want to do a health and beauty course. Scary. It really would be a case of "physician heal thyself".

I have just found a pen from Ibiza. It has a got a nude woman on it in an exotic pose which seems to involve some kind of snake. I took this from Scott in Y8. A present from his brother. He never came back for it. I will put it at the back of my drawer, just in case.

This is the IT departmental improvement plan. I wondered where that had gone. They seem to have managed well enough without it. A memo from the science department complaining about the injustice of having to teach Y11 last lesson on a Friday. Someone has to do it. As I recall, I wrote back and said another department will do it next year. Better check the timetable.

Notes written in an illegible hand from a conference on workforce remodelling. I realise just how bad my handwriting has become. Photocopies of documents. The original was never that important, so why did someone decide to share the responsibility of throwing it away? I will just throw it away. If it proves to be important someone will give me another copy.

Newspaper articles - a wise word no longer needed. It struck a chord once.

Now the moment has long gone. Reports. Documents. Surveys.

A message to call the local police station. Was it about a burnt-out car on the fields? Or was it from the drug-awareness team? Some things I have no memory of at all. Why is Francesca's coursework here?

I remember this letter from Mrs Rees. She says she has not got a phone any more because she has been cut off. But Daniel has been "norty" at the weekend so could I please shout at him.

Two more letters. One from a head in Milton Keynes agreeing with a piece I wrote in The TES. Then another from a man in Cornwall disagreeing and indicating I am a child of the devil. Here is a big glossy document on pastoral education. I read it. But do not ask me what it said.

September will come and I shall make sure my desk is clear. It will be a fine example of top-end office design. Well, perhaps not. But it will be tidy, I promise.

Geoff Brookes is deputy head of Cefn Hengoed school, Swansea

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