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7th September 2001 at 01:00
How to get advice, find salvation, waste time and watch paint dry. Arnold Evans shows you how without having to leave your seat

While the rest of us are obliged to make our resolutions in the bleak mid-winter, hung-over and ankle-deep in the debris of Christmas, teachers know that the new year really begins in September. It's the time for a new start, new classes, a new markbook, new syllabus, new innovations and new reasons for threatening industrial action. Staff rooms up and down the land resound to the collective flutter of new leaves being turned over. It is followed by the inevitable chorus of mumbled curses as teachers discover that government educational policy cannot be implemented without the aid of Benson amp; Hedges. Or they find themselves saying, "Yes Sir, no Sir, three bags full Sir," to heads and deputies when they had resolved to just say no.

If you find that, despite your best intentions, you are slithering back into the same old rut, don't despair. Salvation is only a couple of mouse clicks away. The Web offers not only advice on how to stick to your resolutions (try www.mentalhealth.about.com) but also a vast compendium of practical help on everything from fighting an addiction to getting the better of an overbearing boss. A good starting point is www.selfgrowth.com. Presumably all the information is available in any decent bookshop. But buying a book always has such significance. As you hand over your plastic you are tacitly admitting to the world at large and - even less pleasantly - to yourself that you have a problem. Looking for advice on the Net is a completely different experience. There's always that liberating sense that you're "just browsing" and not making any sort of commitment. It's the element of secrecy that makes the Web such an invaluable source of self-help materials. This is especially so for confused and worried adolescents (ie all adolescents) who will find answers to the questions they are too embarrassed, too cool or too scared to ask. The Net is the best agony aunt they are ever likely to find. Teachers could do worse than direct older pupils to www.thesite.org. If you tell them that it was set up by their granny's favourite newsreader, Martyn Lewis, and is run as a charity, their little hearts will sink. Yet the moment they visit they'll be pleased to find that it somehow manages to be streetwise without being self consciously so. It contains all the usual froth you'd expect in a teen mag but, at the same time, manages to deal frankly and intelligently with drugs, sex, rock 'n' roll - and all those other things grown-ups aren't supposed to know anything about.

As they face up to the challenges of the new academic year, teachers will recognise that they have an awful lot to learn about workers in the private sector. ICT is a case in point. While teachers are predictably Neanderthal in their attitude to the Net, office workers have been quick to recognise its potential. They have found that it offers a unique opportunity to bunk off work without ever having to leave their desks. One survey has revealed that 44 per cent of employees in the UK spend at least three hours a week "online for non-work matters". While teachers have nothing more daunting to do all day than lounge around in front of a classroom of adoring kids, office workers are industriously downloading porn, shuffling their virtual share portfolio, booking holidays on lastminute.com, gambling in on-line casinos, sending colleagues naughty emails or chewing the electronic cud in chat rooms. There are even sites designed exclusively, to quote www.ishouldbeworking.com, "for slackers, goof-offs, procrastinators, loafers, long-lunchers, and Web-addicted employees worldwide". As a point of honour they track down the most inane ways of wasting the company's time and so www.ishouldbeworking.com lists hundreds of pointless sites, most of which are only marginally more interesting than watching paint dry - and if they fancy that, they can go towww.mirimgs.comwebcampaint.html. Teachers with too much time on their hands and who can't quite believe that the livin' could be this easy might like to while away an unforgiving minute or two at www.9to5cafe.com as well.

Don't be too hasty in tut-tutting the indolence of office workers. They might well have hit upon the secret of a long and healthy life. Biologist, Dr Peter Axt was a German athlete who learnt the error of his ways. In his book, Vom Gluck der Faulheit (On The Joy of Laziness), he notes that the mammals that expend most energy have the shortest lives. With inexorable logic that should warm the furred and failing cockles of any couch potato's heart, he has deduced that the lazier you are, the longer you will live. I spent a pleasantly slothful afternoon searching the Web for more details on the good doctor's research but to no avail. I suspect he can't be arsed to publicise it. Nonetheless, get your hands on this book. You can't read it, (and, let's be honest, life is too short to learn German) but you can always wave it at heads and deputies.

If you want something to do in your idle hours, send an email to: ArnoldJEvans@aol.com

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