Special days

2nd July 2004 at 01:00
A clear desk does not necessarily mean a clear mind, and Maria Corby has the proof

"It's black ash," I say to Lou-in-the-office. She's doing the inventory and I'm letting her know what my desk is made of. I'm pleased to have seen it again after all these months. "I've cleared my desk and it's black ash."

Lou nods; she's on the phone giving directions to someone who wants to know where the koi carp centre is - they've heard it's near our school.

Nothing on my desk and no teaching todayI this is the day to be proactive, to work on developments, to be strategic. I skip back to my room to find a note. "Ellen's cat's got flu, she won't be in to do her dinner duty", and a teacher has left a lesson plan for me to look at. Oh well, shouldn't take long to clear.

I walk down the corridor looking for a teacher I can bribe - a free cheesy jacket potato - to help at lunchtime. Having sorted that, I walk the gauntlet of the corridor to my office, being stopped on the way by:

"Edward's pushed poisonous toadstools up his nose", "Mrs Hibbs isn't happy that Damien has lost his jumper and she's coming in to see you", and "Can you give me money for a sponsored crochet to get Ahmed a new standing frame?"

Back at the office and there's the post, a telephone message - "phone your daughter urgently" - and a note from our work experience girl, who wants copies of all our policies and can I fill in this questionnaire of things the college has asked her to find out? I phone the daughter, who tells me she's feeling crap and is going back to bed. Fine.

The phone goes. It's Lou. "Mrs Hibbs is here, she's very cross." As I get to the office I see that the jumper has been found - in Mrs Hibbs's bag - and the school nurse is on the phone describing the toadstool to the nurse at NHS Direct.

Walking back to my office, I remember I have an appraisal meeting at 11am, giving me 45 minutes of blue sky thinking time. But there, on my desk, next to the plans, the post and the notes is a piece of climbing frame someone must have pulled off during morning break. And a biscuit because it's Charlie's birthday. And a catalogue of "you're great" stickers. And an Artsmark evidence file, six inches thick, with a note saying: "Could you check this please?" The phone goes. It's Lou. "Sorry, what sort of desk did you say you had? Maria? You've gone very quiet, are you OK?"

Maria Corby is deputy head of a special school for pupils with severe and multiple learning difficulties. She writes under a pseudonym

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