Teaching skulls counsel

15th July 2005 at 01:00
Our school has become over-run by a gang of skinheads. No, not the usual suspects in Year 10 - they now seem to prefer to display their adolescent fury by cultivating a variety of opulent birds' nests on their heads, complete with coiffured porches, loft conversions and rear conservatories.

I am referring instead to those of us in the growing staffroom posse of balding, shaven-headed male teachers.

Just about all receding male teachers have now rejected the fondly remembered "academic's comb-over", reaching instead for scythe and razor and going for "beacon-teacher" status. This worship of the blade probably reflects a sharper, exam-focused profession but I now fear that we are all making a terrible educational mistake. Displaying so stark a skull to our students has damaged the quality of teaching and learning.

Have you noticed how the nationwide disappearance of the teacher's comb-over has coincided with a decline in pupils' respect? Those exotic sweeps across the top gave the male teacher a very visual "head start". His long, lingering locks were instantly evocative of the brilliant if slightly insane professors found in comics and TV cartoons, thereby giving him an automatic intellectual supremacy.

Today's head-shaver, in contrast, merely reminds pupils of some wife-beating simpleton from one of the soaps. Pupils hardly know which head-shaver is teaching them what, as they can barely distinguish one from the next. The comb-overs of yesteryear never looked remotely the same. Each would create a wild, intriguing and sometimes extra-terrestrial image to inspire the most dormant young imagination. The great trans-scalp sweep covered everything from art to physics while the whole of school "citizenship" could be taught by looking at one wisp. What better message about self-respect, self-sacrifice and self-belief than the heroic and ongoing story atop Sir's cranium?

Children, as they passed up through the school, would observe how, as the closely-knit family of follicles emerging from his side-parting continued slowly to perish, the few that remained continued to head over the top, out of a sense of duty to their fellow kinsmen. The longest and most senior lock of hair was effectively saying to the others "Keeping going west, Son.

Generations of our family have forged a passage across this head. We owe it to them."

Every young pupil should be able to experience this again. Now I understand what is meant by "workforce remodelling" - and it must start with a remodelling of the male workforce's head.

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