2nd December 2005 at 00:00
There's no day like a snow day when flu season comes, Bill Hicks finds

Whenever extreme weather hits the UK, the TES Staffroom turns into a surprisingly effective meteorological service, as teachers around the country post regular updates on local conditions.

And if you're interested in epidemiology, the forums are also good for tracking contagions as teacher after teacher falls victim to the latest viral assault.

Last week we had both weather and illness in abundance. As icy blasts arrived from the Arctic, you could plot the progress of the cold front as it moved south. Teachers were iced-up and reaching for medicines, but they didn't stop logging on.

It started north of the border. On Wednesday, with snowfalls forecast, catmother went into Scotland Opinion with this question: "Are we teachers worse than our pupils as far as hoping for snow and school closure?"

Next morning she answered her own question, somewhat guiltily, with "Nothing here at all. In fact it's sunny... Not fair."

Annoyingly for her, Alendra posted this an hour later: "Lovely and snowy here in Keith - it's even starting to settle on the playing field, with no sign of a let-up."

The chill gripped the English forums on Thursday, with a big "Snow watch"

thread in Personal. For the first few hours it was all "Nothing much here in Worcestershire" and "sporadic drizzle in Reading". Gentleben already had light snow, but he was cheating, posting from Bavaria.

By the afternoon, skigirl noticed heavy grey clouds in rural Worcestershire, and was longing for snow. By post 100 her prayers had been answered: but for most the waiting went on and hopes of a snowed-up Friday melted away.

Except in the far west. Those who read cofio's entry had to grit their teeth: "Plenty here in Wales, but it's starting to melt now. Didn't stop the DHT phoning at 7am to tell me to stay in bed :-). Sometimes, I do try and obey the SMT orders, and this was one within my specialism."

Illness strikes new teachers hardest, and it's in the NQT forum that we find the most alarming symptoms described by exhausted rookies, their immune systems as yet unhardened to stuffy classrooms thick with pupils'

germ-filled exhalations.

Here's one recent victim: "OK, been awake since half three and just thrown my guts up into the toilet - is this grounds for a day off? I don't think my SMT like people being ill."

MistyRain was firm: "Oh goodness, take the day off and go to the doctor immediately. There is a nasty bug going round my school at the moment. I lost half of Year 5 yesterday!"

One thread was devoted to post-viral fatigue syndrome, "one illness that won't respond to you fighting it", and another to "the slump", a depressive malaise common among NQTs at the end of their first term.

As most felt hugely guilty taking sick leave - absurd as we know this is - it's not hard to sympathise with those who look forward to an enforced "snow day" at home. Better luck next week.

Meanwhile, I hope I can make at least one forum user happy. Lovebubble, a contributor to the Poorly Sick thread in Personal - yes, more ailments - wondered what you had to do to get a namecheck in this column. Well, now you know.

Bill Hicks is editor of the TES website. www.tes.co.ukstaffroom

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