Thank God it's Friday

8th November 1996 at 00:00
MONDAY: We had planned our poetry day as a simple writing session, but when a colleague met John Cooper Clarke in a Colchester pub we invited him along. He's been a hero of mine since I saw him booed off the stage at Newcastle City Hall in the Seventies.

He arrives, still broomstick-thin, black-maned and wearing dark glasses. His impact in the corridors is immediate, and, though his appearance is quite fearsome, his accent challenging and his poetry uncompromising, he goes down a storm. Best of all, the kids teach us all a lesson by penetrating his "image" and his identity as a "famous poet", and immediately adopt him as "John".

TUESDAY: I chat to a German teacher who is observing for a few days. She saw Cooper Clark yesterday and wonders whether we "do that sort of thing a lot". I tell her it's hard to organise as the daily workload is so heavy. She has heard about the number of meetings in English schools. "How can they think of enough things to tell you?" she wonders.

WEDNESDAY: I've caught a bug from my son which brings a blinding headache and means I can't stand up straight. To give myself a chance of getting to tomorrow's open evening, I stay in bed, fretting. In the afternoon, supported by paracetamol, I go downstairs and watch the news, which is full of education stories.

I can feel my temperature rising, but there is one practical idea that might actually help us: the right of instant detention. If there is one thing most teachers find frustrating it is that by the time a sanction is imposed the intensity of the crime has dissipated. To be able to act immediately over misdemeanours would be an advantage.

THURSDAY: My diplomatic skills are tested at the open evening by a visitor who is determined to find fault. "How do you monitor the kids' progress?" he asks, in a tone you wouldn't use with the most awkward student. I start to direct him to the room where the relevant materials are displayed.

"No, you tell me!" he barks. I explain our primary liaison-based, national curriculum-related, self-assessment-linked, individually-monitored system which seeks to ensure that the most able are "stretched" and the least able supported. Middle ability children, I assure him, are taught with equal care.

FRIDAY: The final lesson of the week for me comes when I tell my year 10 students that I would like to take them to the theatre in London. At the end, one girl approaches and says her Mum saw a play and did a backstage tour in the summer.

I nearly ask why her Mum didn't take her as well, but realise I could be being naive. My pupil doesn't necessarily live with her Mum. Safe assumptions seem to be a thing of the past.

Colin Padgett is head of English in an Essex comprehensive school.

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