Thank God it's Friday;Diary

24th September 1999 at 01:00
MONDAY By break my morning coffee is sending urgent signals to my bladder so I sprint through the courtyard. Bursting into the staffroom, I am greeted by the head with "Can I have a quick word?" "Later!" Afterwards, relieved, I realise the most important law of management: bodily functions can be neither delegated nor indefinitely postponed.

TUESDAY Everyone is terrified of our deputy. It might be the broken-glass-and-barbed-wire voice or it might be the scar on her cheek. Today she spots two boys, James and Neil, misbehaving in assembly. "Come here, James," she scowls. James approaches, pale and trembling. "Neil," she calls. James kneels. For once she's lost for words.

In second period, a colleague calls for help. Simon has refused to work and become abusive. When I arrive he's looking sulky and defiant but he's calm. We walk outside and he starts to sob. He thinks his younger brother is back on heroin and stealing from the family. His father's refuge is the pub. His mother cries and cries. I let him talk. I don't know what to do or say.

Afterwards, my colleague demands to know why I haven't punished him. I wonder which of our standard punishments - detention, lines, report card, even exclusion - will come anywhere near Simon's daily hell. Later Simon comes to me. He is magnificent, mature, controlled. It wasn't the teacher's fault, he says. He knows that he was in the wrong. He wants me to broker an apology.

WEDNESDAY The OFSTED envelope arrives. It's just like exam results. Some teachers rip it open and discuss its contents there and then, some stuff it into a pocket to be opened alone. One teacher reads it and rushes off the the loo. I get five satisfactories. It doesn't seem much feedback after all these years of teaching.

THURSDAY I hope performance related pay works better than this. The head of music has been judged "very good" on a science lesson he didn't teach. Meanwhile, a French teacher has been graded unsatisfactory on her maths.

FRIDAY The head wants to postpone our meeting by 15 minutes so that he can coach some sixth-formers in a presentation for work experience. I ask whether he's read the "Delegation" chapter in the 'Book of Management'. He says he has, but unfortunately everyone else has read the section on "How to say No".

As I pass the hall I hear some beautiful old-time be-bop being played on the piano. I poke my head around the door and see Simon's fingers flying across the keys. I listen from outside.

Chris Jarrett teaches in Bedfordshire. He writes under a pseudonym

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