Thank God it's Friday;Talkback

15th May 1998 at 01:00
Monday: Bad start. Early morning jams at J16 and J27. Paper jams, that is. Why has not one of our in-service training days taught us something really useful, like how to repair a photocopier in an emergency? I frantically transcribe 30 worksheets in time for period 1, then jettison them in a panic, in case my handwriting fails to impress the OFSTED inspector.

I meet him to review my department's handbook. His verdict? "Mostly fine." Mostly fine? Six months of word-processing into the early hours, endless weekends of dispatching kids to Nana's, countless missed episodes of The Simpsons, only to be told that the bloody thing is "mostly fine".

My blood pressure rises as the man admits that he hasn't managed to read my handbook "in depth". So how come he can proffer a detailed list of key omissions?

Tuesday: The queue for the photocopier stretches half-way down the corridor. My lessons this morning are a total disaster. Pupils recoil intermittently as their headsets screech with feedback. I still haven't mastered the language lab, but then I am only the head of department. Luckily, the inspector only appears later. He says at lesson end, "That was fine".

After school, I meet the rest of the department. "How was it for you?" we all ask each other, already dreading the brown envelopes which will contain lesson grades. Despite several busted guts in observed lessons, the inspector's repertoire of valedictory remarks is confirmed to just one: "That was fine."

Wednesday: I join the photocopier queue which has reached the playground. As thinking is becoming increasingly painful, I opt for an off-the-shelf lesson pinched from a primary school teacher, adapted for French and awarded grade one by a highly intelligent, charming inspector during the last OFSTED inspection.

Just as the lesson starts to take off, in walks the inspector. Oh, frabious day! (Copies of the lesson are available, direct from me, pound;50 each.) The rest of the department do really well, too.

Thursday: No photocopier queue today as last night a desperate colleague got a finger caught trying to release a paper jam. The emergency services arrived within minutes to relieve the copier from its misery, instantly inflicting same on its users.

I spend an eternity trying to get disaffected Year 11s into the classroom unnoticed, and am so anxious about my failure to teach them anything in the past four years that I don't spot our visitor.

Amazingly, we have a projectile-free lesson in which my pupils do as I ask. I only notice the inspector when Kelly in the front row leans forward and whispers, "Now can we have those Mars bars you promised us, Miss Owl?" I come clean and share this confidence with the inspector, who asks whether he can have a Mars bar, too.

Friday: It could have been Cryday, but we're weeping mostly tears of joy. The highly intelligent, charming inspector says lots of nice things without mentioning the F-word once.

* Jenny Owl is head of French in a school in the North-west. She writes under a pseudonym

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