Thank God it's summer

11th August 2000 at 01:00
Continuing our peek at a London teacher's diary of last term.

Monday: A bright and breezy start to the week. I welcome to the school a young Asian doctor who has come to talk to sixth-formers about training for medicine. I take her to the staffroom, hoping that somewhere there will be a clean, uncracked mug so I can offer her coffee. As we enter she says, "Oh, I was directed in here earlier but I assumed it was a mistake. I thought that it was the junk room. It was full of broken chairs." "That, madam," I think to myself, "is our furniture."

Tuesday I attended a course today and further developed my command of a version of the English language. We began with some direct interactive engagement (question and answer) before the networking (talking to each other) began. I discovered that our tutor is a literacy consultant (a redundant former teacher). We then proceeded to a scaffolding exercise, before deciding to revisit the content block. Our literacy consultant then introduced us to strands and clusters, neither of which I understood, nor, to use her phrase, did I "have oversight of" them. She then decided to introduce a layered approach within a framework of expectation that involved dovetailing and further direct interactive engagement.

I finally sloped off to get somecoffee and read the newspapers in the hotel lobby. At least I could understand them.

Wednesday A pleasant day at the Science Museum with Year 9. However, not such a pleasant journey back. Stopping at Finsbury Park, the coach driver says that one of the departing children has removed the hammer from the emergency exit, the bleeper will now sound continuously and the coach will not start again until it is replaced. Two girls inform me that Douglas Jones is the culprit and that he will be getting the train from Finsbury Park. I run the quarter of a mile to the station at a moderate trot and arrive just in time to see Douglas get on the train. I shout tothe rail official to hold the train while I gently shepherd Douglas on to the platform where I demand the hammer back. At first he denies any know-ledge and I ask the station official to phone the transport police. Douglas hands over the hammer and I tell him that the head will want to see him in the morning.

Thursday In fact it is me the headteacher wants to see. He has had a phone call from Mrs Jones who says I assaulted her son while violently manhandling him from the train, and that I tore the sleeve on his leather jacket. The head informs me that the Jones's solicitor will be visiting shortly and that he may have to suspend me, "on full pay". I remember the station official, but cannot even recollect clearly what he looks like. After school I drive to Finsbury Park to find my luck is in: I recognise him in the ticket office. I explain the situation and to my relief he not only witnessed the non-assault but will be happy to testify. "The best thing you could have done was shove him under the train," he tells me.

Friday "There's no need for any of that. No need to bother with witnesses. I fixed it with Mrs Jones," the head informs me. "Fixed it?" I ask.

"I've agreed that we will bear the cost of repairing his jacket, and ..."

"And what?" I ask, feeling the blood pounding in my temples.

"We will forget the business about the hammer. It's much simpler that way. It saves a lot of bother."

"Bother for who?" I splutter. "I suppose you've agreed that I will write a letter of apology as well."

"No, that will not be necessary. I managed to persuade Mrs Jones that that would be vindictive. I know that you did not assault the wretched child, but we cannot afford the bad publicity if the local press gets hold of it. We didn't fill all our places last year, and with a new school opening nearby, this sort of thing would just make it all worse."

the author teaches in a northLondon comprehensive

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