What keeps me awake at night - Don't dismiss my sticky situation

15th April 2011 at 01:00

This week: a deputy head at a secondary in the South West.

This may sound a ridiculous thing to worry about. But as I sit here in my classroom, preparing a wall display, one concern is occupying my thoughts: I have nearly run out of Blu-Tack.

Although this may seem trivial to some, I know there are teachers out there who feel the same panic as I did today - that clutching feeling in my chest, the fear in my heart. Silently, I rehearsed the inevitable conversation I would have with the "stock manager":

"Please may I have some more Blu-Tack?"

"Surely you can't have run out?"

"Yes, yes I have."

"What happened to the last batch I gave you?"

(Guilty shrug) "Um ... I've used it."

"It's reuseable you know." (Huff)

"I'm sorry. I don't know what to say, it's just all gone."

"I'll let you off this time, but don't go telling the others."

Many excuses are rehearsed: I've changed six displays in six weeks; I've diligently added all my learning prompts to my working wall; I've put up every poster and school-rule display that I have been asked to; I'm pretty sure Charlie Walker in Year 9 eats the stuff. Yet I know I will be looked at as if I have asked for a pay rise or a golden chair.

It's not just my current school that has Blu-Tack issues. A previous stock manager kept it in a locked cupboard for which she, and only she, had the key. It was widely known that deals could be made and favours granted, with Blu-Tack at the heart of the corruption. I know countless other teachers who buy their own personal supplies just to avoid the confrontation.

Is this how it works in the private sector? I find it hard to picture a city banker making a case for replacing the printer ink, or an estate agent convincing her boss she needs a pen.

If a fairer comparison within the public sector is needed, imagine a nurse and her stock manager:

"Please can I have some more bandages?"

"What happened to the last batch I gave you?"

"I've used them all."

"Of course you have, what a silly question, what else would you do with them? Here are your bandages."

I don't need to point out the contrast between the responsibility teachers have, working with pupils all day, every day, and the lack of trust surrounding the use of stationery. Yes, teacher, you may be answerable for 31 pupils' learning, picking up the pieces during the traumas in their lives, making judgments on their health, monitoring their ups and downs, their highs and lows. But Blu-Tack? No, no, no. You can't be trusted with that.

To tell us what terrifies you or to share the unscripted events that have happened in your classroom, email michael.shaw@tes.co.uk.

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