When there is no proper substitute for the f-word

14th February 2003 at 00:00
So Mike Kent thinks that the f-word is overused (Friday magazine, January 31).

When, as a headteacher, you have been off ill and have managed to return to school solely to relieve the staffing crisis by pushing your car out of your driveway in the snow for 15 minutes at 7am, to find your desk hidden beneath piles of mail.

Squeeze in to the first day back a teaching slot, an appraisal interview, an urgent meeting with the probationer teacher and two feedback sessions with class teachers on their plans before piling up the real work to take home for the evening, and then find on your desk a plastic ruler in three bits with a note from a teacher demanding to know what action is to be taken with the child who deliberately broke it.

There is no alternative but to mutter in the privacy of your room a response which includes the f-word and "off". Nothing else will do.

When you are informed by a relief teacher that she "only does P2, 3 and 4", and is going home again because you have had the temerity to ask her to take P6 and you will therefore have to cover the class yourself.

And then you are told by the office later in the day that you will have to pay her out of your budget for doing nothing, there is only one appropriate expletive to describe the madness of the situation to your long-suffering family.

Imagine the scenario where a musician and a dancer from Scottish Ballet are all set to run a workshop for pupils in the hall and the teacher comes to report that there is a group gently bending and stretching in the space where you planned to have "The Snowman" flying, albeit in an introductory kind of fashion. The f-word employed in Edvard Munch style is not only to be expected; it is well nigh compulsory.

And when you find that you are lying awake in the middle of the night turning over and over in your head issues such as getting the Good News Board in the corridor up to date.

Wondering if you should defy outright the ICT technician and remove the 14 lower-case keyboards which have been in his room since December and fit them yourself in the computer suite even though you're not sure how, considering whether or not it should be jeans or wacky hair on non-uniform day, then I'm afraid it's going to be the f-word again somewhere in the advice to yourself to "Get a life!"

Joan Fenton

Headteacher

Dyce Primary

Aberdeen

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