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Tools of the trade

"Have you run out of shaving foam?" asks the wife, catching me rubbing my unshaven face in the hall mirror.

"No dear," I reply, "I'm just giving the old triple-blade, tilt-action, stainless steel razor with unique easy-glide skin shield the day off."

The truth is, I'm feeling particularly virile today. The steady depletion of my testosterone levels brought on by advancing years and a surfeit of red wine has been miraculously reversed. I'm more rugged than a rocky outcrop; more macho than a male rhinoceros on Viagra. I may even go to the gym if I can remember where it is.

Not that I can put my new levels of manliness down to any sort of fitness regime. Exercise has played no part whatsoever. Neither have dietary supplements nor the long summer break. The real secret is my new toolkit.

The Mister Handyman 36-Piece Tool Set (#163;24.99 while stocks last) has given me a new lease of life. And it isn't even out of its packaging yet - mainly because I haven't found a tool powerful enough to penetrate the reinforced plastic it came sealed in.

Striding into the kitchen in search of scissors, I feel a bit like Nick Knowles on a DIY SOS assignment. I imagine wearing a hard hat, dungarees and a T-shirt grey with plaster dust. I see myself knocking down walls, ripping up floors, drilling holes and sawing off lengths of skirting board with the relaxed swagger of someone who has practical skills and is not afraid to use them. I am convinced that what separates the men from the boys is all in the toolbox.

But is it? You see, this is not my only toolkit. In my classroom cupboard I have various ones: for teaching maths and science; for teaching grammar, spelling and punctuation; for teaching every subject known to the national curriculum and some that aren't.

But can teacher toolkits really be classed as toolkits at all? Oh they might come in fancy containers that are designed to resemble little tool boxes. They might even have smart carrying handles and special compartmentalised innards. But what prevents them being toolkits is the fact that they don't actually contain tools. When you open them up, there isn't a gadget, gizmo or whatchamacallit in sight. No gleaming steel blades with serrated edges, no wrenches with rubberised chunky grips, no set of purposeful thingamabobs arranged in size order.

A quick survey of my teacher toolkits shows that what they mostly contain is sheets of paper. Some of these have been laminated and colour coded, and some of the stylish graphs, charts and spreadsheets hint at a certain machismo. But the only item remotely resembling a tool in any of them is a CD in a plastic wallet.

Now what I want in my teacher toolkit is something to satisfy my kinaesthetic needs. Something I can hold in my hands and swagger around the classroom with.

"Come here, Ryan, and let me fix your lack of ability with decimals by gently tweakin' your right ear with this here maths wrench. Stand still, Britney, while I just poke this crosshead phonics screwdriver up your left nostril. See this bleedin' great hammer, Brandon? Well it's what we in the teachin' trade refer to as an attention deficit regulator."

Steve Eddison is a key stage 2 teacher at Arbourthorne Community Primary School in Sheffield.

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