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Friday, May 08, 2009


In the normal course of events, and in a kinder world, today would have been spent in bed.

Starting last night or perhaps a day or two earlier, a grumbling sore throat made itself felt. This morning I felt ‘unwell’ suffering from one of those unspecific moods of general ‘not-rightness’.

The Bed of Oblivion, however, had to give way to the Toothbrush of Rectitude and I made my reluctant way into school. Once arrived there one of my colleagues spoke a few cheery words to me to which I croaked a reply. At this she instantly told me to go home, pointing out that was the advice I had given her a few weeks ago when she was not feeling well.

Unfortunately that was not an option. Luckily two classes were having exams and another was watching a film so that (in theory) I could have a fairly gentle supervisory role and sit, a picture of misery, feeling sorry for myself.

As is always the way in schools that rather optimistic timetable did not quite happen but I was able to sit quietly watching the pupils cheat (as they do in all examinations, it is an essential part of the culture of the school) while I sipped water from a plastic cup and tried to look pathetic, doggedly resilient and yet touchingly vulnerable.

While supervising one examination class I was attempting to mark the examination papers of one of the two others which have already sat their exams. Four sets of examination papers really need to be marked this weekend because there is a Grand Gathering of the Clans on Monday when an Academic Inquisition is held whereby Those About to Fail are identified and their status notified to parents.

I would like to think that this was part of the normal function of a school supplying parents with as much information as they require gaining a rounded picture of the progress of their children. What it is actually is a way of safeguarding the school so that they can say ‘told you so’ when the pampered pupils actually do fail and the parents come gunning for the teachers for an explanation of how their perfect progeny could possibly fall below perfection!

Whatever the truth of this exercise it is a harsh truth that the results of the tests that we have inflicted on the kids will need to be available for tutors on Monday – or, as the case with one of the year groups, we can relax because we only have to worry about giving in the results by as late as Tuesday!
And I still don’t feel well.

The highlight of the day was a meeting with the Directora (at the time when I should have been able to leave the school during my ‘early leaving’ as compensation for doing to ‘early starts’ each week.

The meeting came straight to the point with the Directora saying as she was sitting down, “Well, if you are still interested we would like to have you come aboard!” How delightfully old fashioned. Sitting as we were in her office which was probably the elegant, wood panelled study of the old town house which was the base from which the modern school has spread, what she said seemed somehow quite appropriate.

So I am now, on the basis of a handshake rather than the rather more solid reality of a signed contract, a permanent member of staff of my school, and for a few minutes we smiled and said nice things about and to each other.

It also appears that the usually dilatory Education Ministry in Madrid is about to give me the certification that officially recognizes my qualifications and officially allows me to teach in Spain. The school has a personal link with the education office which is why my papers seem to have been processed with what, in Spanish terms, seems almost indecent haste!

The celebration of my new status was drunk in fizzy water and I had to drag myself to the table to get on with the marking of at least some of the examination papers.

I have now finished two sets of papers and feel like some sort of mythical hero having slain two multi-talloned beasts, but also uneasily aware that more substantial opponents are lurking in my briefcase awaiting the slashes of my red pen. And then there is the putting of all the results in the format which I have established for myself – but as that is playing with the computer it doesn’t really count as work. Also, there is the real advantage when the results are finally presented in Excel that they look so official and convincing that I almost believe they mean something!

Tomorrow Terrassa and The Three Birthdays. Presents have generally been bought and the more difficult ones wrapped in stolen wrapping paper from Toys r Us – though I did ask before I took it!

It is already too late to have an early night, but I had better make the most of what is left of the hours before tomorrow to hope that time will sweep away the residual irritation of illness.

To have to mark is bad enough, but to be unwell at the same time smacks of the worst excesses of Victorian sentimental novels.

I’d rather be in a Rider Haggard sort of frame of mind and then I would be able to see the marking as part of my Imperial Duty, by gad!

And so, very much, to bed.
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