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Monday, May 04, 2009

Present hope: future disaster!


A sullen day with resentful, grudging sunshine at best and flat greyness at worst.

With all my holiday reading done and dusted and the seven volumes making a most impressive pile on the table I was able to set my mind to the crossword from the ‘BBC History’ magazine kindly sent to me via email by Paul One.

When the magazine was first published the crossword was of such fiendish complexity asking for minute knowledge from such a variety of historical periods that only the very saddest of historical anorak wearers (or should I say cowl wearers!) would have been able to answer all the clues without cheating. To be able to answer six or seven of the clues was regarded as a major achievement. A further six or seven clues would be discovered by guessing and ‘light’ use of references. The rest were then down to sheer hard book slog or a few finger taps on the internet.

The latest example of the crossword shows the same descent into popularism and surface knowledge that has affected (allegedly) the examinations that kids are taking now. Suffice to say that this crossword used such obvious kings and queens as Alfred, Arthur, Mary and William of Orange. The foreigners were represented by such obvious monarchs as Xerxes; Nilotic civilizations by Nubian; ancient capitals by Nineveh; ancient gods by Leda. With the addition of a few scud missiles, a touch of the magisterial Pevsner and a sunk Lusitania the thing was virtually done. Any historical crossword that doesn’t make me look up at least two or three of the clues is not pulling its weight. OK, I did momentarily manage to confuse two opposing Second World War field marshals and two English kings (in different clues) but it was relatively plain sailing. It is now up to Paul One to match the achievement!

As the weather did not encourage sun gazing I went into Barcelona in a (futile as it turned out) trip to buy some or all of the presents I need to match the mass of anniversaries looming on the immediate horizon. My tramping around the city produced one small frippery for Laura. Period.

To be fair I now have an idea for at least half of the present for Toni’s fairly momentous birthday. When I pointed out to him that it was usually regarded as a birthday of some significance and should be celebrated with due style, I was treated to a short two word rejoinder which seemed to have little to do with the issue at hand!

My short holiday is almost over. It only remains for me to update my CV and draft an all purpose application letter so that I can start the process of educational prostitution to ensure employment next year.

I will ask the head of department if I can quote her as a referee – that should produce some sort of response as everyone (with the exception of the administrative staff proffering me a permanent contract) seem to expect me to be there next year.

I suppose that I have taken a fairly casual indication that I would probably know by the end of last week to be an absolute deadline. This may be true, but as my past experience of dealing with private school has clearly shown, it is far better to be prepared for the self defeating illogicality of private school ‘forward planning’ than to rely on what everyone else expects. Everyone expected me to still be teaching in The School That Sacked Me. Point taken!

Now until the end of June is solid teaching with a variety of internal and external examinations. More importantly it will also be a time of relentlessly improving weather with long hours of sunshine when I will be stuck indoors teaching.

At least I have the rest of the books that I garnered unto myself from the school bookshop on Sant Jordi and I am going to try my damndest to get some of the kids in my classes to try and read some of the books for pleasure.

This is a difficult thing to do in a school where the majority of the pupils are native English speakers. In our school the majority of the pupils are not. For some English is their third or fourth language so they have to be congratulated on the level at which they speak it.

There is an added problem.

As is well known, Judaism, Christianity and Islam are the three great Religions of the Book. The kids in my classes form themselves into the fourth great Religion of the Book as they regard their text books as the most important element in their understanding of the language. Any attempt to deviate from the pattern of exercises and explanations laid down in the English text book is greeted as a major heresy and one is urged to forsake the paths of linguistic dalliance and return to the strait way of The Book.

I (for I, gentle reader, am the false prophet, issuing Devil’s Photocopies of things not necessary for grammatical salvation) have had pupils pleading with me to teach them more grammar and speak to them of the delights of the Conditional in all its forms; charm them with the lofty formality of the passive; stimulate them with the giddy possibilities of relative clauses and revel in the skittish incomprensibility of the phrasal verbs. They are, of course, all mad. Bless!

Now for the CV and letter. And the coming week should give me a clear indication of my future status in the school.

Here’s hoping! (At a salary 20K less than the UK!)
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