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Monday, June 08, 2009

To do the impossible . . .


Utilizing all available windows of opportunity afforded by the chaotic timetable of the examination ravaged institution in which I work, a reasonable amount of marking was completed today.

It is all mounting up and I do not see how it is all going to be completed by the school imposed deadline when all the results have to be fed into the computer. In the deathless words of one colleague, “No matter how unreal it all looks, it will be done because it has to be done and there is no alternative to it not being done.” I bow to the inevitability of such cogently expressed logic and feel strangely calm.

To those of you who aver that I could be marking now rather than typing, I merely adduce the experience of teaching and state that to do something unpalatable you have to prepare by doing something you want to do. Or you could merely look on this as some form of displacement activity – which I would maintain is what I was saying in the first place!

At its best all that can be heard in the staff rooms is the swish of stapled pages being turned over and the scratch of pens on margins. I said “at its best” because that is not what usually happens.

There are distinct differences between the staff room in Building 1 and that in Building 4. Building 1 is the original starting point of the school: the elegant town house on the hill built in the traditional form of a masia. Along the first floor side of the building with the spectacular view of Barcelona are located the Directora’s room; the ‘library’ and the staff room. The ‘library’ was, presumably, at one time the dining room with the two other rooms created by folding glass doors. These doors are still there, but are now regarded as permanent fixtures rather than temporary.

Building 1’s staff room has elegant wood panelling and some remarkable floor-to-ceiling glass fronted cupboards. The usual debris of teaching drags the room down to the mundane but if you look you can still see the faded glory that was once the basis for the house.

The atmosphere here is restrained and with the access to the balcony, civilized.

By contrast the harsh modernity of the staff room in Building 4 seems to encourage a more aggressive tension where the only wood is found in the commodious chipboard lockers that are provided for staff. Here the phone never ceases to ring and pupils to knock on the door. The photocopier is in another room and the provision of computers is laughably inadequate. But it’s the talking that is most difficult to cope with.

When I am confronted with marking then my attention span makes Homer Simpson look like Simon Stylites. I have never been noted for my inability to participate in a conversation but it is the Spanish version of conversation that defeats and depresses me.

Although it is a shameful generalization bordering on the racist I have to say that Spanish people do not listen. As they do not listen it therefore follows that they do not need to pause when someone else is talking. You therefore get all participants in a Spanish conversation talking at the same time. When you are in an enclosed modern space, bounded by glass metal and reflective surfaces, such a cacophony is almost unbearable. Add to this the need that Spanish people find to yell down telephones and a sort of audio hell is created in the very place where you need some silence to foster concentration.

One wouldn’t mind if the simultaneous conversations cut the talking time in half, but this, surprisingly does not occur! It is only the fact that my precious permanent contract is tantalizingly out of reach in the distant month of September that stays my mouth and hands from suggesting that interchange rather than overlay is the most expeditious way to facilitate communication!

I am sure that every day is going to provide some ‘New House Related Thought For The Day.’

Today’s thought concerns access to the house. The house has a large front gate covered with that sort of rough twig-like carpet which is used to restrict the hoi-polloi from gazing into the houses of those who dwell near the sea. The gate opens to reveal a driveway large enough to park a couple of cars.

Herein lies the problem. In Spain the mere fact that you have a gate and a driveway large enough to park a couple of cars does not mean that your average Spanish seaside visitor will not park across the entry to your property denying you access. This is quite legal if totally selfish. If you live within spitting distance of the beach then every (and I mean every) reasonable (and unreasonable) inch of pavement, road and gateway will be used.

The only way to ensure that you have access is to apply to the local government and have an official sigh erected on your gateway which ensures that no one will park there. This is not a service provided for nothing; it is something that will cost you. As a mere renter of the property I cannot get this sign, it has to be done by the proprietor. Another hurdle to be surmounted. I have at least found out what it should cost. One goes on from here.

I can no longer delay the categorical imperative: I have to mark.

Pray for me!
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