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Monday, September 14, 2009

Here we go again!


I don’t think that I have ever seen swing ball used with such vicious intent to maim as illustrated by the sweet young innocent pupils who entered our school on their first day today.

The ‘safety’ plastic ball on its swinging line was hurled around nearly decapitating the appreciative semi circle of participants who were just out of reach of the deathly radius of the wildly circulating ball. It is surely only a matter of time before one or all of the smiling faces just outside the sweep of the ball will collapse into tears as the dreadful ball does its work.

I had time to observe these activities because I had a gentle introduction to the teaching after a breath-stoppingly horrific drive to school. The entire parental population of Catalonia was out on the roads that I use and taking their gentle, vulnerable sons and daughters to school. The fact that they had a precious cargo did nothing to moderate the awfulness of the driving and it was only because of the sheer pressure of the number of cars travelling in my direction that their suicidal weavings were kept to a merely shocking minimum.

I always have to remind myself that indication by a driver in Catalonia is statement of intent: “my light is flashing I will move in that direction.” It matters nothing that there is another car in the lane into which the driver has indicated his intention to join: he moves. After a while (or two years in my case) I no longer scream imprecations at the completely nonchalant and oblivious driver I simply make space and accept that this is the way things are done here. The only trouble is that I still retain my attitudes from Britain and I do not assume that other drivers will make space. I realise that this confuses some drivers because I have indicated (even though they have shown no inclination to allow me to join the lane) they expect me to move and if I had the courage of my flickering light they would respect my inconsideration. I think it will take a few more years before I full accept the bad manners that are essential to drive competently in Catalonia. When I have full assimilated this new driving style; god help me if and when I next drive in Britain!

As classes were with their form teachers and, at last, I am not a form teacher (Hallelujah!) I had time to get some teaching material together. This is an old habit and not one which is encourage in this school. We have The Text Book and any innovation (like using your own teaching materials) is greeted with and attitude little short of panic by the pupils who see it as a deviance from The True Way and an obvious ploy on the part of the heretic teacher to lessen their chances in the examinations.

I had photocopied the Thurber fable of ‘The Moth and the Star’ and also photocopied some cartoons to use as stimulus material. The kids were interested but bemused and I am now prepared to use the book as soon as possible so that they can settle down into the strict regime of test papers and questions and page after page from the text books. At least we will all know where we are going and they will not have to deal with originality and other distressing concepts which interfere with the passing of exams.

The day was long and I found myself constantly moving from Building 1 to Building 4. They are not absurd distances apart but it is an exhausting climb as the school is built into a fairly steep hill. The way from one building to another is long and arduous and I shudder to think how many steps I have to trudge my way up and down to get from class to class. The school, to be fair, does try and group lessons together in the respective buildings and when you have to change location they try and ensure that there is a break to make the journey possible.

In my timetable this year there are two occasions when I move from one building to another with no allowance made for the changeover. For various reasons the amount of time lost in one of those changeovers is going to be substantial and classes are going to be left unattended. It will be interesting to see how they square the circle with this one because on both occasions there are two members of the department moving at the same time.

Tomorrow I will see the two classes which I did not see today and then I can make an assessment of what the year is going to be like.

I am constantly aware that, if need be, I have just over one calendar year to my official retirement. That fact does give one what might be described as ‘a little boost’ – we will have to see how it works out.

The School That Sacked Me seems to be sinking even deeper in chaos with teachers leaving or threatening to leave. At some time I will have to arrange a Council of War to decide on the next steps against The Owner and All Her Works.

The Culture Club progresses, through confirming a year’s programme in September is not altogether easy.

And it’s raining. Although the storm section of Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony was playing on the radio as I drove home it did not cheer me very much. The idea that I would throw myself into the swimming pool each evening on my return suddenly did not seem such a good idea as the sky was rent with positively Biblical bolts of lightning. To be fair to my adopted country after a downpour there was a grudging period of weak sunshine but as I type there is a syncopated accompaniment of falling raindrops and drips from various overhanging eaves resentfully shedding the unaccustomed rivulets of constant rain.

The weather forecast is dull and depressing for the rest of the week, so expect me to be suicidal by Friday!

And I have a period last thing on Friday with the British equivalent of Year 8.

O Joy!
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