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Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Put it down to fatigue!

Is it a comforting sign of residual professionalism that one can tell when one has been teaching appallingly badly?  I sincerely hope so because yesterday was a day when a short film could have been made about me entitled “How Not To Do It” in the teaching profession.

I was tired and resentful at the early start of the day and the heady descent to the depths of technical and intellectual incompetence culminated in truly awful Media Studies lessons which drew a long day to a sad end.

The day did not end with the end of lessons, as I had to write an exercise for one of the next series of examinations which are the icing on the cake of this glorious term!

This morning I was greeted by a serious faced colleague who told me that he had bad news; I was being searched for to take a substitution.  As I was not officially supposed to be in school at that time, indeed I was half an hour early for the official starting time of school, I immediately lost my temper.  As it happened I could have saved my energy as no one said anything to me and I didn’t say anything to any member of management who might have been able to do something about it!

I also had to work before my official start time anyway when the content of the exam for the 3ESO was discovered to use words and phrases that we had not said were in the exam.  In our school this gives rise to bitter recriminations which make Emil Zola’s “J’accuse” look like a gentle reprimand!
 
This meant that I had to write yet another exercise for the exam this time using “Phrases using the word ‘end.’”  Teaching English as a foreign language is a bit like finding that First Aid in English has come back from the grave and this time is it personal and grammatical.  If our kids are at a loose end they can find themselves ending up putting phrases on end and in the end producing passable English; which might help them make ends meet.  You see how sad I have become!

The poor kids of the 1ESO are, as I type, busily and neurotically filling in their examination papers.  This will be the first of the exams that I will have to mark before the end of term.  The second will be tomorrow and that will have to be out of the way well before the end of term.  I am sure as hell not taking with me on holiday!  Which I might add is in seven and a half days – and counting.

My new (Stewart recommended) book has arrived and, in spite of my determination to reserve this book for the sands of Grand Canaria, I have read the first of the twelve novels contained in the volume.

I do not blame my legendary lack of restraint for this indulgence, but rather the arrival of a new, and of course expensive, reading light.  This is a floor standing Alex light which, I am assured, is perfect for the more mature reader.  I have to say that it does what it say on the tin – or in this case on the elegantly expansive cardboard box in which it came.

I have been told that where I have placed it is (obviously) wrong and I confidently expect the writhing, seething, pullulating mass of wires which surround my chair (giving it the look of imperfectly formed nest) will have been “re-arranged” and “tidied”.  I dread the result!

I consider book lovers to form a distinct (and of course higher) branch on the evolutionary tree – but they can be difficult for the lesser breeds without the book to understand.

For a Book Lover it is essential for books to be within reach at all times and in all places.  The ideal is to have bookcases full to overflowing with tottering piles of books around which one has to navigate to get from place to place.  There should be a system ordering the arrangement of books which only the owner fully understands and even he is subject to surprise when hunting for a specific volume.  Books should be capable of charting a life with specific editions linked to developments in knowledge and income!  Books are the windows of the soul rather than eyes and a much more reliable guide to inner depths!

I have now read the second of Joseph Hansen’s Brandstetter novels (ten to go!) and am thoroughly enjoying them.


They seem to be plot heavy – but that is a function of the detective novel – with a satisfying complexity.  There are some self-conscious pieces of description which the writer obviously enjoyed writing and can sometimes be a little intrusive for the reader, but there are felicities of expression contained in these set pieces which make up for their being spotlighted.

The USP of these novels is that the central detective, in fact an insurance investigator, is gay – and in the two novels so far read homosexuality has played an important part in the plot: I hope that the sexual proclivities of the central characters does not become a predictable element in the explications of the narratives.

Brandstetter himself is developing nicely as a character as parts of his life are being expanded in the sub plot which is his personal life.  The loss of his long-term lover to cancer and his finding of a partner through the ramifications of a case have given a line of development which hopefully will be extended through the remaining novels.

My task is to try and limit my reading so that my intention of taking it on holiday is not negated by my having read all 1200 pages before I go!

Meanwhile, the marking of the examination papers will be something to limit my reading possibilities.

In yet another example of the way in which the children in the school seem to have a power which is out of all proportion to what I regard as normal or professional, an examination has been postponed for a day because the kiddiewinks would otherwise have had two examinations on the same day.  Something not to be contemplated and certainly something which has never, ever happened to me in my academic life.  One wonders what world these pampered children think that they are living in!  I keep telling myself that I don’t really care about what they do in the school – but I do!  Sometimes I have to bring to the front of my mind the sage advice of my colleague, “Remember Stephen, you are not in Britain!”  How true!  How true!

At times, when engrossed in the second novel, “Death Claims” by Joseph Hansen, I dragged my eyes away from the printed page when prompted by the squawks of excitement from Toni as the Barcelona game in the Champions League produced a profusion of goals and an almost certain progression to the next stage and even Manchester have secured a good goal to nil lead in Chelsea’s ground, which promises well for their progression too.  It would be good to have a British team (if only in name rather than in terms of players) in the final in Wembley.  I can’t believe that I am writing such things.  Where will it end!  The wind might change and I could actually start enjoying football!  Perish the thought!

I have already started reading the third novel. 

I am indeed an addict.
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