Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The red pen strikes back!

What was true for the younger kids when they were given back their examination papers was as nothing compared to the storm of questions and cavils that greeted me as I gave back the papers to the older pupils.

Eventually I began to question my own grasp of the language and I felt myself drifting back to the old days when, for a period of some minutes, I forgot how to spell ‘because.’

In my own justification I have to say that I had been marking papers for some time in which the perverse ingenuity in finding yet more ways to misspell the word had finally tipped my knowledge of the word in question over the edge and my spelling systems closed down!

The clarity of the advice that I received when I returned to the staff room after the distribution shone through the gloomy day: don’t go through them. Give them back and let them add up the marks. Period.

It is good to be in a staff room where the wisdom of past years distils itself into thoroughly practical self interested saws. It is advice that I shall assuredly follow!

My time in this school is marked by a fairly steep learning curve. My previous abilities in the teaching of English are looked on as a luxury, and the things that I tried to shuffle off into the shadows are now thrown into centre stage with a particularly large and bright spotlight on them.

The head of department is a particularly fine lady who dispenses comfort and sharp, effective solutions without breaking step! Nothing is unsolvable, though she does live on nervous energy. Being callous I have to say that the situation is fine with me as long as the results of her neurosis mean an easier life for me.

Now that I am permanent, various dark threats are looming on the horizon. The most dark and threatening is the possibility of becoming a class teacher. This is something which I really do not want to do. Quite apart from the fact that I always loathed being a form teacher (ah, distance always makes the truth easier to utter) I really would have to see monoglot Spanish speaking parents to talk about their children. And our children are needy as far as attention is concerned. They have ideas of their rights far in excess of their concepts of responsibility and such a mélange of strident egos is not something which appeals to me.

But we shall see what is in store for me in the timetable I am given for next year.

Of course the important element that has my full attention is what my future contract is going to say about the two months of the summer. What I expect is that my present contract will expire at the end of June, and the next one will probably start in September. That means that after my pay for June, I will not be paid again until the end of September. Happy days! At least there is the promise of future cash!

A delight awaited me after the limited horror of a small shop in Lidl: a book placed on top of my mail box!

‘Why not Catch-21?’ by Gary Dexter.

‘Why not Catch-21?’ by Gary Dexter is the book version of the column Dexter writes in the Sunday Telegraph which takes the odd titles of books and looks at the stories behind them. It has a very ugly front cover and an excellent back cover and it is obviously published just for me. My dilettante mind is, even now, lurching towards devouring this book. I am, however, determined to spread out the delight of learning the detail behind the choices for as long as possible.

The front cover shows a very bad drawing of Rodin’s Thinker sitting on a pile of books. The posture of the sculpture does give a very clear indication of where the book should be kept!

I seem to remember ordering a few other books after I had succumbed to the frenzy of ‘one step purchasing’ which means that a single mouse click sends a book to me with the minimum of pondering on that evil Amazon site!

I am finding it hard not to read about a few of the titles in the Dexter book before it is reverently placed in its appointed niche in the reading room.

I will have a cup of tea and decide how many titles I can indulge myself with.

It’s better than marking!
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