Friday, January 21, 2011

Who are we?


The recognition of national characteristics is perilously close to racism, but even the most liberal and right thinking of people can rarely resist the temptation to make sweeping generalizations and think that they are eternal verities.

Such thoughts struck me as I tried to make a substantial dent in the marking that is gradually becoming less of a mountain and more of a gentle foothill.

Due to the paucity of spare rooms the only realistic place to get schoolwork done is in the staff room.  Normally this is a compromise as your colleagues, being teachers are naturally gregarious and that conflicts with the necessity for silence which produces the best work.

If a staff room is a difficult place to work in Britain, it is virtually impossible when the room is in Spain.  Spanish people talk.  They talk a lot.  And they talk at the same time.  Sometimes (rarely) they listen.  Mostly, and loudly, they talk.  And talk.  Loudly.

I marked with my grip on the pen getting ever tighter and my strokes of the nib getting ever more firm.

It was a positive relief to have to go to the other end of the school to do a duty.  The back of the marking is well and truly broken and it only remains for me to enter the marks into the computer.  It means that Monday will be a day in which the next load of marking (two loads actually) will not be an unbearable accretion but rather an irritation which should be dealt with relative ease.  Though “relative” as its name suggest is always, um, relative.

Although cold the day is bright; the sort of wintry day which is bracing rather than depressing.  This is also one of the days in which I seem to spend my time travelling from one of the school to the other so I have an extra intake of the clearer air that comes with the height of the exclusive neighbourhood in which our school is situated.  Hear we breathe a purer air than those dwellers in the rest of the city whose polluted atmosphere we can clearly see from our elevated position.

The clarity of the air gives an almost surrealistic appearance to the city.  Its outlines are usually softened by the gentle smog that blankets the city, but today the buildings are crisp and clear and Montjuic, which can be seen from the staff dining room, seems nearer than usual.  The sea is the sort of clear blue that looks inviting, until you realise that the temperature is somewhat bracing!

The unfortunate effect of this bright view is to emphasise the fact that one would rather be outside looking in than inside looking out.  It makes one count the hours!

In a clear act of spite my head of department marked her 3ESO papers in the time she had spare waiting in school for a meeting yesterday evening.  No one marks papers before I do; it is a sort of unwritten rule in our school.  I only mark them with dispatch because I know that if I don’t do them at once then they will linger and become a looming burden until the actual date when they have to be completed and then they will be marked in a lather of frenzied, hysterical concentration.  I only ever mark in self-defence: never because it is my professional duty!

My only consolation is that my head of department has yet to start marking her share of the mock examinations whereas I have finished my share – almost.

The horror of marking of course is but a prelude to the unimaginable horror of school meetings.  Unfortunately the horror is all too easy to imagine because I have vividly painful memories of previous periods of torture when people with nothing to say didn’t shut up!

But, when all is said and done another week has been worked and that means that there is one less to suffer before the distant Easter holidays.

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