Tuesday, January 25, 2011


There is no substitute for having your own teaching room.

In our school (apart from gym, art and science) the teachers go to the children rather than vice versa.  This makes everything much more difficult.  We are supposed to be using technology in our teaching, but only the most naïf of teachers relies on equipment working when someone else has been using it just before you.  And it’s worse if they haven’t been using it because then it has to be set up and it is a golden rule of life in the classroom that problems multiply with an inverse relationship to the complexity of the technology employed.
God knows it was difficult enough in the days of the spirit duplicator.  Teachers wandering around with beatific smiles on their faces and trailing behind them the slightly antiseptic scent of the alcohol heavy liquid used to transfer the image to paper with this method of reproduction. 

What wonderful ideas the term “Spirit Duplication” raises in the mind: illicit experimentation in producing a clone of the soul; unlimited booze or perhaps the general spreading of zest for living.  How banal the reality: smudged images and print on unpleasant paper.

Then the Roneo machine; that voracious eater of paper.  I once left a Roneo machine unattended as I had a vast number of copies to produce.  While I was absent a piece of paper concertinaed and each succeeding sheet concertinaed in turn, with the result when I opened the door to the room on my return I was met by a paper flow of biblical proportions!  Luckily I was able to find plastic sacks and dispose of the evidence before anyone found out.

Luckily in that instance the Roneo “skin” was not damaged and I was able to print out the full run that I needed without too much further fuss!

My great discovery was to find out that there were special books, which could store the skins for re-use.  After careful cleaning off the ink from the skin it could be placed in the “book” on a numbered page and then catalogued.  I eventually had quite a collection of these books representing a monumental quantity of work.

Then came the photocopier.  The first one I came into contact with lived in a portacabin of its own and was tended by a deputy head who understood the mysteries of its use.  The primitive system that it adopted was akin to photography with positive and negative sheets of paper that had to be peeled apart leaving a grey image on shiny paper that sent shivers of disgust down your spine every time you touched it.  Even thinking about it is creating the old reaction and I am shuddering with what can only be partially explained by the cold!

Xerox was a revelation.  A massive machine that produced single copies in black and white.  If you were lucky.  These machines had “key holders” who were able to get inside and sort out the inevitable paper jams.  Mere “users” could only load the paper – always remembering to “fan” the ream before insertion for gnomic reasons never divulged.  I always assumed it was simply a propitiatory ritual to the paper gods who always had to be appeased.

And Xerox was the harbinger of the modern age of school technology.  The BBC-B computer; Sinclair and the QL; my first Apple; my Fall from Grace and turning to the Dark Side of PC ownership and the torment of Windows in its most tortuous form, through a multitude of increasingly powerful computers - which I continued to use as if they were typewriters with attitude – to the present day and The Machine.
Then there were the OHPs. for many teachers the last piece of “hi-tec” equipment that they knew how to work and knew how it worked.

I must have been one of the few teachers who used an OHP in his student teacher days and went on using one throughout his career.  For dependability, easy of use and effectiveness for money I still think that OHPs cannot be beaten.  I am not so Luddite that I do not recognize the amazing capabilities of computers; but in the classroom they so often go wrong that they are a positive liability.  Whereas the old OHP just goes on and on – and I had one which had a built in spare blub which came into play at the movement of a simple lever!

But the idea of carting one around (even the so called portable version) from classroom to classroom is guaranteed misery.  You have to have a base.  Preparation of material and its presentation is so much easier if you don’t have to take everything with you at the end of each lesson.  Space is at a premium; my cupboard in the staffroom is full and claiming a space on the two tables for personal work is sometimes difficult.  There is no space for silent work and piercing, female Catalan voices can cut through the keenest concentration!

Meanwhile the loading of Mozart into The Machine continues apace with the only problem being the finding of the music when it is locked in the electronic innards.  However much I scoff, I think that the only solution to find some of my favourite pieces is going to be learning the K numbers!  Soon I will be able to listen to Radio 3 without feeling like an imposter!

I am, at present listening to K 525, the Serenade No 13 in G, which is not the title by which I knew it when I listened to it on my EP.  I was always losing it because it was a different size to the LPs and was engulfed by them.  The version I am listening to now is by the Kurpfälzisches Kammerorchester Mannheim conducted by Florian Heyerick (neither of which I have heard of) but a very sprightly version it is; perhaps a little too sprightly for me, but energetic certainly.

I am thoroughly enjoying my forays into the more obscure (are there any?) corners of Mozart’s music and have listened with condescending amazement to the early symphonies and various odd pieces that I have never heard before and, to be truthful, probably will never hear again!

I am almost 25% of the way through loading the discs into The Machine and I am now listening to K 250, which I feel I should know, but I don’t.  I think that I am going to find that a lot in my future listening – and not only to Mozart!
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