Monday, March 26, 2012

A bad day.

Milk was the first thing and the final straw.

I cannot pretend that I woke up with any degree of joyful anticipation.  I woke up in the dark and, even though I know that the evenings will be lighter for longer in the future, I resent the hour lost by the changing of the clocks – and it is dark in the mornings.  Again.

So, starting with resentment, I confidently expected this to develop into cold fury as a result of the traditional antics of my fellow drivers but, for once, they were reasonably well behaved.  The simple thought of the forthcoming day however was enough to set my expression fixedly.

The five lessons I teach today have been expanded to six with my participation in project based learning and that, in conjunction with a lunchtime duty means that I will be “engaged” from 8.45 am to 2.45 pm solidly with one mid-morning playtime for a quick cup of tea!  

Six bloody hours virtually non-stop.  Ridiculous!  

Then another period to finish off the day and then immediately after school a vast, rambling, useless meeting.  

I have already warned Toni that my mood is going to be foul at best by the time I eventually get back home.  The only positive element in this catastrophic day that I can see is that I might make it back in something like daylight.

But let us concentrate on the negative.

As I loathe the meetings we have in this school so much I have to ensure that my car is parked as near to the meeting as possible to facilitate my swift egress.  As there are two possible meeting venues in the school which are in buildings separated by a quantity of steps it is important to choose wisely.

I parked as near as I could to the exit of the building where I assumed the meeting would be likely to take place and was rewarded by a newly posted notice giving information that confirmed my suspicions.

I established myself in the staffroom and proceeded to make my start-of-the-day cup of tea.  

And there was no milk.  


The Mark of Cain is a concept that some teachers are very familiar with.  One does not have to commit murder to get it and it is not always visible - but it exists.  

There are those people who go to the photocopier and get photocopies - while there are others of us who go to the photocopier and have to load the bloody thing with paper.  Again.  And again.  It’s the same thing with the communal stapler.  And especially with the milk in this particular staff room.

Many moons ago when I first discovered for the first time and to my utter horror that there was no milk for my cup of tea, I was told that milk was always available in one of the labyrinthine rooms in the internal structure of the building which comprises the original servants’ quarters and work rooms.  

But to find the milk is a walk down two flights of stairs and then through a collection of interconnected rooms to a metal storage unit on which the precious fluid can be found.  And find it I do – on a regular basis.  

I fail to understand why in this staffroom the milk runs out whereas in the other staff room the milk is always there in plenty.  One of the strange but true facts of school life!

Anyway, the lack of milk this morning was tantamount to a personal affront when added to the constant delight that this day promises to offer to a downcast dominie!

So it goes on.  Today, the first day of the last week of term, is also the first day with the new groups that will see me through to the end of the year.

My first class, a new group of the1ESO I was able to dazzle with my origami skills as a way to getting them writing about themselves.  Two minutes before the class started I worked out the folds that I needed to produce a wedge shaped end result which could be opened up sequentially giving a progressive revelation of skills, appearance, ability etc.  The kids loved it and worked solidly throughout the hour with the ultimate accolade of one kid expressing genuine surprise that the time was over at the end of the lesson!  It’s things like that that keep me going!

One girl after writing furiously throughout the lesson asked if she could write about her personality and, in what I think was a truly inspired moment, I told her that she had “jumped the gun” and what she was asking to write was what the last space on the two sided sheet of A4 was left for!  I further improvised that I wanted the kids to take their work home, show it to parents (translating when necessary) and then discuss what the true personality of the child was and fill in the empty space – in a different coloured pen.  

Creative duplicity in things educational at a moment’s notice is one of my specialities!  

A good lesson which I will now write up for future use.

I have told the authorities in the school that I am going on strike on Thursday.  I photocopied the information that Steve (All praise!) from my Union (CCOO) gave me and have distributed it to all members of the English department and to management.  

I now know of two other teachers who are going to take action: one in Primary and the other in Secondary.  It’s something.  Not much, but something!

The most interesting aspect of the action of course will be to see the reaction of colleagues as they realise that one of their own taking action while they are not is an implied condemnation.  Naturally.

What management will do is as predictable as it is shameful.  They will mitigate the effect of the action by collapsing classes and asking other people to take classes.  The information which I have given management makes it perfectly clear than such action is illegal and could be reported to the government as it clearly infringes my constitutional rights to strike.  If the last bit sounds a bit stilted then it is because I am quoting my union friend!  But it is true and the management I hope will take cognizance of such constraints on their possible actions.  Time will certainly tell and I will spend Friday trying to find out exactly what went on during my absence.

The colleague in Australia has not been given supply cover.  The colleague on maternity leave has not been covered by supply until after Easter, so these days leading up to the holiday are simply tough luck on those colleagues left in school.

The obvious response to a General Strike is to close the school – if only on Health & Safety grounds.  But our parents show a marked lack of enthusiasm for looking after their progeny unless they absolutely have to!

There are still three days to go before the Strike and I look forward to machinations worthy of the dear, alas dead, author of “The Prince” who, we will probably find, could have learned a trick or two from the present day employers of modern Spain as our esteemed government leads us proudly back to the good old days of El Caudillo.   Perhaps a little extreme that last thought, but not too far from the truth as the opportunity to “revise” some of the absurd employment laws is grabbed with both opportunistic hands by PP – our present corrupted government.

I suspect that there may be as many as three of us taking action in Secondary!  Believe me this is a breakthrough in rampant militantism and threatens to escalate into . . .  well, let me not lose a sense of proportion, I suppose it is better than nothing or just me.  We’ll have this place turned into a closed shop in no time.  With the emphasis on “no time” I think!

The lesson I was supposed to have with my new group Making Sense of Modern Art was cancelled with no notice and I had to take the whole class who were doing their projects.  And thanks to the new timetable, I had to do two hours with the same year group.

My present mind expanding chore is sitting with a group of 3ESO as they spend extra time on their projects.  This is not really a hardship as trying to bring them back onto the academic road last thing in a “free-ish” day is not something that I particularly want to do and, to make the bad slightly better I am doing the first half of the period and a colleague is going to do the second half giving me time to make my weary way to the other building to the site of the meeting.  But also it is nearer to the car and escape!

There is some sort of timetable for the meeting this evening and it says that the meeting ends at 7.00 pm.  I am taking that as gospel and am inclined to flounce out at the stated time – though I suppose that would look a little studied when you have just told the management that you are going on strike!

I am now fully prepared for the meeting with the only question in my mind whether or not to take in chocolate to give us some necessary energy to get through the imposition.

As a way of keeping sane I have decided to type out my comments as the meeting progresses.  I was almost caught out the last time when the deputy head asked, sweetly, if she could have a copy of my notes.  I had to explain that they were personal.  And so I kept my job!

And yes, if you can remember that far back, I did have to load the photocopier with paper when I went to use it! 
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