Thursday, March 15, 2012

A day passes . . .

Another exam! 

Hardly an original opening for a school that seems to need examinations in the same way that Cameron needs a presidential smile!  The calm of silently working kids in front of me has the price of mindless marking squeezed in for the rest of the day to ensure that I don’t take examination papers home.  And there is more to come!

The only bright spots are: an extra day on the weekend and my continuing fascination with the car.

For the first time yesterday I drove the thing into the centre of Barcelona and, although the TomTom GPS tried to take me another way to the school I resisted the persuasive tones of the machine and drove the way I usually go, while noting the differences.

The car is of course perfect for city driving because when I stop, it stops and all is silence – except of course for the blaring music of the excellent stereo which keeps me company.  My IPod is connected, and the CD player is a delight as the holding for the GPS swivels out of the way to reveal the slot for the disk!  The radio is tuned to the Classical Music station of Catalan Radio and all is well with the world.

I am mesmerized by the illuminated graphic which shows what is powering the car at any one time.  There is a picture of a battery and a representation of the petrol engine together with a segmented arrow to show where the power is going.  At low speeds and for manoeuvring the battery is drawn on; for more high powered motoring the petrol engine is used - and when the foot is taken off the accelerator the car charges the battery. 

I think I spend more time looking at the symbol and gloating over the fact that my motoring is ecological than looking through the windscreen!

As parking in the centre of Barcelona is impossible except in the extortionate underground car parks, I was able to feel the extra rush of goodness because I was not contributing to the exhaust fumes that are part of the atmosphere in those dark, dank places.  I feel I should have a badge for pure goodness.  Though I would much rather have the €2k that I have been told will be my little present from the Generalitat as an incentive for buying such a low emission car.  And this from a bankrupt authority which has just announced the latest reductions.

The government is proposing to deduct 3% of our total annual salary from the so-called “extra” payment that we get in the summer.  They are, of course, yet again, treating us like kids thinking that we will not notice a delayed chunk of our salaries disappearing noiselessly from our bank accounts.  We will, after all, still have our normal salary to keep us going.

They further propose to deduct 2% of our annual salary from the other “extra” payment at Christmas time.  This is disgusting.

And what is the reaction from my colleagues?  A weary shrug of the shoulders and a sort of what-can-we-expect-given-the-crisis sort of response!

My fury makes me an isolated spot of seething hatred where everyone else has decided that even with wage reductions it is better to have a job than not – and too much open dissatisfaction could lead to that employment being ended.  There is genuine fear about what an employer might do and the unions are largely emasculated and ineffective.

There is a General Strike on the 29th of March and I, a life-long Trade Unionist, Past President of the Cardiff NUT and general right-thinking sort of cove; I am debating what to do.

Clearly there is The Right Action to Take – which with my background I should take instinctively.  But I hesitate.

I hesitate because it is becoming increasingly obvious that if I take action, I will be the only person in the school to take action.  My classes will be collapsed and taken by others and I will have to spend the rest of my time calling colleagues “Scabs!”  And what will be achieved?  A rhetorical and very real question.  The government – local and national – is bust; they do not have the money to pay us and they are certainly not going to reject the easy option of attacking the government employees first in an attempt to balance (ha!) the books.

Spain has a slightly different approach to civil servants to the British.  In Spain there is a class of Functionario which is paid by the government and enjoys various perks that we ordinary folk do not.  The pay, conditions, pensions and employment rights are excellent – far too good for what the government can afford to pay.  There are also the stories of (and I have seen pictures of) vast arrays of empty desks with no people at all indicating the number of “workers” paid for by the government who do not have “real” jobs.

Now I know that civil servants are in the firing line and it is easy to find an office or department where the “work” done is difficult to see but, in Spain, civil servants are also teachers.  Toni’s sister, for example is one and her benefits come through examination and in being placed by the government in a school in which personal choice is only one factor in the eventual position.

So far the salary of funcionarios has been cut by 5%; the present proposals threaten to cut it by a further 5%.

Our problem, in my school is that some of the teachers’ time is paid for by the government and some by the foundation that runs the school.  I am paid with two cheques: one from the Generalitat and the other from the Foundation.  But the cheques do not tally with the amount of teaching time that I do in Secondary (Generalitat paid) and Bachillerato (Foundation paid) so a cut in our salaries is going to be problematic.

Primary and Secondary teachers are paid by the Generalitat so I assume that a global amount is paid to the school on a monthly basis.  I further assume that the cut will be shared equally by all the teachers in the school and that this will be expressed as a percentage less than 5% when the money is finally stolen by the government.

I await with interest the pronouncement of the school.

The end of tomorrow is the start of our long (but not that long) weekend.  We have Monday off.  Then it is nine teaching days to the end of term at long, long last.

Before the end of term we have the results of our attempts to fabricate lessons in the Project Based Learning way.  This has caused ructions with staff moaning and groaning at the extra work that this has entailed.  And indeed it is being done in the wrong way with little concession made for the extra work which is necessary.  Our school seems to want a different way of working but is not prepared to give the timetabled time necessary for it to work properly.

Perhaps we are all simply jaundiced by the term stubbornly refusing to finish and at the same time having to write, set and mark another tranche of examinations added to the implementation of the projects that we have been working on for the past month or so.  All at the wrong time of the year.

Roll on the holidays!
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