Thursday, January 17, 2013

Are the days getting longer?

Today the early morning seems just a little darker than usual and it takes the happy information that at 6.30 am here it is already five degrees warmer than the projected high for Cardiff of a measly two degrees of coldness!

Today the examination season starts in earnest with all the world having to do a Mock Examination (capitals intentional!) so that we can have an overview of all the pupils and make decisions.  What decisions those are, I know not, but they will be significant and meaningful.  Honestly!

Today is also a full day when my last lesson takes me neatly up to the last second of school time and precipitates me directly into the maelstrom of parental egress when double parking is de rigueur and triple parking more than acceptable – especially if this barrier of steel is blocking me in.  But, in theory this hellish experience should only be mine twice a week, and that is just about bearable.  Just.

At the end of that particular day I was totally exhausted; I think that it is a case of the amount of energy I expend being now suited to a more restricted teaching load and, when I actually have to be in the place for the whole day, I feel the my reserves being drained whatever my actual teaching periods are. 

The spacious timetable that I have inherited at the moment is perhaps the only one which makes this extra-retirement jaunt possible.  As all teachers know just being in a school is exhausting, let alone being there and having to teach!

Consequently I should be able to make a trip to Terrassa today to get rid of the wildly expensive chocolates bought as an extravagance to repay the munificence of the Christmas Festivities supplied by The Family, without making tomorrow a total misery as I chase my tiredness debt throughout the day!

We are making our way towards the so-called “White Week” when the majority of the school goes on trips and excursions leaving only a dissatisfied rump in the institution itself.  During this week of truncated days there is a planned programme of instruction on the finer point of the utilization of the iPad in everyday teaching.  I would very much like to join one of these groups, as my knowledge of the details of this machine is strictly limited – and anyway it would give me an opportunity to show off my new ultra-thin keyboard!

As I suspected the management in the school has slightly different ideas.  To be fair, my not having an iPad given to me by the school is because of the perfectly acceptable reason that they are only for those members of staff who are teaching the first years next September.  As I have asked various people to do the right thing and shoot me if I show up in September 2013 it follows that I will not be teaching the fresh-faced youngsters when they eagerly flock to their new classrooms clutching their shiny iPads.

However, I still would welcome more instruction – even if my machine of choice is the MacBook Air!

I have approached the appropriate member of staff and have been given the disturbing news that they have “other plans” for me and that might mean doing some sort of “drama” with “primary.”  All of this is disconcerting and may well mean that I actually end up doing more teaching during a week of half days than I would in a so-called normal week!

I have now watched the 1951 film version of “The Tales of Hoffmann” twice and certain of the musical pieces are beginning to grow on me.  The Internet is awash with versions of the Barcarole, but as that is the one piece of the music that I knew before I listened to the whole opera, it is also the least useful in getting to know the music which I didn’t know.

The opera itself is, I feel, deeply flawed.  Not only is the score unfinished it is also basically three one-act operas stitched together with a flimsy connecting narrative.  I look forward to a production which makes sense of the disparate elements with wit and verve.

The singing is taxing too with Olympia’s song calling for coloratura of a high (!) level.  I look forward to my first live performance with great anticipation.  I only hope that it is justified.  Certainly at the price that I am paying for a seat!

So, as the recurring story of my life in this place, I am now in front of a class of students who are all set out in regimented lines and they are doing the first of two examinations which will fill in their day.  Given the amount of time that they spend in tests, it's amazing that we ever have time to teach them anything!

The Mock Examinations for the entire school are, of course supplemented by the day-to-day tests that are the life blood of the institution and a whole series of examinations for those who failed the last set of tests and, within a week or so we will have the tests to check that what we have learned in the vast length of time from the 8th of January when term started until now, some nine days later has firmly lodged in the hapless pupils’ minds.  It is truly at times like this that sunny June seems eons away from the plodding present!

Still, I have an unexpected free next period and then a single lesson to teach and I can escape. 

Not too bad a prospect! 

Even if lunch is going to be a little late today.

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