Thursday, January 10, 2013

Terms of education

Here we are again!  

Siting in front of a class of students busily guessing their way through a multi-choice exam paper while I study my timetable for the day here in my local English language school and shudder at the thought of what looks like four straight periods with the same mixed history and chemistry year 13 class.

My continuing failed retirement takes a new turn at the start of this new term and New Year.  I was scheduled to spend the rest of this truncated week in my local school covering for a colleague who has left and has not yet been replaced.  However, mu old school has also contacted me (yesterday) and informed me that the colleague who was supposed to have come back rom an extended sick leave was doing no such thing and that my services (on a strictly time-limited basis, honestly) were required.

Cynical as I am, I can appreciate the quandary for the head of English who is looking to provide some degree of continuity for pupils who have had a pretty disrupted term during the major teaching period of the year.  And my appreciation was made more pointed by the fact that the head of department actually appealed to my past experience to increase the guilt element in her discourse that she felt could influence my teaching choices.

The end result of my conversation with her is still being worked out, but it could result in my returning to the School on the Hill.  Not for the first time since I ostensibly left!

There is also a cunning plan yeastily stirring in the recesses of my New Year brain, but I will have to wait until further into the day to find out if I can take my strategy to the next level.

I have to admit that it seems unlikely because not only the teacher for whom I am covering, but also another colleague failed to turn up today.  This means that there is even more pressure on the supply list and my suggestion is unlikely to be taken up by the head of secondary, in which case things are back to where they were before the head of English from the School on the Hill phoned me.

For the first time I was awoken (well, that is not strictly true, I was wide awake well before the time that the alarm was supposed to go off, so it might be more strictly true to say that “I was prompted to action”) by the alarm of the new iPhone.  The rising melodic harp-like notes were less instantly hateful than the single alarm that I could find on the other phone.  Though it is probably true that I will come to hate this melody in the same way and to the same extent as the other as soon as it drags me from comfortable dreams!

It may be purely psychological, but I am responding far better to this new phone than I ever did to the other.  This is obviously partially psychological because some of the disadvantages of the new machine are patently obvious – the most glaring being the way that information is inputted.  The Android machine used the sweep finger approach to typing which I found frighteningly accurate.  My fingers are rather too spatulate for the small “keys” on the iPhone screen and turning the thing sideways does not seem to increase the size of the keyboard.

I am using iTunes to transfer the music and amazingly the Apple earphones seem to be an appreciable step forward in technology and easy of use.  They actually work well and are comfortable to wear – certainly compared with the previous versions.

The saddest thing about the iPhone is that the unique power plug’s reversibility is an actual selling point!  And had a round of applause at the launch!

It is light and slim and all the other features seem to work in very much the same way as on the Android phone.  My texts and emails do work more easily on the iPhone and the quality of the screen is excellent in the way it reproduces pictures.  But is it worth the money?  Almost certainly not.  Am I resentful of the amount of money I paid for it?  Probably.  Am I happy?  Yes.  I am one of the saddos who think that being fully Mac-ed or Appl-ed is a good and wholesome thing.

I have just had a History lesson where the kids had just started work on William I or William the Bastard and the way in which he was attempting to wrest control from the English (whoever they were at this time) and establish his dynasty.  It was a delight to talk about something about which I knew at least something.  Solubility product KSp is only going to get me so far in Chemistry at year 13 level!

And now I am back in the School on the Hill.  Reasons too complex and guilt complexes too deep have ensured this transition and now I am back in harness and all things are as they were.  Some people have taken my continuing presence in the place so much for granted that they have not even realized that I shouldn’t be here!  Taken for granted – and at my age too!  Such is life! 

I am not sure if I have done the right thing.  From the point of view of the pupils then I am certainly to be credited with putting their concerns within the outer limit of my ambit of thought, but to commit myself to staying here until June is perhaps beyond the call of duty.  Though, as one should never forget, I am, after all, paid for my selfless devotion.  Not enough, but still, paid.

My colleagues have greeted my reappearance with weary disbelief and they put down my presence to a lack in my own motivation towards a life free of school.  There might be an element of reality in their dismissive evaluation!

For example, I took a “Drama” class this morning and broached the topic of script writing with them.  A few simple exercises and they were writing with a fluency and delight which showed that the few basic tips that I gave them were fully assimilated and had become part of their writing strategies!  Such observable progress in a matter of minutes is one of the great delights of teaching.  Perhaps that sort of thing is more akin to a drug than to professionalism – or perhaps one produces the other!

I should remind myself that I have been here for less than one day and I am looking forward to staying here for the next six months.  God, that has a sobering ring to it!

Meanwhile I am looking forward to my final lesson of the day which is also the last period of the day.  This is very poor planning and gives me no opportunity to slope off.  A process which I fully intend to make a characteristic of my remaining time in this school!

The non-delivering delivery service allegedly made an abortive attempt to get my goods to me in the morning which means that I had to go into town to reclaim my stuff: a new (old) set of Sibelius symphonies with bits and pieces and an amazing EMI set of Twentieth Century Music comprising 16 discs of music in roughly chronological order which I am busily feeding into the iMac so that I can listen while I work on my OU stuff.  Disappointingly the upload rate for iTunes is not great and it takes an inordinate time to get the music electronically available.  But I am sure that it will be worth the effort.  Eventually.  I have only listened to part of the set, but at least with EMI you can relax about recording quality.

The Berglund Sibelius seems to be an idiosyncratic view of the pieces, at least from a listening to two of the symphonies with his tempos being on the slow side, though it does bring out different textures from the orchestra than I am used to hearing – whether I like his view of the pieces I have not yet decided, but they are certainly food for thought and it will be interesting to compare in a more immediate way when the whole of my collection of Sibelius is on the computer and only a click away from hearing.

I am now in my second day of the rest of the school year.  And still thinking about what I have said that I will do.  The sense of my actions will perhaps be clearer when I have yet another leaving party in the summer. 

It’s something to look forward to!

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