Thursday, May 02, 2013

Sun is life!

Third Floor Therapy has somewhat restored my faith in this country and the fact that the “tangle free” element in my new earphones actually works is an added factor in my relative happiness.

I state this because I am typing this in a staff room which is not a factor in my general well being added to which my lessons happen one after another in an unbroken sequence.  The sun, however, is shining and that is what I need to focus on!

While I have done the marking that I am supposed to have done and written the exam paper that was also part of my workload for the day off, I am conscious that I have done nothing practical about what I need to take to the UK with me. 

This is not a variant of the British habit of assuming that any foreign country that you care to name will have none of the necessaries of life and therefore you have to take tea and toothpaste with you otherwise disaster will inevitably ensue.

I have to dig around to find my optical prescription and other bits and pieces which will jump into significance when I get to the rainy shores of my country and will help fill the hours that I am going to spend there.

By the time I have decided on everything that I have to do, my visit is going to take on the look more of a military campaign than a restful trip.

My book of British Short Stories is now well and truly read and I am more than half inclined to get the rest of the volumes in the series to replace the battered versions that lie decaying in my library.  On the other hand that is merely a waste of money and there are, god knows, other areas in which the money can be better spent.

It is a salutary thought that we are now in May and therefore I can write that I will finally be retiring next month.  I know that those words may be greeted with a somewhat ironic chuckle form those who have celebrated a sequence of retirements with me in the past, but this one is different.  Because it is real.

And reality will be that the extra money ceases to dribble into my bank account while the expenses, on the other hand cascade out.  But, as I mentioned before, the sun is shining, so who cares?

Even the music that accompanies my journey to school has improved since I started on the Mercury recordings (Volume II).  These digitally re-mastered recordings have a particular quality of crisp sound that is invigorating to hear especially when the choice of music is demandingly popular.  This morning I wove my way through the suicidal traffic to the jaunty sound of Gershwin.  It was, in fact just that little bit too upbeat for a school day after a day off, if you know what I mean (and all teachers will) and left me feeling paradoxically depressed.

It took a cup of Hammam tea – which is, as I am sure you know, an everyday mixture of green tea, dried dates and rose petals - to get me back on track.  I have been gifted a collection of exotic tea bags by Lydia and it has been a bewildering taste experience going through them.  They are, unfortunately, running out now and so I will soon be back to the quotidian decaffeinated variety.  Which reminds me that these are much cheaper in the UK than they are in our local Carrefour.

The chaos surrounding the proposed introduction and implementation of the iPad in September of this year continues to provoke anger and despair in about equal quantities.  Basic questions are still to be answered and even more fundamental guidelines have yet to be set – and school ends at the end of next month.  God help them all!

Meanwhile we have an examination today.  Gosh!  And another one on the Monday on which I am still in the UK.  And there are more next month which will eventually lead to the final mark.  Whatever that means.  I am becoming increasingly cynical about the “marks out of ten” which seem to define the educational system in this country.  But I have about one month and twenty days more of these things and then I can (O wonderful phrase!) “look back on” education rather than dread one’s personal involvement in it!

The resonant phrase of Adolf the Housepainter has been going through my head recently (especially when I consider the raw material in my classes) – “The future of our country lies in its Youth!”  Now that really is a sobering thought!

My long day’s journey through the morning is about to start and there is the threat of a meeting in the afternoon which I might have to attend.  But even this slog is lightened by the thought that I do manage to get away early and therefore miss the transportation ruck that is parents picking up their kids at the end of school. 

I used to think that it was only in five-a-side football that the human personality was displayed in its starkest colours - but picking kids up in the car at the end of school runs it a close second.  It also gives teachers an explanation for the attitude of the kids: if the parents behave so atrociously you at least have the glimmerings of an excuse for the kids’ own lack of tolerance and courtesy if such are their guidelines for human behaviour!  Or perhaps I am drawing too much from selfish double parking!

For the umpteenth-and-twentieth time I am sitting in front of a class that is sitting an examination. 

This is the only activity in which a normal class in this school remains silent and focussed.  By the time they reach secondary age all of our kids have a default setting for examination into which they click as soon as a paper is put in front of them.  This is the life they know and can relate to.  The ways in which the information is put into their skulls creates all sorts of problems for them, but the tedious way in which it is examined is doggedly accepted by all!

I have now changed classes so that I can get a different view of the top of kids’ heads as they scribble away at what I will have to mark before I go away so that the papers can be given back on the Tuesday when I return.

I could take the papers with me to mark, but I have bad memories of the last holiday I went on where the burden of marking was hanging over me the whole time.  Admittedly I finally completed the marking sitting on a balcony in a decent hotel and overlooking a small cove on the shores of the Med, but I cannot say that it is a particularly happy memory and, let’s face it, sitting in a room in Rumney with the rain falling promises a different level of misery altogether!  Better to get it done and out of the way today!

I will, of course, have a set of papers waiting to be marked when I return on Tuesday.  But that is next week and in the distant future when each new day brings me closer to that magic day in June when everything changes!

An almost full day, taking in a Departmental meeting to round things off.  The implementation of the iPad is still number 1 on the agenda though plans do seem to be a little firmer and help has been announced as the IT teacher has been assigned one period a week when he is the exclusive property of the English Department.  This is a small step, but it is at least in the right direction.

Tomorrow off to the UK, though a fairly late flight means that I will get to Cardiff after midnight and therefore I will be in the UK when my next course officially starts.  I have taken care that I will be fortified with the necessary technology to ensure that I am ready to play a full part in the initial moments of the new enterprise and my work is up and running.  Bring it on!

Meanwhile, as you might have guessed, this typing is the traditional displacement activity as I actively ignore the marking which is sitting in my brief case:

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