Wednesday, 27 January 2010


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Saturday, 23 January 2010

"Don't blame yourself, Sir"

4 months to go until the GCSEs. A crucial Parents' Evening. Most of the parents and carers are on form: shouting at their lazy children in front of me in Igbo, Twi, Yoroba, Arabic and Urdu. Threatening to cut off X-Box rights, access to the internet or, and I suspect (though admittedly my Yoroba lets me down at this point) promising a good thrashing if their attitude does not improve.

Up comes CM with her mother. CM, the worst and rudest student in my experience of the school. Who shouts back at me in class, refuses to pick up a pen, encourages other students to misbehave to annoy me and is a fully fledged Lady Chav. The mother, as it soon becomes clear, is painfully afraid of her own daughter.

I extend a welcoming hand, and then hear the most crushing opening gambit from a parent that I could have never even dreamt up:

"Hi, I thought we'd come to hear the bad report from you. I just want to take this opportunity to say that I think we all know that CM will get a U in French and I don't want you to feel responsible or to blame yourself. I've come to apologise and just to say that really."

And this from a parent! What hope is there for the kid if their own mother doesn't think it's worth her daughter studying for her GCSEs?! CM followed up with a prepared comment of her own:
"You hate me and I hate you. So I wouldn't even bother, Sir".
I was stupefied and did nothing for a moment. I struggled for the words to explain to CM that she had grossly overestimated how much her bad behaviour got to me and that far from hating her, and quite in contrast to the pre-emptive forgiveness her mother was offering me, I felt responsible for her French mark and just wanted to help her complete a GCSE.

I'll see if it isn't too late for her to change subject.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Elephant In The Room?

Nothing new to report recently since the snow has disrupted the week so much. Bullish statements from the Senior Management Team early in the week to the effect that the school will weather the storm and remain open whatever the conditions were quickly forgotten: when there are more teachers than students in a school of over a thousand kids there's no point in keeping the place open. So apart from being ticked off by the Principal for throwing snowballs at the few students that did turn up, I have no real news.

It's amazing, though, how little work one accomplishes when not under the cosh.

Here, then, is an anecdote that's been doing the rounds at the school for a while.

The Head of Year 9, Mr S, is a bullish, charismatic, impulsive and unpredictable P.E. teacher who, while his heart is undoubtedly in the right place, is known for speaking without thinking, especially in public. His assemblies are often unintentionally hilarious.

He nearly always picks an entrance song for the students to listen to as they come in and a few years back he asked another teacher to burn him a CD with a song on it. This other teacher duly obliged, but as a joke added another song on the end - Nellie the Elephant.

The students filed in in silence listening to the first track. When nearly all of them were in, Nellie the Elephant came on. Mr S saw this as an opportunity to improvise.

(This isn't word for word. But it could have been.)

Mr S: Calm down, calm down. I know this is Nellie the Elephant, but what can we learn from it? What does this song teach us? I'll tell you what...dreams. It teaches us about dreams. And resilience. It's a song about resilience. Nellie really, really wanted to perform in the circus. It was her dream. And it wasn't easy to get in! So she tried really, really hard. She trained for it and trained for it. And, like the song says, she finally got in to the circus!

So far, so cheesy. Except for one thing:

Nellie the Elephant packed her trunk
And said goodbye to the circus
Off she went with a trumpety-trump
Trump, trump, trump
Nellie the Elephant packed her trunk
And trundled back to the jungle
Off she went with a trumpety-trump
Trump, trump, trump.