somewhere down in the bowels
of Management Hell.'
Ho for the hols! End of term today, back to reality for a few precious weeks. Le Continent beckons and I cannot resist her siren call. Soon time to hit the road south and put as many miles as possible between ourselves and our home village of Trethickbugga. No you won't find it on the map - it's a made up name. Pity really, but you can't have everything. It's on the outskirts of Smalltown in Midshire (see above).
Alas, today was also time to say goodbye to Tom, my immediate boss of 21 years, and 10 years my senior - the lucky sod's retiring. By far and away one of the most experienced practitioners in his chosen subject, and shamefully overlooked for promotion to a recent senior post. He was duped into applying for the post by the Beak solely in order to create an artificial 'field' of two. Number Two (seems an appropriate pseudonym so I shall stick with it) was some supercilious young pipsqueek with a Phd, a fast track promotion ticket, and no f***ing clue. Just the sort of person the Beak wanted to promote because they would owe their worthless existence to the Beak, and not to any worthwhile teaching experience or long slow climb up the promotion ladder. Niccolo Machiavelli must be nodding approvingly somewhere down in the bowels of Management Hell.
Enough of Number Two, for now.
It's fair to say that mine and Tom's working relationship has been a bit like a successful arranged marriage - we were thrown together by circumstance and were very different personalities but we made it work. The vast majority of the time we've got on well. On a few occasions there's been clashes of style and aspirations and each of us has been guilty of sulking. However, although we've both sometimes grumbled to others we've never had a head on confrontation about anything in over two decades. That's not bad. I've lost count of how many head on confrontations I've had with the Beak since their arrival, but that's another story, and another, and others still to unfold.. You get my drift. We bade Tom goodbye around morning break, gave him his retirement gift, and ate goodbye cake. Later I shook his hand, thanked him and told him I thought the good bit of my career was now over. It was all very brief and male (ie no wailing and gnashing of teeth) but it was sad to think he won't be back. He left a year earlier than planned because of the rising tide of Beak Bullshit. In fact one of the more spectacular morsels of Beak Bullshit is 'a rising tide raises all ships'. Given that the tide rises and falls twice daily I couldn't think of a better metaphor for our state education system, riddled as it is with endless government initiatives and counter initiatives. Similarly, a rising tide doesn't make a sod of difference if the ship is full of holes and sinking. Retiring earlier than planned has become a recurring motif among our more senior staff members - there have been five such cases in the last twelve months, all valued and experienced professionals.
I also bade goodbye to Rick, who's driven into work and back with Tom since time immemorial. Rick is a decent straight down the line guy, in good shape for his age due to his obsession (and impressive competitive performance) with his chosen sport. Unfortunately Rick leads a subject who's performance statistics are of great importance to the Beak, and has thus been put under the steely gaze of internal monitoring and inspection to make sure the stats were right. The pressure did him in - a physically healthy guy taking time off for stress, and buckling under the relentless nose poking, bullying, meddling and half-cocked recommendations of his senior managers. He retired earlier than planned and goes to another job with a lot less pressure. Good luck Rick, and good move. Take my deep envy as read.
As for tables.. in a final burst of term end insanity the Beak declared war on tables in my classroom. (Gollum Mode: Dirty filthy disease ridden tableses - all must die! :End Gollum Mode). Well around half of them anyway. Seriously, half my classroom tables will be removed. My subject involves the use of equipment that is arranged on benches around the room, so where there are no more tables let them use benches instead quoth the Beak. Needless to say I (once again) found myself differing with this latest barking mad Beak edict, committed my numerous thoughts on the topic to e-mail, and fired it up the food chain, but it was predictably vetoed before the apex predator got a sniff of it.
Why must my tables go? Why can my classes no longer all sit facing the front of the room for some parts of my lessons? Two words - group work. Group work is this month's fad in the state education sector. Group work prepares the students for working in teams in the real world of commerce and industry. Group work will be audited on inspection so group work must happen. Everywhere, at all times. That is the Law. Group work is what we see at the supermarket checkout when Kelly-Marie the assistant's barcode reader won't scan the bag of mixed lettuce and she waves it in the air at a nearby supervisor and shouts 'How much is bag of mixed lettuce Doreen?' When Doreen soundlessly mouths 'F**k knows' back at Kelly-Marie that's group work. Vital stuff for oiling the wheels of commerce you see?
Apparently removing tables encourages group work, possibly because the students have to now sit on each others' knees to find table space for their folders. I'm intrigued to know how many tables most go in order to result in the most group work - 50%? 33%? 75%? All of them? What is the magic formula? Only the Beak appears to know the answer, and the Beak gives little away, especially common sense reasoning. As far as I'm concerned the Beak can remove all the tables, and the benches, and the equipment, brick up the windows and disconnect the lights. The resulting pitch black dungeon would be absolutely superb for group work - the students would have to co-operate from the moment they stumbled blindly into the room, simply to avoid tripping over each other. Eventually they could organise search parties to grope around in the dark and see if any work had been left or if the teacher was indeed present in the room. Then they could gather their collected resources to create light and warmth - mobile phones, ciggie lighters, important school letters intended for parents, all would be grist to the group work mill. By the end of the lesson they'd be sitting around a roaring fire of important school letters texting each other by LCD light, smoking and singing community songs to raise their spirits in the interminable gloom. That's real group work so why stop at just the tables?
You couldn't make this up could you?
I know I haven't.
And that is why I blog.