"My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together." “When I hear people say politics and religion don't mix, I wonder what Bible they are reading.” (Archbishop Desmond Tutu)

"And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, and to love kindness and mercy, and to humble yourself and walk humbly with your God?" Micah 6.8

"Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things." Philippians 4.19

"Work out your salvation with fear and trembling." Philippians 2.12

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Have you heard ...? Rumour at the Knowledge College.

Open your ears; for which of you will stop the vent of hearing when loud Rumour speaks? I, from the orient to the drooping west, making the wind my post-horse, still unfold the acts commenced on this ball of earth. Upon my tongues continual slanders ride, the which in every language I pronounce, stuffing the ears of men with false reports. Rumour: Act 1 scene 1, Henry V pt 11.

For those of you less cultured than me - probably most of you - that's a bit of Shakespeare what I performed when I was a member of the National Youth Theatre. (When I was a youth before teenagers were invented.)

But I digress, although 'tis relevant.

At the knowledge college passions are running deep and rumour is rife. You can't go far without coming upon small groups of staff whispering in corners. I doubt that two + two have made four less often at any time in history than at our chalk-face currently.

"I have it on good authority that ...."

"Well, I was told to keep this to myself but...."

"If word gets out that I've told you this ...."

Why the furore?

Well the Knowledge College is going to be reorganised soon as a number of schools are amalgamated. There are a million and one implications of this, most far more important than the current controversy .... which is .... "Where will my classroom be in September? Will I have to move?" And, most importantly of all, "Will I get the West Yorkshire educational equivalent of the Black Hole of Calcutta if I am moved?"

These things, in every conceivable combination and permutation, have occupied our minds of late.

"But you see, If Business Studies moves into the Maths area, then where do Maths go? Answer me that! You wouldn't be so sanguine if it was your classroom they were eyeing up!"

This brings me to the role played by my (soon to be ex-) friend Bill, the Head of Numbers. For some weeks he has been wandering around the building like Banquo's ghost at the feast (Shakespeare again, keep up) throwing open classroom doors at random and shouting over his shoulder,

"This'll do for me."

A number of our colleagues have had, as a consequence, an attack of what the Victorians used to call the vapours.

Of course, if you're a teacher of Resistant Materials (wood and metal work in old money) or Art or if you currently occupy a spacious Drama studio you can probably afford to let it all wash over you but those of us who teach in "normal" classrooms have been feeling a bit vulnerable.

"They have a responsibility to let you know what's happening once they've made a decision. Speculation is the biggest waster of management time you know." my beloved informs me. That may be so, but it's infinately better than marking. But then again, poking one's self repeatedly in the eye with a pencil is infinitely better than marking. (I've just had my Easter break ruined by the marking marathon which is seven sets of Yr 10 mock exams to mark and annotate. That's 7x27 (average group size) = some of the worst drivel its been my misfortune to read in ages. Yes, even worse than The Da Vinci Code: at least that had a happy ending, which is more than what most of my kid's exam results will lead to if they don't get their act together before 31st May when they take the real exam.)

"Got that off your chest?"

Thank you. Yes.

My Faculty - a loose confederation of History, Gegraphy, Sociology and R.S. - has been feeling particularly vulnerable. Mrs Singh has been close to tears on more than one occasion, precipitated by one of Bill's visits.

"I can't bear the prospect of having to move after all this time. I've got everything where I want it." she wails, distraught. "It took us years to establish ourselves here and it could all be swept away.

Ishvinder is more confrontational. "I'm not moving. I'll have a one woman sit-in."

Geography Pete tries to be the adult and keeps reminding us that nothing has been settled, only to find us whispering in corners as soon as his back is turned. Over the Easter break Carol came in to do some catching up and was working in the office - shared by four of us and the occasional, passing student teacher, when a Site-Services Operative (Caretaker to you and me) came in and started to measure up, banging the walls to see which were load-bearing. On our corporate return to school we whispered about whether to tell Mrs. Singh and decided to have some smelling salts ready for when she found out.

"Well, you know what this means?" Elise is a bit of a conspiracy theorist when she's not teaching History. "They're going to knock the office and the store room together to make a new classroom." I am sceptical but am distracted by a slumping sound from Mrs. Singh's corner. Unabashed, and in full flow, Elise continues to express her world view. "You see ...." she names a collection of rooms. " .... Judith and I think they'll all be History - we were in during the break and did a little recce - so you'll lose a Geography room, Pete but you'll keep your room and you'll have Sir's room ....

Hello? I'm still here.

" ... The computer room'll go upstairs into Ishvinder's room and the space it frees up will become your other Geography room. Mrs. Singh'll stay where she is and Sir, Poppy and Ishvinder will be in porta-cabins on the other side of the car park. It's obvious."

Alternatively they could simply be measuring up the office and store room with a view to knocking them together to make a bigger office to accommodate us and some of the new staff.

"Don't be silly. It's gonna be a classroom. Stranger things have already been decided. Music's going into a dining area. The office staff are up in arms because they won't be able to work over all that noise, (although the Music Dept feel the same about the office)."

So where will our workspace be?

"You'll have to work in the staff room."

A little later I think I spy Ishvinder carrying a sleeping bag and flask up to her classroom. Now that request of hers for barbed-wire from departmental capitation makes more sense.

"What's the matter with you? Don't you understand martyrdom? We Sikhs know all about a good fight. Man up!"

I think I'll go and poke pencils in my eyes again.

Update: Elise was right. Poppy, Ishvinder and I are moving to a "modular building". I've been to see it in its current location. We are on the first floor and have a suite of three spaceous classrooms, a staff workroom, toilets and store rooms. We are right on the edge of the empire so it should be quiet with no passing traffic. I will actually have aview and can watch the seasons change. Bill is pleased because Numbers are downstairs so we can have lunch together or I can hide in his office when Ishvinder and Poppy gang up on me!

A result, I think.


  1. It's the same in every institution. Change is destablising and the bosses are bad at keeping everyone up to speed.

  2. Shakespeare doesn't come to mind, but Scripture does:

    And the disciples asked, "How many times must a man forgive, Lord? Seven times?"

    And the Lord replied, "Verily I say unto you, seven times twenty-seven."

  3. Perhaps everyone might need to be forgiven by Mrs. Singh?

  4. This is my sixth year in this institution. I've only once had a dedicated room for working with students; had seven desks in five different staff rooms, two redundancy processes, four switches from F/T to P/T to F/T contracts, six different job descriptions, two departmental reorganisations, four team leaders and eight line managers and a pay cut...today I was told how valued my contribution is but I need to be more flexible.

  5. Well it's not the basement or the attic, so I presume you lucked out, Sir.

  6. Don't hold your breath though. You know how these things can change overnight for no apparent reason at all.