"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

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Lost for words: an encounter with Tourette's Boy.

I am no longer a Yr 10 Form Tutor. Mrs. Ali has returned but I agree to stay with her for a few days so that she can settle back in with them.

("But Sir, we'd rather have you.")

Look everyone, it's Mrs. Ali!



"It's great to be back. I HAVE missed you all."


We attempt the form quiz. I don't have the courage to tell her how we've been cheating blatantly since she went on maternity leave. Strangely she found google within two minutes of no one knowing who wrote Gulliver's Travels. Funny that.

Look, just copy from Chloe will you.

"I'm not copying from her. She writes like she's got Downs Syndrome."

Talking of syndromes, I've not seen much of Ummar recently. He seems to spend a lot of time in isolation for various offences. This is the boy with Tourette's Syndrome and I really hope he isn't getting into bother for things outside his control. The last time he was in my class he was wound up by some silly and totally uncompassionate behaviour from others in the class. I've tried appealing to their better natures but that, of course, is a waste of time because, being teenagers, they don't have better natures.

Geography Pete tells me that it's a nightmare in form time if Ummar is agitated.

"I'm standing at the front trying to give out notices and Ummar's interjecting in full tourette's mode, the other kids are trying to hold it together - and failing spectacularly - and I'm thinking "What the Fuck ...?"

So it's contageous then?


How long does this have to go on before the kids just accept it as part of Ummar and stop reacting? When you can ice-skate in Hell, I guess!

In class I try to shield him from the worst.

Don't wind him up. Leave him alone.

"But he's winding us up."

Yes but he can't help it. Just ignore it and get on with your work. I am not prepared to discuss Ummar's medical condition with others in the class in front of him but someone needs to have that conversation with the rest of his class. Mental note: as Yr 9. are taught in form groups for R.S. perhaps his Form Tutor or Head of Year needs to bite the bullet on this one.

At the end of the school day I came upon Ummar standing outside Mrs. George's room. To be more precise I became aware of Ummar from some distance down the corridor.

"FUCK! ..... Sir, have you ...FUCK ...seen Mrs. George?"

No Ummar ....


......Is it important?

What with me being perceptive and all, I sense that Ummar is somewhat agitated.

"FUCK! I'm on detention Sir and she told me to .. FUCK! ... meet her here."

I think I may be in touch with my inner child because I have a strong desire to giggle. Nevertheless I remain inscrutable.

O.K ....


......she's probably on bus duty and'll be along in a minute. I think ...


............... she'll be disappointed if you've not waited so I think you should hang on. O.K?

"O.K. FUCK!"

I meander away feeling I've handled the situation pretty well.


Don't look back.

Monday, March 26, 2012


I think it must be a sign of the economic times: tomorrow I am part of an interview panel. We have one job for a mainscale R.S. teacher and have shortlisted four candidates. From forty three applicants. Forty three. Yes, that's right, forty three. Seven years ago, when we appointed Mrs. Singh, she was the only applicant (which made shortlisting pretty easy) and she turned out to be pretty darned good.

Never having seen that many applications in one go before, I found the process rather daunting but what I found particularly intriguing was the phenomenon of a significant number of candidates having a completely unrelated degree and an unshakable belief in their ability to teach the subject on the basis of a post-graduate R.S. orientation course which may not have lasted more than a couple of weeks.

There was some pretty awful cutting and pasting too as some generic application letters were badly tailored. One candidate got the name of the school wrong and a couple left clues as to the locale of their previous applications "I have wanted to relocate to Cumbria for some time." which is a shame as the Knowledge College is in West Yorkshire. No lakeside views here amongst the dark satanic mills.

My beloved, who is a university Carrers Advisor, noted that the current good practice is a covering letter of no more that two sides. I was somewhat dismayed by the significant numbers who, unconvinced that they had sold themselves in the first two pages, persevered for five. Apart from the fact that that's on the verge of being rude - I do have a life, after all - if you've not made an impact in the first two paragraphs you might well be flogging a dead horse by page five.

I was desparate to be fair but I must confess that some applications were simply irritating. I made a point of asking candidates to address the "But it's only R.S. issue." Almost everyone ducked it. Instead I got applications that seemed to work on the "everything I've ever heard about R.S." model and the "In my last school I ...." model. Someone whose application was littered with spelling and gramatical errors has had the temerity to demand to know why he wasn't short-listed.

"I have a degree in American Studies/Theatre Studies/Ancient Icelandic/Law. (Delete as appropriate.) Interview me. It's only R.S. How hard can it be?"

Monday, March 19, 2012

Saying no to the Anglican Covenant

Staying calm in the face of teenage idiocy

My Yr 10s had their mock exam on Friday. I have seven Yr 10 groups but I couldn't face starting the marking marathon over the weekend and so I arrived at the Knowledge College this morning with no sense of how they did. That blissful state of affairs continued until the last lesson of the day when I had a bottom set Yr. 10.

"I couldn't do most of the questions on that exam." Sam doesn't look at all bothered. "You didn't teach us half that stuff."

That's right.

Sam looks puzzled which, come to think of it, is Sam's standard look.

I've only taught you this year. Two thirds of the "stuff" on the paper was Yr 9 work and so was taught to you by Mrs. Singh or Miss Wildman.

"You didn't tell us Yr.9 stuff would be on the paper."

Do you remember that orange revision booklet I gave you to take home and work from? It had all the topics in.

"Do you mean this one?"


"I left it in my exercise book."

You don't say.

The general consensus in the class was that they didn't do well.

"I did O.K." Ade is the eternal optimist. He'll have done badly.

"Oh well' it's only a mock. It doesn't matter."

I decide not to bite. On this matter I already sound like a scratched record (a term in these days of C.Ds that no one under twenty understands any more).

You have a real exam on May 31st ...

"You mean that wasn't the real one? We have to do another?

... and this one certainly does count. You can't afford to do badly so as soon as we finish this topic we're going to start revision in class.

I take the register.

"Sir, where's Liam?"

Ah yes, Liam. Liam has some additional learning needs and so took the exam in a small nurture group. This means support staff will have seen what he was writing as he was writing it. This morning his Head of Year met with his Dad and showed him Liam's answer paper. At this point I remained in that state of blissful ignorance which I believe should be available to all teachers via medication on demand and had no idea what had happened.

Liam's in isolation.


No idea I lied. I had, in fact now been shown Liam's answer paper. Question 3b: Outine the reasons someone might give for not believing in God. Liam's answer: "Because it's all a load of bollocks." Question 6b: Outline the First Cause Argument for God's existence. Liam's answer: "What a fucking waste of time this is." And so on. I saw Liam before registration before he was picked up for isolation. He looked sheepish.

You and I are no longer friends.

He looked mortified.

Silly, silly boy. I think we should bring back transportation to the colonies.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Man-flu, righteous umberellas, WWGF do? high disclosing physicists and intimidating Bishops.

I've been off work for three days with man-flu - bravely borne and without fuss, of course. Just a white wine spritzer please. Larry, one of my American friends was unfamiliar with the term. Two of my female friends felt well placed to advise him.

"Man-flu" is the worst kind." June is in her 70s. She is very wise. "Women never have it."

Erika developed the idea. "Man flu can be anything from a slight runny nose right through to a tickly throat and the occasional sneeze. It requires absolute bed-rest, lots of heroic suffering and being looked after. It must be borne with strength and fortitude and one must make sure not to make too much of it."

I think man-flu is a great existential balance because while it is about male stoicism, it is essential to hint at significant suffering.

So: I had uncontrolable shivering and every joint, bone and muscle ached. After three days I also had cabin fever. Isn't day-time T.V. rubbish?

I note from Facebook that Larry now has a sore throat. I've no doubt that this is the onset of man-flu so I'm pleased we were able to put him right.

The problem is that in our house each of us only has a twenty four hour tolerance of other people's illness. For the first day all is sweetness and light. Beyond that, tough shit. You're on your own. Get over it.

I had trouble with the DVD recorder while I was off and was too wooly headed to cope. The answer to all such problems is to ring the mad physcist.

"What-ho shit for brains. Can I ring you back? I'm in the loo. Oh bollocks, I've got shit on my phone." One of the things I love about John is that he likes to keep you very well informed.

I set off for church this morning in the pouring rain with an over-large sports umberella. About a hundred yards from church a passing knob-head decided to drive very fast through a large kerbside puddle. At times like this I should ask What would Jesus do? I don't. It's much more fun to ask What would Giles Fraser do? Or What would George Carey do? This latter one is easy because he would, of course, see it as a direct attack on Christianity in modern society - and outside a church too. My, isn't Christianity being marginalised?

Had the traffic lights been red I have no doubt that my umberella would have left a series of impressive dents (and a shattered windscreen) in said car. As it was he accelerated away leaving me dripping wet and cursing loudly. It was probably a good job I wasn't wearing my dog collar but I did feel I could identify with the righteous indignation of Jesus and can now picture him cleansing the temple with a large sports umberella. I like a bit of muscular Christianity. I could be the military wing of the C. of E.

That's not to say that I necessarily believe that Giles Fraser would beat the living daylights out of the driver, but hey, that aggressive haircut? Enough said.

I spent the first ten minutes standing against a very hot radiator in the vestry, smelling of wet dog and looking, I have to say, rather as if the radiator and I were on far better terms than was absolutely healthy.

Talking of dog collars - good segue, huh? - my Boss related an incident with the Diocesan Bishop. We don't get many episcopal visits in school, in fact I think this was the first. I had been intrigued when the Boss told me the vicar of Wakefield was coming to see him. I should have realised he meant the Bishop. The purpose of this visit was unclear but as we have a local clergyman who keeps going on about church schools, we both suspected that this might have been the clerical agenda. The Boss has been very open to this possibility: "Over my dead body." Yes, that open!

How did it go? I asked the next morning.

"Well.." The Boss had a wicked twinkle in his eye. " ... it was very amusing. Poor Mrs. Fox in reception was dealing with a particularly awkward parent who was becoming spectacularly aggressive about the fact that his daughter's mobile phone had been confiscated. Just as he was reaching a crescendo of cursing he looked around and saw the Bishop standing there, legs firmly planted and an eyebrow raised."

Ah, well, the flash of a purple shirt can often work wonders.

"Purple shirt? Not a bit of it! He was in full papal regalia, mitre, staff of office and all. He never uttered a word but the parent gulped noticeably, put his head down and departed muttering "You've not heard the last of this!" Mrs. George has decided that she'll dress as a nun when dealing with parents from now on."

Comprehensive education is indeed a broad church.