"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, May 29, 2012

Summer dressing for men

We have had a long and unseasonally cold spring but now the sun is shining through. I was taking Daughter2 across the city and we started to comment on the summer fashion that was on display. I was, in turns, perplexed, shocked and occasionally, frankly, disgusted by what I saw parading by. A collective madness descends on the British public when the sun comes out and we feel that atavistic compulsion to discard our winter layers and show our sun-starved and pale flesh to the world.

That is not of itself a bad thing but, having travelled extensively around Europe, North, South, East and West in the Summer months, I note a tendency in the British, only matched and occasionally beaten by our American cousins: the journey from winter woollies to summer shorts by passes one significant stop-over - the mirror. The French, the Italians, the Finns and the Estonians do summer in style. We, on the other hand, are the sartorially lost and confused.

When I next change jobs I am going to join the fashion police: as a meterosexual male and misanthrope I offer the following observation of the British male in the sunshine.

* British men and shorts: this is not a marriage made in Heaven. Amongst all the ill dressed tides of humanity that swept past the car was an elderly man clearly wearing the shorts he was issued in 1946 on demob. Another man of indeterminate middle age wore the sort of genitalia defining very short shorts beloved of the 1970s soccer player. One overweight youth was wearing acres of baggy, bold, floral print.

* Varicose veins are not a fashion statement.

* Men who wear sandals with socks - black, brown and dark blue generally, tend to be given a wide berth by mothers with small children: it is an unconscious response designed to protect the young from exposure to evil.

* The wearing of sports gear as leisure wear: it's just lazy. Don't do it guys. Are you on your way to play sport? No, I thought not with that physique and a cigarette in your mouth.

* The wearing of combat camouflage: are you in the armed forces? (You wish.) No, I thought not. See previous response.

* Tattoos: why do we think they're called POLYNESIAN STYLE? (The clue's in the name.) Yes, because they look good on dark-skinned, muscular, Polynesian fishermen and not on skinny, ginger accountants from Wakefield. The upper-arm Celtic ring really did look cool in 1986. Its now 2012 (no, honestly) and its beginning to look like a serious lapse in judgement.

* Unless you've got that physique, shirts should always be worn unless you are within 50m of sea, lake, lido or river. If you do have that physique, cover up anyway. No-one likes a show off. Daughter2 watched one such young man walking through the park. All the time he was within the park's boundaries he was fine: the moment he stepped on to the street he became a dick-head. It's a universal truth.

* Wear only one pattern: shirt, T-shirt or shorts/trousers. Do not mix and match. You'll look like a train wreck.

* That hard-rock T-shirt proclaiming Up Yours Mother-F***er works on a 17 yr old. It does not look edgy on a fifty-something with hair growing out of his ears.

* And that Rolling Stones tour T-shirt 1991: no-one cares.

* Have you seen how much hair you have on your torso? I recognised you from Planet of the Apes.

* As previous. Grey wiry body hair escaping around the neck, belly and arm holes of your T-shirt is singularly unappealing.

* Allow me to introduce you to the concept of the anti-perpirant deodorant in the summer months. You smell and sweat patches are just not cool.

* That slim fitting shirt/T-shirt may have looked good last year. You've had a beer or two since then, no?

* No-one ever needs to see your navel.

* Crocs: don't even start me on that crime against humanity!

* The baseball cap was never cool.

* Look Youth, that woolly-hat-beanie-thingy looked good in January. You just look ridiculous wearing it with a vest top and shorts, right?

* Taupe, beige and pistachio for the over 50s have been banned by the new Coalition government, as has anything with suede inserts.

This is what you do:

* You are allowed to look critically in the mirror.

* You may throw clothes away - especially ones that make you look like a knob and/or no longer fit. Get over it.

* You must go shopping when the summer clothes hit the shops, not once in a decade under sufferance. Take your girlfriend/wife with you. You don't have one? Why am I not surprised?


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Sermon for Pentecost Sunday

I live on the other side of the city. On my first Sunday here I was about 10 minutes late – a source of considerable embarrassment. The quickest distance between two fixed points, my house and St. Big’s is, of course, a straight line, so I looked at the street map of the city and worked out my journey: but it’s not a straight line when you are driving. Now, I’m not a great navigator and my map reading is poor but we now have Sat-Nav, although on that Sunday I'd left it at home and I found myself driving around the streets around here and noting how many churches there are in such a small area – that aren’t St. Big’s. But even when the Sat-Nav is working there’s still a risk that it’s not up to date and you encounter new roads, or roads you are familiar with have become one-way or, where I live, whole swathes of streets have been blocked off for months on end to stop the morning rat-run.
Hold that thought.
In our Gospel this morning, Jesus seems to be talking a lot about leaving his followers - about his death, and the disciples were rather anxious about where they would go when that happened. How could they live? How could they carry on the work of the Kingdom? They’d heard his teaching but how could they remember it all? How could they do it? How could they live in that close relationship with the Father that Jesus obviously had?
The answer is in the promised coming of the Holy Spirit, but that was still to come and at this stage they haven’t fully grasped the implications. In John's gospel, we hear Jesus using an interesting word to describe this third Person of the Trinity. She is called the parakletos - the "Paraclete" (or, as some of the children I teach have been known to call her, the Parakeet, which gives us a whole new set of interesting possibilities). The Greek word simply means someone who is called alongside. Our English translations understand this in a number of ways. She is the Comforter bringing us encouragement and healing. She is the Advocate who pleads our cause with the Father. She is the Counsellor, bringing us advice and guidance. She is the Helper who comes to our aid and, thinking about my lamentable sense of direction, why not our Pilot, our Navigator too?  The Holy Spirit as Sat-Nav?
Yes, I did deliberately use “Her” and “She” instead of “Him” and “He” then. In the creation story of Genesis we read that “the Spirit” - in Hebrew, the RUACH – “of God moved upon the face of the waters.” The Hebrew presents the Ruach in feminine tense, and with female characteristics, an idea that until recently we have lost or ignored, but an idea reclaimed by those wishing to recognise the inclusive nature of God. The Ruach is simply the feminine manifestation of Jehovah of the Old Testament, the Jehovah who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The point is that the one God has made himself known to us in three Persons - the Father, who is the Creator and Sustainer of all things, the Son, by whom all things were made and who came and taught and healed and died and rose again and who is Saviour and Lord, and the Holy Spirit, through whom God works in the life of the believer, applying the finished work of the Son to our lives, bringing about the character of Christ in our lives and fulfilling the mission of Christ through our lives.
It is important to grasp this three-in-oneness by which God is revealed to us if his work in us is to become complete. The Christian life is impossible without the work of the Spirit within us. But the Spirit focuses on the words and work of the Son who is, in the words of the creed, “eternally begotten of the Father”. If we talk about the Spirit with little reference to the Father and the Son, we’ve got things wrong.
Many charismatic Christians place entirely too much emphasis on the Holy Spirit. In fact, the Holy Spirit seems the only part of the triune God some Christians pay attention to in their worship, their preaching and their faith. And these Christians often try to put rules and restrictions on the Spirit: you only possess the Spirit if you have a certain kind of "born again" experience which can lead to a feeling of spiritual superiority, as if to say "I have the Holy Spirit and you don't."
However, many other Christians place entirely too little emphasis on the Holy Spirit. God the Father and Jesus the Son are the only parts of God they pay attention to and they nearly leave the Spirit out altogether. They assume the Holy Spirit is reserved for other people who are blessed with greater spiritual gifts. It's as if they downgrade themselves as second-class Christians.
The point is, you can't know God the Father or Jesus the Son without experiencing the Holy Spirit, yet many Christians have badly neglected the true place of the Holy Spirit.
So, what about the Holy Spirit? What should we say about her on this Pentecost Sunday?
The guidance of our Spirit Sat-Nav will always be in accordance with the road map and that road map is a combination of the teaching of the Bible - and I would argue with more emphasis on the New Covenant than the Old, the tradition of the church, personal revelation and religious experience, our own intellect and our own sense of being open to that same Spirit’s guidance as St. Paul says in his letter to the Phillipians, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” And yes, there are some new dead-ends that don't have a specific mention - and new developments and diversions which throw and confuse us and which change down the ages: the issues that face the church today aren’t always the ones it faced a generation ago and the problems and issues we struggle with today won’t necessarily be the same ones the next generation struggle with.
It's true that when the Holy Spirit first came to the church at Pentecost, She came with signs and wonders. There was the sound of a rushing wind and tongues of fire and people speaking in languages they had never spoken before. Elsewhere in the New Testament, there are other places where the Holy Spirit came with the power of healing or the gift of speaking in tongues.
But, some Christians read those few passages of the New Testament and decide that this is all the Holy Spirit is! There are other places in the New Testament where the Holy Spirit comes with the gift of teaching. Peter and Apollos and Phillip and many others receive the Spirit and begin to teach -- they speak clearly and understandably so that other people may know the gospel. This is a gift of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus calls the Spirit "another Paraclete" (14.16) because, the plan was – and continues to be – that after Jesus’ ascension, the Spirit would take the place of Jesus with the disciples, now as then: to lead us to a deeper knowledge of the gospel truth, and give us the strength and resources needed to enable us to undergo the trials and difficulties we encounter in our personal pilgrimages of discipleship and to develop us daily more into the likeness of God. There are places in the New Testament where the Holy Spirit means patience and strength through trial and suffering. There are places where the Holy Spirit means simply that someone has a solid faith which is an inspiration to others. In some places in the New Testament, the Holy Spirit comes before baptism, and in other places, after baptism. There is simply no way anyone can put limits on the Holy Spirit, who is free because she is part of a sovereign God.
Paul makes this very clear in his famous passage from 1 Corinthians: "There are varieties of gifts," he says, "but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord" (12:4-5). One person has the gift of the wisdom, another has knowledge with which to teach and someone else has the gift of healing. (A long way down at the end of Paul's list is speaking in tongues.) The Holy Spirit, like Jesus, is God's gift of Himself. She is here for everyone and shows herself in many different ways.
When Paul lists the fruits of the Spirit, that we may know where the Holy Spirit is present; he doesn't talk about pride or boastfulness or being sure of your faith or knowing chapter and verse of Scripture. Paul simply says that the signs of the Spirit are these: "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" (Galatians 5:22). Live in these qualities and you live with God and the Holy Spirit lives in you.
Sometimes the Holy Spirit is the quiet strength of a faithful heart and sometimes she is the rush of a mighty wind. But She is here with us: our Comforter, our Counsellor, the Spirit of truth and will never leave us forsaken. God's Holy Spirit will abide with us now and always, even to the end of the age. Amen

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Secret Teacher writes an honest letter home

The Secret Teacher writes a devastatingly honest letter that can never be posted. The letter that can't be sent to your pupils' parents is published here: "I'm part of the this system. And I had to confess"

I only teach your daughter one subject, RE, which she is forced to do and she isn't terribly interested in it. I see her once a week for 50 minutes. As there are 30 other students in the class this means that, if I did nothing else all lesson, I could spend about 100 seconds with her as an individual a week. To teach her, to get to know her, to understand her as a young person. But, as you well know, there are some children in her class who demand much more of my time. This inevitably means that some students will be left with nothing. Unfortunately, that applies to your child. I'll be honest, I haven't held a proper conversation with her in weeks.

I teach 400 children. Slightly more, actually, but we'll call it 400. That means your daughter counts for 0.25% of the children I teach. It is difficult for me to honestly and accurately tell you anything about her, so please forgive me if I speak in vague generalities at parents' evening and try to avoid using your daughter's name. I might have forgotten it.

Read more here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/teacher-network/teacher-blog/2012/may/19/secret-teacher-letter-home

I had to read it three times to be sure it wasn't me!

It is absolutely spot-on. The only gripe I have with it is that it doesn't deal with the divisive issue of the Exam Board's guided hours. For R.S. the guided hours are between 120 and 140 hours, as with all other Humanities subjects. However, in my experience History and Geography get well over the upper limit while R.S. - consigned to 1 lesson a week  -gets considerably less. It is at this point that managers tend to put emphasis on the word "guided", as if teaching well below the minimum is O.K and you are still expected to get the grades, while the teacher puts emphasis on 120-140, as in our teaching time should be somewhere between the two.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Theistic Evolution: a reflection for Compline

24 And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.
26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
27 So God created mankind in his own image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.

(Genesis Chapter 1)

Given the fact of human evolution, here is a good question for a quiet Sunday evening: if we last shared a common ancestor with the chimps between 5-6 million years ago, and humans have been gradually emerging through a series of hominid intermediates ever since, then why did Jesus die? The connection of thought here might not be immediately apparent. But behind the question lies about 1,600 years or more of church history.

Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, the most commanding intellect of all the early leaders of the Church, whose influence, both brilliant and perverse, continues to the present day, is an informative place to start. Augustine believed that the Adam and Eve of the Genesis text were the progenitors of all humankind. When they disobeyed God and were cast out of the Garden of Eden, their sin was then inherited by all succeeding generations: the doctrine of "original sin". Their disobedience became known as the "Fall" (a worked theology not found in the Bible) and Augustine's doctrine of original sin was soon ratified by successive church councils, the Council of Carthage in 418 declaring that human mortality was a consequence of the Fall. The focus of Christ's death on the cross – the Atonement – then became Christ's sacrifice for the sin of Adam, whose disobedience had led to the consequent physical death of all humanity.
If the Augustinian account is correct, then there is clear incompatibility with evolution, in which anatomically modern humans first start appearing in Africa about 200,000 years ago through a process involving countless deaths over thousands of generations.

 So do we then just shrug our shoulders and say "well so much the worse for theology – science wins in the end"? Surprisingly, perhaps, not: nearly 1,500 years before Darwin, Saint Gregory of Nyssa (331-396) taught that the Creation was potential - that God imparted to matter its fundamental laws and properties, but that the objects and completed forms of the Universe then developed gradually, under their own steam, out of primordial chaos: a long way away from the traditional Creation Story of Genesis.

St Gregory, it would seem, is the father of Theistic Evolution, a term that refers to that part of the overall range of beliefs about creation and evolution which sees God creating through evolution: a view generally accepted by the major churches, including the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church and most mainline Protestant churches outside of the United States. American Creationists are not just arguing against an atheistic understanding of the process of evolution but, more generally, against the very possibility of evolution itself. For them, the pre-human world is no older than six literal days. The Earth is incapable of evolutionary development, even in response to a call from the Creator.

The tradition of interpreting the early chapters of Genesis figuratively – as a theological essay, not as science – goes back to two great thinkers from Alexandria: the first-century Jewish philosopher Philo, and the third-century church father Origen. In 248 Origen wrote that Genesis references to Adam are "not so much of one particular individual as of the whole human race". Figurative understandings of the Genesis text have been part of mainstream theology ever since. The literalist viewpoint is a recent phenomonen.

The first mention of Adam in Genesis 1.26-27 is clearly referring to humankind and the definite article in front of Adam in chapters 2 and 3 – "the man" – suggests a representative man, because in Hebrew the definite article is not used for personal names. Eve then becomes the representative woman.

The Genesis narrative tells the story of humankind going their way rather than God's way. On the day that Adam and Eve sin, they do not drop dead but proceed to have a big family, but now alienated from friendship with God in such a way  as to cause spiritual death. Nowhere does the Bible teach that physical death originates with the sin of Adam, nor that sin is inherited from Adam, as Augustine maintained. But the New Testament does teach that humankind stays true to type – all people sin by their own free will – and Christ dies for the sins of all. Christ is the second Adam who opens up the way back to friendship with God through his sacrifice for sin on the cross. The result is the "at-one-ment" that the first Adam – Everyman – is unable to accomplish by his own efforts.

Evolution's gift is a complex brain that endows humanity with free will, enabling personal moral responsibilities towards our neighbour and towards God. We are not puppets. God's gift is forgiveness and new life through Christ for those who realise how far we've fallen from using that free will responsibly.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The pupils have have spoken. I'm just not sure what they said.

In our ongoing cycle of management imposed self-improvement we have reached the stage in the school year when we are encouraged to seek pupil feedback. Someone has found a template evaluation sheet which has been adapted for each subject area. Mine is Religious Studies. The first thing I did was to remove the word "boring" from the list of possible responses: the form was clearly not designed by a teacher. Every child believes every subject is boring: it is a Pavlovian response.

I was gratified to discover that the vast majority of my students believe that I explain things clearly, that I am exciting and interesting to listen to, that my work is well presented and organised, that I am enthusiastic about my subject and that my lesson objectives are clear. There are two questions on the evaluation sheet which have elicited some interesting responses however.
  • What should the teacher do less of?
  • What should the teacher do more of?
Predictably some of my more disaffected students have answered for the first question:
  • Religion
  • God
  • Writing - or in one case," writting".
  • Homework
  • Worksheets: (I don't use worksheets so I wonder where that one has been in his head in my lessons ).
  • Copying from text books: (I tend not to use text books either).
When it came to considering what I should do more of, some pupils clearly saw this as a more general wish-list.
  • Sing
  • Dance
  • Dress as a polar bear
  • Paint yourself green and pretend to be a brocolli.
  • Striptease.
  • Kill .......... (insert name of child who has been getting on your nerves.)
  • French
My lessons from now on will be very interesting.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

School reports, bad tempers and farting.

I read recently of an OFSTED insection of a P.E. lesson which was slated because too many kids were standing about doing nothing. The inspector had to rescind the judgement after having been taken on one side and having it pointed out to him that those kids were fielding.

That tells you all you need to know about OFSTED.

It's been a funny old week at the Knowledge College: tempers have been frayed so thank heavens its a bank holiday weekend. In the build up to exams people feel under a lot of pressure: not most of the kids, obviously - they don't seem to give a stuff, but there is noticeable strain amongst the staff. This week's topic has been report writing with some bad tempered exchanges about to what extent senior managers have the right to edit your comments or demand wholesale rewrites.

"But I don't think it's appropriate to write on a report that a pupil's mock exam result was disasterous."

But it was: three grades below his target grade.

"But its not very positive is it?"

How do you put a positive gloss on three grades below GCSE target?

"But it might demotivate the kids."

The debate continued on and off with the vast majority of colleagues - mainly those who are parents - noting that too many reports are too bland and corporate and that they would wish to know how badly their child was doing in order to offer some remedial support, if only a kick up the arse.

"I'd rather be kick-started into parental action by what might turn out to be an overstatement of the problem than lulled into a false sense of security until it's too late by flowery words." 

Some cynics noted that there even seems to be a fear of being a purveyor of bad news.

"Ah well, if a kids not doing well, who gets the blame? The teacher."

Fortunately at the Knowledge College such spats tend to be short lived, people maintain good relationships and move on and I return to my usual state of happy indifference.

Elise was so disturbed by the low R.S. grades of the kids in her form that she asked them outright if they'd revised for R.S. They hadn't.

Tell me about it.

So does that mean we sanitise reports and who does that help in the end when the kid bombs in your subject?

I can imagine a parent asking why they weren't informed earlier about how bad things were.

"It's odd, isn't it," one colleague noted "We're creatures of habit. When we get a phrase or form of words that works for us, we tend to use it again and again over the years to no management disaprobation or negative parental comeback. Then suddenly it's no longer "appropriate". It begins to feel a bit too much like Big Brother for comfort. And there mustn't be any hint of behaviour issues because that implies you aren't in control in your classroom." I wish I lived in that perfect world where all children behaved all the time and every lesson was an oasis of calm and concentrated learning. If someone would only tip me off where that classroom is ......

Its a discussion that's set to run and run I've no doubt.

My friend Jeff, who teaches Maths, confided last week, "The kids really don't like R.S. you know."

Tell me about it.

"Well some of them do, but most don't. They find it hard. They say there's too much to do in too little time."

As one of my Yr 11s noted recently, "It's only an hour a week. The school doesn't take it seriously, why should we?"

What was interesting is that while this conversation about being positive in our comments about the kids on their reports was going on, Ishvinder had a Yr 10 class which necessitated the attendance of not one but two members of the Senior Management team. Deeply disillusioned by the kids general attitude to both her and R.S. she was, nevertheless, relieved to have been told by both senior staff what she already knew, that the fault did not lie with her.

"What is the matter with Yr 10?" One of the bosses noted, taking a recalcitrant youth straight to isolation for his rudeness to Ishvinder. "They seem to be going off the rails."

This isn't strictly true. Most of our kids are absolutely fine most of the time and many classes are an oasis of calm and purposeful learning. O.K the kids are resistant to revision and this is an issue which will come back to haunt us, but I don't want to give the impression that chaos and anarchy rule. That is absolutely not the case.

But there are toxic classes

This leads me neatly to my Yr 11 Boys Synchronised Farting Team and the joy which is my realisation that I only have one more lesson with them before they fail their exam.

It is Friday period five.

For the last couple of lessons the attendance has been more than usually poor: Adam is in isolation. I ask why. "Because he's a pain in the arse" Amy informs me. This is much as his Year Head said when she told me he wouldn't be there. I love these pastoral terms.

I rather like Amy. She is never a minute's bother but she is a bit of a rough diamond. "It's not against you Sir, I enjoy the discussions and all that but I'm not doing any writing." So, we both know where we stand. What's the point of getting into a row about it when in the end Amy will do (or not do) what Amy will do (or not do)? 

For the last two lessons I have made a private arrangement to have Josh out of the lesson and working with his Head of Year. "WHY ARE YOU THROWING ME OUT AGAIN? IT'S NOT FAIR!"

Erm ... let me think ...could it be because you are rude, coarse, loud, ill disciplened and disrupt other's learning? Yes. I think that about sums it up.

"Good riddance" I note at this point that Amy has a pen out. Blimey!


No, but there are two main points to consider. a) You are by far the worst and b) I'm in charge.


Then we'll both be happy with the arrangement. Off you go.


"Good riddance." Amy is filing her nails. She doesn't even bother to look round.


This means that the three or four stalwarts who still cling to some aspiration of getting a decent grade are getting a better deal than usual. Emily, I note, continues to write the most beautifully presented and detailed notes. It will be worth all this year's hassle if she get's her target grade, but I fear she has been sabotaged. The rest have given up any pretence and don't even bother to open their books now, let alone write notes.

Today we were considering Non-Violent Direct Action which strangely seemed to engage them quite well: they were absolutely gob-smaked by the Youtube clip of the lone man standing against the tanks in Tiannenmen Square but as ever their grasp of recent history was sadly lacking - and geography.

"So is that Africa then Sir?"

The door opens. A senior colleague stands in the door with Josh in tow. "I just found him on the loose. Says he belongs to you. Is that right?"

In theory but he's to go to Mme. Bonhomme today. He has his book and appropriate work to keep him busy.......

               The door closes. There are raised voices outside.

                                                                                            ..........until he's thirty five.

We watch a Buddhist monk self-immolate on Youtube and I ask them whether that counts as non-violent action. The discussion is mature and focused. It is almost like one of my "normal" groups. Alas it can not last. Bill has not had any attention for at leat three minutes and he loudly and ostentatiously breaks wind.


In the absence of Josh and Adam, Bill belatedly wakes up to the fact that he has no allies and Amy's acutely perceptive onslaught leaves him somewhat nonplussed. He consoles himself by pushing Georgina's book on to the floor.

How old are you?


I rest my case.

Georgina's pencil case follows.

I now realise why Amy got her pen out. She is drawing on her arm - like you do.

Quietly sitting at the back is Hassan. He is also never a minute's bother. He is a kid with a gentically built in grin. He and I get on very well and we banter a lot on the corridors and around and about. He usually tracks me down on my break duty and we exchange some faux insults. Sometimes he shouts to me from the ICT suite's windows as I head for the car park.

Hassan's best mate, Islam, has been on the fringes of the banter and teasing and he has been gaining in confidence in his dealings with me. Three times this week he has turned up to my lessons. This is strange as I don't teach him.

Islam, you can't stay. Hard as it is to believe, someone else somewhere will be missing you.

"But Hassan says you're good. I wanted to see you in action."

What a shame I'm not open to flattery. Off you go.

I am, nevertheless very flattered. Its kids like him, Hassan and Emily - and Amy too - that make the job worthwhile but its kids like Josh, Adam and Bill that make me want to kill.

That, and marking 180 exam papers (that's 180 x 20 questions and writing 180 individual, positive reports for kids who can't be bothered to revise.) That's literally hours and hours of my life that I'll never get back and to what purpose? I might just as well have thrown them in the bin.

The organisation of schools is geared to those who teach a relatively small number of classes five or six times a week. People like me get forgotten. We teach a great many classes once a week. Management expectations of outcome remain the same for us all.