"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, July 18, 2012

Sports Day at the Knowledge College

Here we are in the middle of July and summer has yet to come. All over the country sporting events have been cancelled because of the rain and members of the Italian Olympic squad have been bemoaning the lack of sunshine. Here at the Knowledge College we are made of sterner stuff: come on - some of the staff live in Hebden Bridge which has been under water for the last fortnight.

I arrive in the car park and am blinded by a strange light: it is the reflected glare from my colleague Adam's legs. They look like two pieces of spaghetti.

Have you got those legs insured Adam?

There is general aimless milling around while staff arrive and we locate our forms for registration on the track side. I am impressed: almost all of mine are here. My colleague Ben has a turn out of two.

I notice that some of this year's Yr 11 leavers have been drafted in as helpers. So there'll be no swearing in the staff area I note to Jim.

"Bollocks to that. Measure my concern in micro-giveashits."

"Can I run in socks Sir?" Sarah enquires after registration. "I can't run in shoes."

Did you miss an important developmental stage earlier in childhood?

Sarah is busy removing her shoes. "No they weigh me down."

Welcome the new Zola Budd.


Oh, you're so young.

As we await the formal start of procedings I note at least three sets of pupils on crutches.

All wearing full sports kit.

"You can take equal opportunities too far." Ben opines.

"Woop!" My colleague Amie is clearly over excited. "I only signed up to help to watch Wolfie eat all the leftover free packed lunches that the kids don't want." she confides.

Jags arrives in time to have missed his registration group. You're late. What happened?

"I went up to school first."

Liar. I did that and your car wasn't in the car park.

Jags grins sheepishly.

"I was sat in the staff room" Jim tells us. "And then someone asked me why I was there and not here. The trouble is I read my e-mails on a Friday and today's only Tuesday. Mind you, It's amazing what's resolved itself by the time you do read them. Don't you work like that with your pigeon hole?"

Termly. I confirm.

"Do you know I got away with not doing P.E. at school for two years by telling them I only had one lung? It was only when my Dad asked why there wasn't a P.E. report that I was found out."

"How long is this track Sir?"

Do you do GCSE PE?

"No. BTEC Sports Studies."

How long is a standard running track?

"How would I know?"

"Oy!" The dulcet tones of the mad scientist. "Don't forget you're going on the butty-run."

I look around. "No you, shit-for-brains."

Why me?

"Because you're a sap."

In the event Sam and Janet are sent on this errand. Sam and Janet ... hang on, let me think.... Sam and Janet...

Sam and Janet evening
You may see a stranger,
you may see a stranger
Across a crowded room.

O.K. Please yourselves.

The events begin and Kate and I move over to the High Jump area. I always supervise the High Jump what with me once having jumped 1.92. But that was in the last century!

The boys are on first and it all very businesslike and straightforward.  The girls follow and the entertainment begins.

"If I cry do I still have to do it?"

With the aid of a cattle prod, yes.

"It's too high."

Look. The clue's in the name. It's called the High Jump.

There is a distinct lack of style with a lot of drooping bottom sydrome. Some girls simply walk up and try to step over the bar. There is an awful lot of running around with flapping hands.

You run like a girl.

"I am a girl".

That's not the point.

"Oh, I've broken a nail."

Could you take this a little more seriously?

I notice out of the corner of my eye Jags and Jim undertaking the onerous responsibility of propping up the steeplechace hurdle. The High Jump completed, I wander over to join them and hear Jim claiming to be a technophobe.

"You can't be," Jags responds "You teach Technology."

"No. I teach kids to knock the crap out of metal."

Lunch time arrives and I watch one of the Yr 7s wander over to pick up his packed lunch.

"Tuna or cheese?" Wolfie asks, looking disappointed that there'll be less for him to eat.

"Chicken please." replies Tim.

"Touch my head Miss, I think I've got a temperature."

"No, I'm not going to do that. There are rules about that sort of thing and anyway you're a little bit wierd."

"I bought you a cake." I notice that Derinder is holding nothing in her hand. "I gave it to a kid who looked hungry."

Don't ever show them sympathy. It's almost as bad as turning your back on them.

Amie is rattling off statistics: "Well, Tony was sick and still came second in the javellin, Rob nearly broke his ankle and Sarah popped her hip. Not bad for a Sports Day morning. Still, Debbie managed to keep her beehive in place when she ran."

A girl's race of some sort is finishing. Wolfie is trying to drum up some atmosphere amongst the supporters who singularly fail to be dragged along in the slipstream of his enthusiasm. There is a failed attempt at a Mexican Wave which is pretty disappointing given that each row in the stand contains only about 50 seats.

A boy's race of some sort is finishing now. There is a boy I dislike intensely who has the ability to do well but has the mindset that says if he's not winning then he doesn't want to know.

He isn't winning.

He dawdles to the rear of the pack and finishes his race with a forward roll over the finishing line, looking very pleased with himself.

Nobody cares.

He is so self absorbed he doesn't notice, presumably thinking he has done something hilarious and witty.

There is an announcement that the relays are about to start. I notice my form in place, saunter over to them and give them a big smile.

I'm not saying I'll never speak to you again if you don't win but it's something I'd like you to bare in mind.

They win.

Eddie, our one wheelchair user, is disappointed that we've not managed to organise some sort of paralympic event. I commiserate but point out that as the only wheelchair user he was bound to be a bit of a shoe-in as winner.

"How about we organise the kids on crutches to compete against me Sir?"

Would that be challenging enough?

"Of course. If we did the Long-Jump."

"YOU'RE NOT GOING HOME UNTIL YOU'RE ALL SAT THERE QUIET!" Wolfie doesn't need a microphone.

Quiet? Shouldn't that be an adverb. You know Quietly  - L Y adverb.

"I know" says Derinder."It's really important that teachers speak English properly, Innit?"

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Sponsored Walk Day

It's been an odd week.

We started with the biennial sponsored walk. The lowering grey skies do not bode well. Sammi arrives in registration, limping.

"I thought I'd walk today instead of getting the bus."

Who, in their right mind, walks to school in new trainers on the only day of the year when registration is followed by a compulsory ten mile walk?

The children are assembled, shivering - this is the British summer after all - to be given a range of stirring inspirational speeches by members of staff who, as soon as the kids depart into the drizzle, will slope off to the staffroom for a restorative coffee.

The kids look less than convinced.

As ever there is a wide array of completely unsuitable clothing on display: flip-flops, gladiator sandals and very short shorts (good luck with the bramble patches and stinging nettles) and, as we later discover, a youth dressed as a banana. (And why not?)

"Mr. Jones told me not to wear it."

But I see you are, nevertheless.

"It's really hot in here so I took my pants off before I set off."

Banana skin or bare skin? Tough call. Are the local community ready for a fourteen year old streaker? That might be too fruity. We assume not and send him on his way.

The weather improves and the sun even shines for minutes on end. I am on direction duty at a confusing junction of footpaths. This is ironic as I have no idea where I am, having driven here with Bill in Heather's car.


About an hour and a half early.

We sit in Heather's car and I start to sort out class lists for next year's Yr. 10 R.S. groups. I can see Bill and Heather are impressed, between their regular sloping off into the bushes for a smoke.

Why do you keep doing that?

"I  don't want the kids to know I smoke."

I consider the very personal miasma of aftershave and stale cigarette smoke Bill inhabits and wonder how many of his charges haven't already sussed him.

Apart from one diabetic girl who needed to be picked up by the roving minibus (following the eating of most of my packed lunch to raise her sugar levels) ours is an uneventful way station. Bored, Heather goes in search of a sandwich shop. As each new group of hormones hoves into view around the bend, I scan for familiar faces. My colleague Karl wanders by looking super-cool and offers me an insouciant finger.

Bill puts into words what I am thinking. "Should we send this lot the wrong way?" A lout of boys has meandered into view. It is all the usual suspects.

"Sir, sir. Give us a wave." they chorus. They have clearly had a lot of opportunities on the way round to trial this.

Bill and I ignore them.

There is booing.

I offer a very half-hearted wave.

There is cheering and they wander by hitting each other randomly.

Their passing brings a return to a pastoral idyl.

Heather returns with a very substantial lunch and we eat in reflective contentment.

"Who wants the chocolate brownie?"

Not me. I'm allergic to chocolate.

Bill and Heather look at me as if I have just announced that I have a terminal illness.

"Allergic to chocolate? I'm soooo sorry." Heather offers.

This turns out not to be strictly true. I have been taking Citoxamine and I developed a rash. I then did what all doctors hate us for: I hit the INTERNET and found a fascinating study from the University of Ulan Bator linking skin rashes with a combo of Citoxamine and chocolate.  I had had a large piece of chocolate cake the night before. It all fitted and, satisfied with my watertight self-diagnosis, I pronounced myself allergic to chocolate. (Three days later I would conduct a controlled experiment with another piece of chocolate cake to no reaction at all, but, by then I'd been treated to all the symathy due to a man destined for a hospice, so I kept quiet.)

It was quite an interesting rash as it happened. It started in the palms of my hands which I thought was incredibly fortuitous as I'd only been discussing stigmata with Yr 9 last week. I could be a visual aid and .... but the thought of all the potential press attention put me off, what with me being a retiring sort of chap.

Towards the back of the now dwindling crowd, members of my form appear. Sammi is being carried piggyback.

"Hi Sir. It's great this."

Bill looks at me.

Don't even think about it.