Rule Britannia

I can’t tell you how pleased I am to be part of Great Britain.

I really can’t.

Everyday, I wake up and wonder what I ever did to deserve such bountiful benefactors. I thank god that he saw fit to bless me with the advantages I have in being ruled by Britannia.

When I think of how too wee, too poor and too stupid we are here in Scotland I despair at how we would ever have managed as an independent nation left to our own devices.

Can you just imagine what it would have been like to have to have lived under the privileged king or queen of Scotland? Imagine having had to support a royal family and kowtow to their hangers on! It doesn’t bear thinking about. Painting all that grass green because Queen Mary or one of her descendants was popping by for a visit. Maybe even having to learn French to impress her. Hell’s bells, quelle nightmare. And all that infighting that would have been going on until her favoured legions had settled into their hierarchy? Lord Muck of Clabber Castle jostling his way into position before Tam the Bam ousted him. That would have been too much.

And as for all that clan-bitching that would still be going on! Every Cameron, Blair and Broon squabbling with each other, over who owned what, what belonged to who and whose name mattered more than the other’s. Each one claiming that they had the best interests of the Scots at heart. Desperate stuff that would have been.

Then there would have been all that awful governance malarkey to contend with. Having to decide who in the country should get what, if anything, and whether certain bits of the nation deserved more than others. Whether to build a rail service between the Highlands and the Lowlands and wondering whether to bother with the islands at all, at all. Imagine having to decide how much tax to raise to make sure we didn’t just chuck our elders in the bins that would need emptied, or working out how much it would cost to run an efficient and humane social services. That would have meant sums. Better just leaving that to the number crunchers at Westminster. Wouldn’t want us to go carrying into the wrong column and you probably need to know your times tables for some of the really hard ones. And all that arguing about priorities and scratching your head about how much to lay aside for jollies to furrin parts.

Then we would have to have talked to other folk when we got there! Dear god in Govan, we couldn’t have done that. Trade ne…go..ti…a….Sorry, you’ve lost me there. I’m just a wee Jock wi’ nae knickers tae ma name. Hence the bare arse under the kilt, I suppose. Imagine the humiliation of our accent abroad! What a riddy it would have been to send an embarrassment of a foreign representative out into that big world beyond the Borders.

Close shave with that one.

We would have to have thought about defending ourselves too. Jesus wept. That’s lamentable. How on earth has any other country in the world ever managed that one? I suppose there’s the possibility that we could have come up with some sort of workable system that would have protected us should the marauding hordes from some far flung, or nearer, parts have descended, enmasse, to steal our cattle and ravage our women. Maybe we could have had an army or something. I’ve heard they work fairly well in some quarters.

But, thank god, we don’t need too many soldiers because Britannia has very kindly lent us an enormous penile extension to scare off the non-English speaking enemy. I don’t know all that much about it, what with me being too stupid and all that, but apparently, just saying we have it ought to be enough. Maybe flashing it once in a while to flaunt its enormity. ‘Check this out, pal! Come and get it if you’re brave enough.’ That should see us alright.

I daren’t think what would happen to us if we didn’t have the deterrent of something that might work. If we wanted it to.

And it’s worth it, isn’t it? I mean, it only costs a few bob, in the big scheme of things. We’re loaded, you see.

We saved up for it. We did, you know. Britannia thought about it long and hard. Got quite excited at being first among equals and decided tally-ho.

I’m eternally grateful. You’ve no idea.

To have such a magnificent specimen of manhood parked within 40 miles of Glasgow is a turn-on beyond my imaginings. And they let us have it. I mean, how generous is that? I guess it’s because we gave them all our oil. Only seems fair, doesn’t it? Probably by the time Trident’s been upgraded it’ll work out about evens.

And it’s even providing more than five hundred jobs! That’s a big number, isn’t it? I think. Maybe not as big as five million. But five million’s still quite a piddling amount, isn’t it? That’s only a city in some places. And you can’t park a nuclear weapon in a city. Everybody knows that. That would be dangerous. Maybe even contemptuous of the lives of those in that there city. So, we’re holding it for Britannia, at the moment. We’re like that, you see. Generous to a fault.

I know you’ve probably heard about the mean and miserable Scot who created the Grand Canyon because he dropped a penny in it. But it’s not true.

How could it be? We give everything away. Even our freedom.

But, some of us are okay with that because we get to wave a special flag. It’s a lovely one. Better than a lot. Not as good as some. But it means so much to be able to drape our coffins in it.

I, for one, can’t tell you how grateful I am to be considered a special region of Britain.

I really can’t.

1+1=3

This morning I shall finish procrastinating.

It’s time, I feel, to tackle what is weighing and waiting to be done.

I had thought I would do it on Friday night but I knew I was kidding myself. Friday evenings are not for doing work. That, surely, is a universal given.

I did think I would begin on Saturday. Jump right in and just get it out of my way. But. There was shopping. There were washings. There was cooking. A little bit of taxi service. And a lot of, ‘But it’s Saturday. It’s the freakin’ weekend.’

So, I didn’t.

The worst thing about being a teacher is the volume of paperwork that has crept in over the years.

No, that’s not the worst thing.

The worst thing is the number of subject areas that now have to be taught. And planned for.

My speciality is literacy and numeracy. Every aspect of the two, woven into interdisciplinary learning. You know, plan a theme, incorporating many facets of learning. Drive your lessons through that. Easy peasy, once you know how.

That’s no longer good enough.

As a result of the neglect of some sections of society, and a political scene that will not tackle the root causes – or cannot- it is now incumbent on primary school teachers to incorporate, within their remit, a host of subjects that parents used to do. Some of them still might. But, just in case they don’t, we have to.

This term I will have to make time for the kitchen in school. Yes, the children will be learning how to cut up bananas, make smoothies, try their hands at washing up and, hopefully, keep their fingers intact in the process. They will be charged for this. I’ll have to pay for it first and then collect the money from them. That’s not going to happen. Not doing that. I should go to the shops, buy a variety of fruit that they probably won’t like or eat and then hope they reimburse me? Nope. Cheek.

In addition to exploring the wonders of the kitchen, perhaps using one of the microwaves that now sit on the worktops of what was once the teachers’ conference room, some bright spark suggested that the children would benefit from running five miles per week.

An area in the playground has been duly measured, to the mile, and the panting of both teachers and children can almost be heard, through my window on the ground floor, as they bust a gut not quite belting round the yard. I don’t think I’m going to be doing that. I don’t run. Now and again my nose does. But that’s usually because I’ve not been careful with my fruit consumption and have succumbed to a trivial cold. Bring on the vitamin C. I can peel an orange because my mum taught me how.

Health and wellbeing is the thing, you see. Not content with having teachers supervise teeth brushing – I mean, have you ever! – we should take on the role of parental responsibility in every field.

There is now toast on offer in the morning, a couple of days a week. Why not every day? Don’t children need breakfast every morning? Why not serve dinner too? Get the kids into their jammies, a bed time story and the parents can pick them up around nine.  A good twelve hours at school should solve all society’s problems.

What else? Ah, yes, drug awareness, massage (no fecking kidding!), and the thing that is pending this week for me and mine. The showcase.

On Friday coming, the whole school, together with parents of the children in my class, will gather in the hall while my children take to the stage and perform some highlights from the book study we have been working on. I spent last weekend writing parts for them all and burning music to a disc. It’s been a while since I’ve done that – the disc part – and there was some swearing involved until I remembered.

This week, all the work that adorns my walls from the topic, will be removed to be displayed in the hall for the perusal of the parents. Then it will have to be put up again in my class because, in a week or so, we’ll have visitors – pretendy inspectors from the education department will descend to see if we know what we’re doing.

Quite frankly, I’m no longer sure I do.

Once upon a time, my job was to make sure that the children in my care could read and write and count. I was good at that. Still am, if I get the chance. We’ve always taught P.E., Drama, Music, Environmental Studies, R.M.E., Social Studies, Art, Science and whatever else escapes me right now. But, the focus was always numeracy and literacy. The essentials.

The time now available to do justice to those subjects is being eroded by the additional responsibilities that were once the privilege of parents.

I made lasagne and crusty bread with my two youngest recently. All of my kids can cut a banana and know which buttons to press on the microwave as well as how to turn on the cooker and make something for themselves. I’ve always been under the impression that that was something I had to do so that, one day, I could wave them goodbye knowing they wouldn’t starve or set themselves on fire. So far, so good. Touch wood.

In the interests of not procrastinating further, I will end with one last thought. Why is it that the only subjects the children are tested on is numeracy and literacy? Simple arithmetic, that a moron could work out, but not, apparently, the powers that be, (bit worrying that), makes it plain that less and less time is available for the essential PRIMARY subjects. I’m a primary school teacher.

As wonderful as I am at integrating the essentials into multi subjects – and I’m really not too shabby at that – I’m no wizard with time. There are only so many hours in the day to achieve planned aims. There are just too many aims now.

I shall now go and spend the rest of Sunday planning for the current term and trying to bend the parameters of time. Someone’s got to do it.

P.S. (still procrastinating) I just discovered, this week, that my salary, for doing all of the above and then some, has been eroded in the region of £13,000 in the last six years. So, that’s nice. Very motivating.

Field of Dreams

There’s a clearing in my mind where I can wander,

Like a field of dreams was planted long ago,

Sown by whom I’ve met and all I’ve felt there,

Waiting for the crops that had to grow.

 

There’s a feeling that I’ve been this way before then,

Like someone gave me glimpse then left my side,

Notional directions then abandoned,

But – not really – more as if they ran away to hide

 

To see if I could unearth in the threshing

Or the harvest, whenever it should come to pass,

If teasing, in a tempting sort of measure,

Should balance books bet or if I’d come in last.

 

I feel I’ve failed the test before I started,

Like the race was rigged before I left the block,

Like someone changed the rules and I, as usual,

Was writing or just reading some strange book.

 

There’s a field of dreams I guess we all get lost in, when

In a semblance of a future once glimpsed past,

We entered name and limbered for the race and

Hoped against all hope we’d not come last.

 

Strength to muster, this was all we asked for

Strength sufficient and a well-kept pace,

Sweat and toil, all that work notwithstanding,

We thought, believed that we could maybe win this race.

 

I never was a runner in my dreamings,

Nor in life – I’ve always walked with ease –

Sauntered through, feet always planted firmly

Though my mind has gone its own way as it pleased.

 

I s’pose, like most, I’m just some kind of farmer,

I trudge through day and work and fret and always feed my sheep,

I sow and reap and gather where I can do,

I rest my head and pray for easy sleep.

 

But the voice inside my head that keeps on saying,

‘Arise, awake, you’re sleeping when it’s dawn,

Get up and move, the day is almost over,’

Urges me to seek a brand new morn.

 

One where fields are harvested with fairness

And work’s a task we gladly take in team,

Singing, laughing all the while with gladness

That this is real and not another dream.

 

I guess I’m dreaming even while I write this,

The status quo exists for world and also me,

The race is almost over, I’m exhausted

And weeping for we all who just won’t see.

 

I wish I didn’t care and love was easy,

The way it was when dads and mums were glad,

Once upon a time, in some strange dream land,

In field of dreams where none are ever sad.

 

I can’t believe I’m writing and not hoping,

It’s the news, you see, I really shouldn’t hear,

All that goes around and races onwards

Fills my dreams and field with crop of fear.

 

But, listen, I know I can’t leave this foray

Into dreams and fields and races and this life

Without one, at least just one, little seed sown.

In love and light, the work is cleaved with sharpest knife.

 

I guess that what I’m saying is I love you,

Bizarre, I know, when all of you are figments of the light

Cast across my screen like all the seeds sown

Filling field of dreams in day and night

 

 I wish that I could write in brief, a haiku,

Syllables all counted and best said,

Time being of the essence, that would serve well,

But, alas, that knack in me, bypassed my dreams and head.

 

I’ll go on dreaming just because I have to,

I know no other way to make things real.

Arise, awake, enact, forgive my earnest ramblings.

I call it, tell it, dream it as I feel.

Motivation II

Why do I gotta do homework,

Why do I gotta do chores,

Why do I gotta do what you ask,

Why do I gotta? I’m bored.

Voice of children all ask this,

But, owning up here, it’s me!

Why do I gotta do stuff that is pressing?

I’d rather be writing for free!

Stew’s bubbling away as I write this,

Tatties all peeled for the pot,

Uniforms ready to start back,

Doing stuff I’d rather not.

It’s terrible, this strange obsession

That has me right by the throat,

Throttling desire from everything else,

Pulling priorities apart.

Sod it! The tatties are pending,

Rumblings are heard all around,

Dinner is just one more distraction

From computer keys I’d rather pound.

It’s really too bad this fixation,

Doesn’t pay any bills,

I’d be working at what needs no encouragement, though

The fridge would be empty – they’d kill!

I’m really a part of the problem,

Well maybe the whole of it – they’re vexed –

Nought can compare to the feelings I get

While writing – well, maybe, sex!

But I can’t do that when I’m cooking,

Certainly not when the kids are around,

So writing it is – it’s orgasmic

And I don’t even make a sound.

So, yeah, I gotta make dinners,

I gotta get chores all done,

Gotta to do homework but then, oh boy,

I’m gonna have me some fun.

I mean writing.

Get your heads outta the gutter!

Tatties are boiled. 🙂

Hands Up!

Hands up if you’ve ever brushed your teeth in school…..in a classroom…..with every other child in your class?

Wait, let me count. Hands right up……That would be nearly none, I’m thinking. Very close to zero. And, quite possibly, a what the hell is she talking about? Yeah, me too.

Why the hell has it become the case that teachers have now become responsible in many schools for the dental hygiene of the weans?

And I don’t mean teaching the children about the benefits of good oral hygiene, how necessary it is to reduce intake of sugary and acidic foods to allay the onset of dental caries. Neither do I mean carrying out a little project looking at the composition of the tooth from enamel through to nerve. Nor looking at the dental formula for canines, incisors and molars. Nor looking at a model of the human tooth while identifying all the ways to keep them healthy and avoid the dreaded filling or extraction.

No. I’m talking about 30 odd toothbrushes, in a handy plastic covered box, distributed each day to every child who then lines up to have a little bit of toothpaste squirted on it by teacher. Then have the whole toothbrushing experience timed for two minutes while Miss issues appropriate instructions.

If there is anything that gets my gag reflex going it is being in the same room as someone brushing their teeth. I don’t quite know why but it is akin, for me, to having someone scrape their nails down a chalkboard. I shudder. I suppress as best I can a salivary onslaught that threatens to induce vomit.

I witnessed this little spectacle recently and tried with every fibre of my being not to boak at the sound and sight of so many engaged in what I think is quite a personal task.

I use an electric one so I hear its gentle buzz rather than the sound of a brush on teeth. But I can’t even be in the same room as my kids when they brush. I did it in the early days and even brushed them for them when they were young. But that’s a bit like changing your own wean’s shitty nappy. Can do.

My main point here, however, is less to do with this nauseating practice than it is to do with the fact that parental responsibility is either being hijacked or abrogated and I’m fed up with teachers being asked to carry the can for every task that was once the responsibility of parents.

There is so much more that I could write here. And I intend to.

I’m looking at education in a different light these days. Have been for some time. But it’s coming to a head. Rising, as it were. A bit like the bile I feel rising in my throat every time I attend another meeting where we, as teachers, are informed of the latest piece of nonsense that is now ours to carry. While I question, ‘What about literacy and numeracy?’

As it happens, I consider myself something of an expert on multiple aspects of education. But I never signed up to be a feckin’ dentist.