30 January, 2011 / General

Bad attitude

I went to a meeting at my sons’ high school the other day. Actually, as this took place after dark – 6.30-9pm – it counted as a night out. I was almost as excited as when I had to go to a nit talk at primary school.

Anyway, this talk was about far more important matters than nits. The first part was about the Curriculum for Excellence, which I know is an entirely new approach to teaching and learning which I should know about and understand. But something happens when I enter Big School. I become twelve again, picking at various bits of my body and tapping my feet impatiently.

Poor head teacher, I keep thinking. He looks absolutely exhausted. I realise, too, that I’m not taking any of it in because I, too, am shattered. It’s like a re-run of some French film J and I watched together the other night. I can’t even remember its name now – see what my brain has become? – and kept asking him, ‘Why is she emailing him if she’s supposed to be dead?’ and ‘Who’s that blonde woman again?’ At which point I spied a think bubble forming above his head with the word DIVORCE in it.

The school meeting’s like that, with the added factor of making me start to feel aggressive whilst grinding my teeth. Head teacher is now talking about how to help our children choose their exam subjects. A woman keeps barking questions from the back, so outraged is she that her child won’t be allowed to study seventeen sciences at once. ‘Why not?’ she keeps bellowing.

‘Because we don’t think children should specialise too early,’ says the beleaguered head teacher.

‘Why not?’ she snaps back.

‘Because we believe in as broad a course as possible at this stage,’ he explains. I can’t believe he’s being so patient. He deserves a knighthood, or the Nobel Peace Prize at the very least. If I were him, I’d yell, ‘BECAUSE WE JUST DO!’ and start swigging from a bottle of gin whilst careering towards her and wrestling her to the ground. Most of the time, I think teaching’s a doddle – same thing year after year with about thirty-five weeks’ holiday thrown in. At moment like this, though, I realise they’re the most underrated people on earth. I’m gnawing my gum, and keep darting furious looks at the woman, but she’s too intent on hijacking the meeting to discuss her gifted offspring to notice.

Two hours into the meeting, I am hunched in my chair, barely conscious, wondering if now might be a good time to re-start smoking or concuss myself by banging my head on the concrete floor. ‘I saw you at that meeting,’ my friend says as we walk our dogs the following morning. ‘You were slumped in your chair and chewing gum.’

‘Was I?’ I ask.

She nods gravely. ‘That’s not the attitude,’ she says.



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