Those who can, do

No quiz news this week. The reason is not because there wasn’t a quiz (there was), just that it was a rare week that I was unable to attend. This was because I had to go to Sproglet #2’s school for a parents evening. On the bright side, it does give me an opening to rant about one of my favourite subjects – teachers.

I feel that I must set my stall out at the outset, if only to avoid being misinterpreted. Generally, I have no issue with the amount of holiday teachers get, and I don’t think that they finish work at 3pm every day either. I appreciate that there is more to a teaching job than just the teaching, and I know that most teachers work something in the region of a 40 hour week. My general gripe with teachers is their seeming inability to live in the real world.

A normal public sector role in the 21st century has a contracted 35 or 37.5 working hour week and an actual 40 to 45 working hour week. My experience of private sector is even worse and if, like Iron Man* or Hulk*, you run a small business employing others or are self employed, only working 45 hours a week is a bit of a luxury. Unfortunately, some teachers seem to consider having to do more than just teach (planning lessons, marking homework etc.) as some form of cross to bear – but obviously not on the same shoulder as they keep their chip.

Every job has perks. With the job I used to do it was nights out on your own in strange towns and meetings with captains of local industry. While a wet Wednesday evening in Darlington in November may not have much to offer to the lone traveller, the Chief Executive of their local Building Society had a very pragmatic view of their role in the local area – they were the 3rd largest lender in the Darlington area and liked it that way! With teachers, the major perk is the holidays. While you can’t get a teacher to state exactly how much holiday they get – it’s twice as much as most of us. I have no problem with that, and good luck to them. However, when you train for and choose a job with a perk, don’t then moan about it.

REALITY CHECK – posting comments on Facebook about how you ‘need’ a week off because you’ve just had to work six weeks straight (Mon to Fri only) and/or how much it costs to go away when you have to go in the school holidays does not endear you to your ‘friends’. It’d be like Hulk complaining about the amount of parts he has to throw away because he’s forgotten to put them back when he’s finished fixing your car, or him whinging about the difficulties of retuning all of your radio pre-sets to Punjabi FM (but that’s a different story).

Earlier this year my local college sacked most of their maths department due to, essentially, incompetence. Sproglet #1 (who was studying at the college when this horrendous event happened) confirmed that, in the first six weeks of term, one maths teacher only turned up for one lesson – and then left early. Now I’m sure than no reasonable person would consider this to be acceptable.

In a completely unrelated incident, Sproglet #2 works on a Saturday coaching young kids to play football. He works for an ex-professional and the coaching takes place on some school playing fields adjacent to the college in question. Once the sackings became known – the school playing fields were overrun by flying pickets, who had travelled up to 100 miles, protesting at the injustice caused to the sacked teachers because of what had happened. No thought was given to the kids who weren’t getting what could be their only real exercise of the week because their field had been taken over, and no thought for the ex-professional and the financial effect this had on his business. Their argument seemed to be that the college shouldn’t have sacked anyone – and that it’s better to poorly educate a generation rather than sack one incompetent teacher. Foolishly I made a comment to this effect on Facebook, and received a lot of flack from teachers because I was apparently really having a pop about the hours they work and the holidays they take!!

I wouldn’t have had as much of an issue had everything been disrupted because of The Flying Pickets

The Royal Blokes used to have a long standing member who was a teacher – deputy head of one of the largest comprehensives in the country. Notwithstanding that he couldn’t have been more Irish if he had a leprechaun on his shoulder, he was (and is) always known as The German. The reasons for this are vague and was something to do with our very own eco-warrior hearing him say something in the late 70s, and thought he was a Nazi war criminal just stepped off the plane from South America (or something like that).

The German was a geography teacher which was really useful. Like Baldrick, we had a cunning plan – if ever we had a geography question, we’d wait until The German had pronounced the answer based upon his extensive knowledge of the subject, then completely ignore it because it was guaranteed to be wrong. Back in the 1980s, when I worked for a Building Society (one that ranked higher than #3 in the lending list for random north-eastern towns), we had a graduate trainee manager who had done a degree in Geography. However, when I asked her what the capital city of Iceland was, she told me that she didn’t do that sort of geography. Apparently there’s another type of geography that’s entirely unconcerned with where places are, one that’s only known to teachers and highly educated trainee managers.

The German eventually retired to Chalfont St Giles – which in itself was amusing, if only for the fact that a regular Viz character used to refer to his arse grapes as his Chalfont’s in a faux cockney rhyming slang style.

In conclusion, I don’t necessarily agree with the old adage that “those who can, do … those who can’t, teach” but I always remember what the Head of Collections (the man in charge of people who had serious mortgage arrears) at a major internet bank once told me – “never lend money to a teacher, the problem is that most of them went from school to college, to university and back to school again – they’ve never lived in the real world”.

And if they did and they were geography teachers, they wouldn’t have a bloody clue where in the real world they were anyway!

Footnote: The world’s first passenger railway ran from Stockton-On-Tees to Darlington. Darlington was also where the arch for the new Wembley Stadium was made, by the same company who made the bridge that spans Victoria Falls, on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. The bridge is apparently the best place in the world to bungee jump from. Viz isn’t as funny as it used to be, and I don’t think ‘Nobby’s Piles’ is still in there. Reykjavik is the capital of Iceland, and before it was called Iceland is was known as Bejam.

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