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Mr. Davies was early. He glanced at his watch. Half past 8. Perhaps everyone else was just late! He crossed the threshold into a large room which smelled faintly of boredom. He unwound the lid of his travel mug and approached the kitchenette in the corner of the room. A chemistry teacher greeted him smiling, happily stirring his morning coffee, which was imprisoned in a chipped China mug, blackened from repeated use, with the chemical symbol for copper and phosphorus emblazoned on the front in a witty attempt to spell ‘cup.’ Mr. Davies smiled back to complete their speechless exchange, whilst he poured brown granules into his mug directly from the jar. He flipped on the magic hot water dispenser and listened to the sound of his coffee being instantly brewed. Mr. Davies wasn’t keen on a great many things, but he liked the hot water dispenser. A lot.
Clutching his miracle juice, he made for his usual seat in the corner. On his first day at the school, he had mistakenly positioned himself with the support staff, a mistake which quickly became apparent when he was subjected to glares and sour looks, to wordlessly inform him that he was encroaching on their territory and that he had better move before Mrs. Gayle gave him the sharp end of her tongue. He had been quick to realize his error and ever since he had made his roost in the corner, away from unfriendly eyes.
The gabble slowly emerged from the safety of their rooms and filed into the staff room, pecking at their pigeon holes as they entered. Mr. Davies’ pigeon hole was empty. He wrestled with the daily irrational turmoil in his head, which was disappointed at having received nothing to look at and concurrently relieved that he hadn’t been given some other pointless work to fill his already bursting day.
The sound of chatter was growing as the staff took their places, the din periodically permeated with a cackle of laughter. Mr. Davies wasn’t sure what they could possibly be so happy about. He hated morning briefing. It was an archaic mode of communication that just wasted time he could have been spending preparing for the day. Most of the ‘notices’ communicated at briefing were repeated half an hour before via email, so mostly everyone knew what the notices were before briefing anyway. It was like reading TV mags that give away the plot of soaps before they air. Why bother to watch them when you know what’s going to happen?
“Good morning,” came a commanding voice. The din died down quickly, in mocking parody of the naive expectations of every teacher in the room. That was how fast people should quiet down when someone in charge requested their attention. Instead, most teachers pranced around like a performing otter in front of a class of disinterested teenagers in a vain attempt to deliver ambitious courses to bleating kids. Teachers stuck religiously to ‘strategies’ to help gain attention from their students. Some would stand on an X taped to the floor so that students knew to be quiet, others would countdown from three to one and some would stretch out their arms like an imitation Jesus, expecting quiet when they brought their hands together in a soundless clap. They were all utter rubbish in Mr. Davies’ opinion. The pupils would stop talking if they believed you held some authority over them. No amount of ostentatious trickery would fool them into silence.
“Let’s start with announcements,” Mr. Robinson suggested, “Yes. Kate.”
“Thank you. The under 14s hockey tournament was an overwhelming success. The girls did brilliantly and came away with third place medals, which was really fantastic. Best of all though, they did the school proud and their behavior was amazing. Really amazing.” There was a ripple of applause. “So if you see any of the girls in the corridor, make sure you congratulate them on their success.” No mention of the boys. Probably because Tommy Tucker had given one of his teammates a black eye by whacking him in the face with a hockey stick. Best not to mention that in the staff briefing, eh Kate. That wouldn’t look good at all.
“Thanks, Kate. Lovely to hear how well our kids can behave outside the school. Anyone else? Yes, Colin.”
“Year 9 assembly in the Gym this morning, thank you,” Colin said simply. Thanks Colin. Thanks for telling us every Wednesday morning that you have a Year 9 assembly in the gym. Absolute gold.
“Thank you, Colin. Janice?”
“Yeah. Could everybody please make sure that registers are filled in accurately. We had a situation yesterday where Ebony Fitzmartin was marked present in her lesson but she’d actually walked off-site and gone home. We had a pretty embarrassing phone call from mum who was asking why we hadn’t contacted her to say that her daughter was missing. It’s really important that the registers are updated accurately,” Janice said accusingly.
“Yeah I’d like to echo that,” Mr. Robinson said firmly, “Registers are legal documents and failure to fill them in accurately is grounds for dismissal. You’re all professionals. Filling in registers is easy. There’s no excuse for not doing it,” Mr. Davies wondered when was the last time Mr. Robinson had actually filled in a register for a class in this school. Mr. Robinson was a clueless prat, too old to understand what teaching has become, especially in this school. Calling the register was so difficult in some classes that you just had to learn names as fast as you could so that you could waste ten minutes scanning the room to find each face to make sure they were present, instead of risking calling out names. Inaccurate registers are a symptom of a school that has lost its ability to control its kids. That’s on you, Mr. Robinson. Prick.
Andy Knott was next. This would be about tracking data. “Can you please make sure that tracking data is uploaded no later than Friday afternoon.” Yes, Andy. We’ll update your data for you, so that it can sit in a spreadsheet and not be looked at by anyone apart from the bloke from the local authority who is just checking up on us. No problem. Shame that data isn’t being used to, you know, help the kids.
What was next? Book scrutiny, to make sure we’re all marking our books right, in green pen! Not red! Next? Alex Sanders is being moved from 8F to 8E, so that he can terrorize some other kids for a bit. Next? We need to keep an eye on Jessie Thompson who is feeling very isolated at the moment. Yes, that will probably happen when you have a tendency to bite other children. What else? The annual reading club is taking place in the Library, which I’m sure will be really well attended.
Finally, it’s cheery Kath Goodson. “Hi guys! Just wanted to remind you all that the annual Christmas Meal is coming up and we’ve booked a table in The Jolly Archer for a really fun get-together at the end of term. It’ll be £10 a head, which will go towards your meal and there’ll be a choice, which I’ll attach to an email for everybody. We just need an idea of numbers and you can pay your money to me whenever you see me! Thanks, guys!” Thanks, Kath. I’d rather consume a gallon of cyanide than sit down to a meal with you or any of the other brainless harpies that are likely to attend your little dinner party.
“Okay, thank you all,” Mr. Robinson said as he turned hastily for the door to signal the end of briefing. The bustle resumed as teachers got up to speak directly to one another about important matters of the day. Mr. Davies made a beeline for the door before he could be intercepted by someone wanting him to cover a class, or contribute to some pointless initiative that he didn’t give a hoot about. The aperitif to torture was over. He had reg next.