Sunday, September 30, 2007

Ordinary life 9(b)


So I decided that while I looked for my true vocation, I might as well go back to college and explore the fallback of being a teacher.
Physics has always been a short supply subject and after having a short test on my internalisation of Newton’s work I was in. I was a few years older than most of my fellow students, I drove a large motorbike. While there was only one girl studying Physics there were plenty doing English and Drama.
After a year I had accumulated enough points to be qualified to teach Physics, Science and Drama.
Towards the end of the year, the admissions tutor, the one who had been chauffeured by me since he lost his license, called me in to his office.
“Look here Meredic,” he peered over his half moon spectacles, “are you serious about getting a job or not?”
I assured him I was, indeed the very next week I was on my way to Colwyn Bay to claim a post teaching Physics.
“Yes, yes…. hmm look do me a favour would you. I have an old friend at working in Llandudno. It seems they are looking for someone who can teach Computer Studies. You know how to use one of them don’t you? Oh yes, get your hair cut and lose the sandals as well would you.”
My dismal handwriting had forced me to use one of the new fangled word processors all year or face having my work rejected.
I affirmed and by teatime I was walking out of the headteacher's office with a job, and a promise of promotion to head of department on completion of a satisfactory probation.
On a far long lost September morning, nearly a quarter of a century ago, I started as head of computing (second subject Physics) with a budget of £25,000 pounds. Far less than the significant fraction of a million that I waved back in the labs, but still enough to kit out a room with BBC model Bs…..

“No I’m sorry Mr Hallett I think you might have misunderstood. The annual budget for your department is £250.00, I think you may have missed the point….the decimal point that is.”

I was stunned by the poverty of the situation. Only three computers in the school and a budget that wouldn’t even buy half of another. One word processor. And in addition it seems that my predecessor had spent the lot on text books featuring Pascal, Liebnitz, and Babbage. The history of computing up until the 1970s was written eloquently in those days and formed an important part of the curriculum!

Before making the best of it, I asked the then Head of Science what I would have to do in order to teach A’level physics. The world of computing in schools seeming another possible dead end.
“Well,” he said, “I would have to die first and then the Head of Physics would have to go as well.” I guessed that I wasn’t going to make much progress teaching physics!
This eerie conversation sticks in my mind even now, as within eight years both of them had passed on.

I have since bored countless students with the insight that my employment was in fact generated by the fact that I have very poor handwriting.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

OOps - whereas I've always been tolde tht my employment problems have always been that no-one could read my handwriting

buffalodickdy said...

I started my career as a draftsman, where you have to have above avg. printing skills. To the day I print everything- my handwriting is beautifully illegible.....

bittersweet me said...

My aunt was a teacher in Colwyn Bay for years.

I remember starting my degree with one Paintbox System for the entire art school. Now i feel old.

Stephanie said...

Well...I started my career as a reporter...and I suppose your handwriting does matter a little. I didn't want to have to spend my life moving from one state to another to advance, so I went into public relations. Now I'm in computer tech support, where the pay is good and my handwriting doesn't matter at all. Although I do think I have great handwriting!

DaveM said...

Is it still necessary to speak Welsh in order to get a teaching job in North Wales? I bet you had/ have a good rapport with your pupils / students. The best teachers were often those who had worked before coming into teaching.

Tamara said...

This makes me so sad for some reason.

Lori said...

I guess there aren't many jobs these days where your handwriting is important. And we used to work so hard on penmanship in school!

Sparkle Plenty said...

"Cut your hair"??? Lose the sandals"????? Zounds! Those were fighting words! From a bloke who'd lost his license, no less. (Did you chauffeur him around on the back of your motorbike?)

Sally Lomax said...

That was hilarious. How frustrating though. Teaching computers without computers..........

meredic said...

anonymous - ton a wrod of turth in it.

buffalodickdy - did you weather the change from drawing boards to CAD? You know if I ever have to write on a board ( and for a teacher I go a long way to avoid it) I use print block capitals.

bittersweetme - An aunt in Colwyn Bay. Not Mrs Trellis I suppose. Paintbox. Crumbs you must be old!

stephanie - gi's a job. I could do tech support, and I have a charming Brit accent ..... guv.

DaveM - No I don’t have t speak Welsh to get a job in the secondary sector, but it is a help. I do remember in the eighties being told that my lack of language would hamper progress up a career ladder. A silly thing to tell me as I have no ambition. It also turned out to be untrue. My current head teacher is a Scot. Though this was not quite such a shock as her gender.....

tamara - really how curious. I am interested to know why. Is there a wistfulness in it perhaps?

lori - I changed primary school at around the age of eight and switched methods io think. My spelling as well as my writing never really overcame the blow. But I did learn to type quite young .

sparkle plenty - he lived along the same route as mine in to college so I used to drop off my bike and we would take his car. His unsought sartorial advice was wise, and after a couple of years I again resembled a troll.

Sally - believe it or not it has been a great privilege to oversee the years. From clattery old teletypes connected to main frames via acoustic couplers up to the stage we are at now where most students have free access to a computer and teachers have to use them every day. Actually now that you have prompted me I think there could be a book in this....

Sally Lomax said...

Indeed there is Meredic!

Rosy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sablonneuse said...

Gosh yes, I remember the old BBC computers in schools. I can also sympathise with the lack of funds for equipment.

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