January 2009

What if I just walk around it?

Did you know that a substantial proportion of the secondary sector teachers are at the moment taking industrial action.  Not many people do.  Basically, the NASUWT is at the moment taking action to ensure parity with England and Wales.  The action involves not covering any lessons outside our timetabled time (cover for absent teachers) and not doing a list of administration tasks that our colleagues in England and Wales don’t have to do.  Like collecting money or chasing up absences (unless you are a year head).  Our union visitor said to us that if we did not get trained to do it at university then we should not be doing it!

The pay parity is an interesting and confusing point.  As far as I can tell, most teachers get exactly the same as the teachers in England and Wales.  There does seem to be a difference with management points.  However, the INTO (a union taking no action) makes an interesting comment on the NASUWT’s claim here.

So, what’s the harm in action that no-one seems to know about?  A lot.  It appears to me that a lot of money is being wasted when teachers are not doing any cover lessons.  It means that schools cannot make efficient use of cover teachers.  A cover teacher has to now be brought in for every absent teacher even if we only need them to cover classes a portion of the day.   Also, teachers are often allowed to take trips or sports games and their colleagues covered for them.  When teachers don’t do cover this is somewhat limited.

I do think that we should be treated the same as other teachers.  As I see it, we in Northern Ireland have a history of being paid less than other teachers in England and Wales.  It always seemed to me that the department of educations always dragged there heals 1 year behind in our annual pay increases.


  • It seems to me that, at the moment, parity is closer than it has ever been.
  • The action we are currently taking is hurting our schools, students and limiting the teachers themselves.
  • In the current climate I am glad to have a job.
  • I think teachers get paid really well.
  • I think the conditions are very good.
  • As far as only doing what I was trained to do at university – I am a professional and I love every aspect of my job*

A majority of NASUWT members in Northern Ireland voted in favour of this action but I really don’t agree with it.  It’s the wrong type of action at the wrong time.  So is it OK for me to walk around the picket line?  Is it OK for me to leave and join another union?

*Apart from marking.  I hate marking.

And tidying my classroom.


Fog this morning.  Beautiful fog.

I love the closeness of a foggy winter morning, the sounds and the look of trees.  The only time I did not like to see fog was when there was a crazy junction on the way to school.  On really foggy mornings it felt like a risky game turning right onto a busy main road.  Now there is a roundabout.

During staff briefing today I was leaning against a wall full of leaflets and notices.  As I intently listened to the notices my eyes drifted to a little magazine beside me;  A booklet explaining all the different types of tarmac and asphalt used on the roads or Northern Ireland.  Life is random sometimes.

It does not feel like a proper weekend as I was in school for open day.  The most strange aspect of it was that it still felt like a Saturday to some degree.  We still lounged about and read the papers in a cafe.  I even had time to wander about a bit and call into a book shop.  Queen’s University book shop.  It is always guaranteed to have a very large selection, truly something for everyone.  One book I picked up and have so far found very interesting is Five minutes to midnight  Hickey.


The book I was actually looking for is one called The Night of The Big Wind.  They did not have it and I may have to try the publishers themselves.


These sites make quite interesting reading about it:

here and here

These books on non-fiction I find easy to read.  They are like junk food, or sweets.  What I find hard is fiction, I need to be in the right frame of mind for it.  So tonight I felt I was ready to try a little fiction – The Big Snow by David Park.  It still has the book mark telling me how far I got the last time (not far).  From chapter 1 it is charged with moving emotions.


So far, so good.

Tidying, marking, tidying, marking, climbing.

The lovely Sharon is sick at the moment.  I make sure to give her little hugs and tell her she is a brave girl.  I think its called sympathy although I can’t  be certain*.

It feels like a busy time of year at the moment, internal exams are just over and open day is a stone throw away.   My classroom is a perpetual mess and the students tell me they remember seeing a teacher’s desk a few years ago, under the paper and books.  At the moment I keep thinking about the idea of drilling tiny little holes in my ceiling.  I could put little LEDs in the holes, so small that they cannot be seen.  Then when switched on they would form the constellations across the whole ceiling.  A little project to think about.

*What I really do is:  Ring or text  every hour  or so, to check progress.  I rush home from school and buy lucazade and grapes to cheer her up.  I keep the fire topped up to warm her shivering body. And most importantly of all, I microwave “hug me better” bear.


Hug me better bear has microwavable beans.  You need to add a little water to him before you put him in the microwave.  I recall one time when I was sick and the lovely sharon failed to dampen his beans.  I lay in bed feeling sorry for myself and wondering why the forgetful lovely sharon was making me popcorn.


I stumbled upon another rare gem on Friday; Between the Mountains and the Gantries by Will Morrison.  I had actually spied it some time ago and I am glad I caved in.  The language is light and refreshing and the subject is fascinating.  I have only begun to read it and so far it is a memoir of life in Northern Ireland, mainly Belfast, during and just after the 2nd world war.  It is a book that I imagine might be a rarity in a few years.

I read recently that Waterstones is laying off about 200 or so of its staff.  They are changing the way that they order and deliver books to their stores.  As I understood it, the current system relies on a person in the store ordering books directly from the publishers, the old fashioned way.  The new system does not require this person.  Instead the books are delivered to the store from a central waterstones distribution system.  I worry that this system might mean that less books like the one above get represented.  The book is a local book from a local publisher; Appletree Press.  I hope I am wrong and that the stores can still retain their individuality.

Another book I am leafing randomly through at the moment is:


Mushrooms by John Wright – VERY INTERESTING and amusingly written.  It makes me more confident about the fact that I REALLY DON’T want to pick my own mushrooms (when reading the non edible section).  One strange mushroom is both edible and poisonous! You can eat it safely as long as you not not consume even a small smidgen of alcohol for at least 72 hours.  Weird.

Marking papers and being distracted by the weather forecast.

Metcheck shows this progression for tonight and tomorrow:


Twigs and branches all over the road.

Walking down the street sideways.

The air roars as it strains through trees.

The house moans a little.

The light fades through grey and strange oranges.

It’s windy out there, time to light the fire.




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