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Monday, 29 July 2013

The Strange Scotsman

Before anyone thinks this refers to me, they're wrong.
I admit I'm sometimes thought a little eccentric, in a loveable yet lightly scary manner, but strange?
I don't think so.

Strange?  Moi?

Regular readers, if any there be, will know some of the backstory, but I think I'd better start at the beginning, especially as there's been rather a long gap between posts.  Actually, seeing it's been 7 months, historic may be a better adjective.
7 months is too long

I work in Nuova Lazio High School, in a small town in New Zealand, fairly near our capital city, Wellington.

Through a series of mishaps and curious coincidences, my job here is now a strange hybrid of Head of Faculty (computing), coordinator of Relief, and Deputy Principal, but they call me Senior Teacher. (The kids call me the evil, four-eyed, bald, Scots bastard, but that's another story)  What this title means nobody really knows, but I do all the work I had before, plus all of the duties that the late and dearly missed Deputy Principal named Ringo used to perform.

The creature known as Ringo

I've been coordinating the relief teachers for almost 4 years now, and I actually enjoy the work.  It's quite a challenge assigning a relief teacher to a class where:

a) they understand the special aspects of the curriculum.
b) they can appreciate the special nature of our kids and really get them to learn.
c) they won't be eaten alive by our kids, or reduced to a quivering wreck, vainly trying to hide in the stationary cupboard while the kids do a Haka outside

It's no use. They know you're in there, and they'll still be there when you come out.

But some of you non-pedagogues may be wondering why we need a relief teacher at all. 

I can hear you saying "But the kids want to learn" "Why can't you just give them the books and let them get on with it?"
You remember this

It's such comments like that (similar to the ones made by our own dear Minister of Education) that makes it clear that civilians have absolutely no idea what a modern classroom environment is like.

We experience this

They need control, every minute of every hour.  They need work, tailored to their (sometimes miniscule) intelligence, cultural idiosyncrasies and work ethic to be presented in an engaging and (may the good Lord have mercy) enjoyable manner.  Think back to when your own schooldays.

I'll bet that while many, or even some of you may have enjoyed school, did your teachers try to make it FUN?  We were there to LEARN for goodness sake, not go to a bloody circus.

You're not here to have fun for f*ck's sake

Anyway, I digress.

The other aspect of my relief coordinator job is to input the reason for a teacher's absence, for the pay/leave system, and this is where I find some things a little difficult.

Quite frankly some of the reason given are not really what I, as a UK trained teacher, would accept.

In the UK you do not take time of for Dentists, Doctors, Vets or nearly anything.  It was expected as a professional that you would minimise your absences from your appointed classes, while over here in NZ I get excuses like:

Aww, poor boy, has poor boy sprained his bloody fingernail?
Get to bloody work.

  1. I have to take my dog to the vet.
  2. I have to bury the cat.
  3. I've got a sprained fingernail.
  4. My Gerbil isn't very well
  5. My neighbour's heating has broken and they have to stay with me.
  6. Last night's earthquake caused a landslip onto our driveway, and there's about 25 tonnes of mud and clay between me and school.
  7. My daughter is taking her driving test.
  8. My finger that got broken playing rugby 8 months ago needs to be seen by the consultant sometime during 9 am to 4 pm
  9. My Gran died.
  10. My Auntie died
  11. My Uncle died.
  12. My son/daughter isn't feeling very well.

All except one of these were actual reasons/excuses given during the last year, which one is a fake? (See bottom of page)
By the way, for 9-11 above, if the family/teacher involved is Maori, then it becomes a little vague as to how much time is allowed off for a Tangihanga, from 1 day to about (I think) 1 week. 

One teacher has had 3 deaths in 1 year, which is either an unfortunate coincidence or she's really got to much access to the Sodium Cyanide from the science department.

There was one other exceptional reason given this year, when a teacher complained of :
  • Feeling a bit tired.
  • Had a stiff neck.
  • Face flushed and feverish.
  • Eyes began to swell and protrude.
  • Tingling and pain all over her body.
  • Black fluid began to exude from her eyes and her vision blurred to the point of uselessness.

We of course suspected the worst.

We were sure it was another case of mass possession by 9RT.

An exorcism for the teacher was speedily arranged and the usual suspects in 9RT were showered with holy water and sprinkled with Garlic salt.  The doctors suspected a viral infection, but we knew better.
Bad sign.  Very, very bad sign

Ever since we found that crucified possum we have all known what to expect.  It was the melted remains of the black candles which really gave it away.

Oh bugger, I've run out of time, so I'll have to continue this later.


  • The Strange Scotsman arrives in a peculiar manner
  • The sight of the highly polished shoes
  • The case of the Bosnian Trench Clearance.
No, No, not that type of trench.
(For those observant enough to have read the section on "reasons for absences" it was number 6 that was made up.)


  1. Replies
    1. Well done Ricardo, I thought I might have coaught you on that one. See you later.

  2. Each day of work missed is like manna from heaven!

    1. Maybe to you and to the bugger who is missing from the chalkface, but I can assure you, it feels to me more like a lead brick dropped from altitude rather than manna.

  3. How many staff away today on first day back of the term as a matter of interest?

    1. Good grief what a bunch of wowsers!

    2. How could you say such a thing...delicate is the word we use.

    3. What has happened to your dislike of PC bullshit TSB?

  4. I would have put money on number 3. How the hell does one sprain ones fingernail?

    1. The culprit had been trying to open what he thought was a scre-top of beer, and found out too late that it wasn't

    2. He must have been in a lot of pain--& THIRSTY. too!!

    3. Probablt - to both. But he should have used some common sense...and then opened it using his teeth.

  5. Is it fair to say that a student's behavio(u)r can be directly tied to how much involvement the parents have? Or is that just reducing every student to a stereotype?

    This is an excellent review. Much appreciated.

    1. Probably yes. The more involvement, then generally the better the behavio(u)r. Unless of course the parental involement is selling more weed at school.

  6. It has to be #4 because we don't have gerbils in NZ. #2 seems perfectly reasonable, as long as the cat is dead, and if the staff member is trying to dig a hole in the tricky clay soils that abound in parts of our valley I think an extra two or so days may be required at the height of summer. Lovely to have you back. I thought you'd pulled out of the blogesphere because you had been raised above the rabble to a position of power at NLHS - glad you can still slum it with non-management types!

    1. I thought she said Gerbil, but I suppose I could have misheard and she said "George" instead. Or perhaps it was a mutant hamster.

      I've been slumming it since 1976. I'm not proud.

  7. 1 to 8, not counting 6, are disgraceful. How can you have any respect for people who'd use excuses like that? I'd picked 4 as being fictitious, with options on 3 and 5. What have we come to?
    Now, in my day (he mumbles, steadying himself on his walking frame) we were tougher. I once burst my appendix on the first day of the May "holiday", spent 2 weeks in hospital or in bed at home, and was back at work on the first Monday of Term 2. I know the young folks, and the cynical older ones too, won't believe that, but I swear it's true.

    1. Ah, ex-Clive, who said I had to have respect with the bunch of weak-kneed namby-pambies I have to work with.

      Blokes of your grit are sadly extinct.

      Probably because they never took a bloody day off.

    2. Actually a few years back I recall Tryfan was writihing around in his technology classes in agony thinking he just had a bad gut ache and Crofty took him to hospital and he had a full blown case of appendicitis! Such blokes do still exist even at NLHS.

  8. Being the tough bastard that I am, I once walked over a mile to work, in the snow, with a badly sprained ankle.
    And another time, I broke my collar bone but only missed two days of work when other people I know who had suffered the same injury before me told me they'd had several weeks off.


    Plus i needed the money and didn't want to get sacked.

    1. Well done that man, take a lollipop.

      Oh, wait, you're a machine.

      Well done that man-shaped-machine, take a dollop of grease.

      I hate to say it but that is generally the main motivation of us all.

  9. I guessed 6 do I get a prize? Do I? Do I Mr?

    Bring on the Scotsman I feel a case of rabid Scots violence in the air ...

    1. Yes, yes Furtheron, now put down your hand, you shall get a gold star.

      You have no idea how rabid.

      Wait and see.

  10. I once worked with a woman (pre-teaching days) who had to take a day off work to bury her pet sheep. No kidding. She had no children and her animals/pets were her children. The loss of her pet sheep effected her so badly I had to have a chat to our boss to recommend she may need grief counselling. Of course the rest of the team thought it was hilarious. But for that lady it was no joke.

    1. I don't know if that sad or funny.

      I would have offered to take the dead sheep off her hands.


    2. Yeah I had to tell the guys to lay of the sheep,lamb chops, mutton and barbecue jokes or suggestions that we could cremate the dearly departed sheep at a team barbecue for reasons of extreme sensitivity!.

    3. Jokes are good.

      Being sensitive is being vulnerable.

      Harden Up.

  11. School for me was close to hell, grumpy old teachers (seemed all our teachers were over 100) many of them liked the ruler or cane rather too much...then there was Mr Tzerophos who could hit a fly with his blackboard duster and often pelted kids from right across the room. It not only hurt but left a big cloud of chalk dust and marks on your clothes that other kids didnt tell you about.. and did it damage us. No Damn Way!

    If anyone wants me I'll be over in the corner sobbing...

    1. Oh, you mean the hallowed St Tzerophos, the patron saint of grumpy pedagogues? There's an icon of him in every school of teaching in the western world. We all try to emulate him, but the PC Police have stopped us hurling the blocks of wood and felt.

      Have a quiet sob, you'll soon feel better, then take 1000 lines for being a wimp.

  12. What's so great about being a fucking hero for going to work? Great, fantastic---burst appendix, broken collar bones, etc.---and all in the cause of going to WORK? Truly, I am glad to have esacpe this kind of heroism.

    1. It's called professionalism. I know that's a strange concept to you arty-farty types, but to us it means keeping your end up. And stop thinking about Stunna Wife.


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