Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Fruitcake Minature College

You can take the teacher out of the college, but you can't take the college out of the teacher, I realised last night in my first private class (all within the terms of my redundancy).

I will spare their blushes and not identify the two students who responded to the flurry of emails which makes me Head of Marketing. Obviously I planned a course for them, which means I'm Director of Studies. Before they arrived I arranged chairs, flipchart paper on a cupboard door, lighting etc, which made me the Estates Department too. I wasn't the Principal, though. That position was usurped by Fruitcake, who marched about howling in a peremptory manner until he was whisked away into the living-room to listen to the Archers by Cho in her role as Head of Animal Care. At some point, my students and I discussed payment (I've got a receipt book and everything) which made me the Finance Department. Finance also had to liaise with Resources in order to empower the Course Tutor to facilitate the order of two course books for the only other two people I wasn't - the learners.

Strangely, last night's lesson was on the day that would ordinarily have been my first day at college of actual teaching (though not the first day of the virtual insanity of administration, interviews and meetings that precedes actual teaching). It was the same day last year, and there were some similarities, the first lesson butterflies for example, the students being friendly and keen, the course material itself. The big difference, I thought at first, was fulfilling all functions myself, until I remembered it often felt as if you were doing everyone's job. However, I've never had a cat looking for its litter tray in my class before.

In the interests of decorum, the Health and Safety Advisor had asked the Estates Department to put the litter tray in the cupboard under the stairs. Imagine the Teaching Team's horror when Fruitcake turned up in the middle of some tricky vocabulary and yowled in the corner where his tray would have been. Luckily the Head of Animal Care was prepared to interrupt her enjoyment of the Archers and arrest the Principal, otherwise a stream of pungent wee might have sunk Fruitcake Minature College on the first night.

I can hear the glee of Tory Merchant Venturer types applauding all this enterprise. This is what the country needs, surely, entreprenureship replacing the public sector. No, this is private desperation on my part, and good luck to everyone else out there too. In fact my efforts amply demonstrate the vacuity of the idea that individual enterprise can replace laboriously constructed systems of support - notwithstanding the fact that those systems can sometimes be more than a bit bonkers.

So was it harder being all those departments rather than 'just' the teacher? No, although I was nearly everyone, it was what we call in the trade a doddle. In the last 24 hours, on the anniversary of the first teaching day in the final annus horribilis, I have fulfilled in miniature all the functions of the college, and it's still been very much easier. All the same, private lessons certainly won't replace the step up into British life and work that my whole team gave to so many people who really needed it. Whether Fruitcake Miniature College can replace any substantial part of my income remains to be seen. I'll stroll into the Refectory to put the kettle on and think about that one for a while.

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