My Innermost Circle of Hell

I hate a staffroom with prickles in it. I hate the freedom to choose any cup in the staffroom cupboard that is in reality an elaborate but secret system of cup choice only hinted at by the odd, fleeting grimace and veiled umbrage at my choice of cup. I hate – but hate – the sinking feeling (pants already long around ankles and minutes before the bell chimes for my next lesson) as my hand reaches deeper into the toilet roll holder and my fingertips frantically scrape around the cardboard roll – around and around and around, as if one, two, three turns of the screw will begin to set in train a miraculous process of the regeneration of the now nonexistent toilet paper.

Oh, but I reserve a special, most sadistic circle of Hell for the poorly-made education resource. I’m not shy to admit that I use textbooks in my teaching. In fact, I’d go as far as to assert that a well-constructed textbook can be much more than a crutch to lean upon in times lean of time – a textbook that is matched to your curriculum and thoughtfully works towards generating the types of understanding demanded by your subject is a joy to behold (albeit an increasingly rare find).

I don’t mind finding mistakes in gig-economy resources. In such straightened times as these, I don’t mind that my 99p, sent via Teachdystopia to a teacher in Rotherham who is too knackered to correctly spell ‘pronunciation’, is helping him to save up for a spoon to scrape the mould from the bedroom wall of his baby daughter. In such straightened times as these, I don’t mind that my curiously specific 3 pounds and 56 pence sent via Teachdystopia to a teacher in Stroud whose brain is too battered with directives to create an accurate answer key, is helping her to save up for a pen her school should be providing her in order that she might have a hope in Hell (the place I reserve for those with far more time and money, and yet who still persist in farting out resources that have no genesis in any human interaction I know of, let alone that between a student and a teacher) of complying with a marking policy written by someone who last marked a student’s book in 1992 (and even then only to hurriedly miswrite ‘good work’ as ‘good wank’).

Oh no, sirree. I don’t mind finding mistakes amongst my peers – where, indeed, I too am to be found, also making mistakes (admittedly not for money – at least I don’t see any of it). But show me a wrong answer key or a typo in a textbook printed by a university press that could field a coxless four and I will show you a purple face with a rictus gritted smile and the blackest of beady eyes and barely perciptible steam emitting from my red, red ears.

Show me a unit that begins with the most banal of openers (“ask the class what ‘community’ means to them…”) and you will see a ridge of veins explode along my neck like some great burrowing creature making an instant Pennine.

Show me a textbook that endlessly asks my students to “comment upon the effects of writer’s choices’ (as if that, in itself, were enough to make cigarello-smoking Paris Left-Bank literary theorists of a group of 12 year-olds) and you will see my retina fracture into a trillion tiny pieces; my ears turn to klaxons that blaspheme like a vintage Looneytoon gone wrong; my nostrils flare into a thousand kaleidoscopic Kenneth Williamses.

I hate a staffroom with prickles in it, but I hate-hate, so hate-but-hate the resource made so far away from children that it hurts their eyes to look upon the thoughtless activities and half-baked generalities that masquerade, with a blithe ignorance of the living classroom, across page after page to no end but themselves.

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