Sunday, 22 April 2012

beat the drum

The week started ominously enough.  Back at work after the traditional two week 'holiday' - the Duke of Edinburgh week included - for a 'Professional Development Day'.  We're not allowed to do any useful work, we have to be directed to spend the day going to meetings and being told what this term's style of teaching is to be.  But hold on! There's an hour at the end of the day for a 'Team Building' session. Deep joy.

Evidently the new Ofsted criteria are so harsh now that most schools in England have been downgraded.  What was excellent last year and for the previous few years is now just not good enough. A friend of mine has a theory that whilst this is going on and so called 'Free Schools' are being opened everywhere (including, allegedly, in our little town*), the Tories are basically bringing in Grammar schools through the back door.  So, most schools (Academies) are useless but there will be  in place a range of selective schools that can be turned into Grammar Schools instantly.

Anyway, back to the PD Day. So we went to one session that told us of the high importance being put upon learning in the new criteria so it was of utmost importance that we sit and listen to how important it is and then spend up to 15 minutes desgning a lesson for a subject none of us teach with more resources than we could sensibly read through in the time available. We were given a few minutes during the day to meet in departments. But, of course, we still had the last session to attend.

The time came and we duly filed in to the hall where every seat had an African drum and a length of plastic pipe on it. From the stage came the deep and rythmical thumping of a drum group.  Three guys furiously beating out the sound so beloved of 1930s Universal Pictures movies such as King Kong.  It's those damned drums!!

An hour.

A whole bloody hour spent sitting there banging on drums.  Since when is sitting in an audience being directed when to hit it, how to hit it and when to stop hitting it by a guy on stage "team building"? That's audience participation isn't it?

Having started with drumming, the week ended with the sad death of Levon Helm late of the Band. I'm sure there'll be many obituaries and reminiscences to come but I liked this short comment in yesterday's i.  Levon had been ill for the last ten years but had managed to complete a couple of solo albums - his voice was shot, obviously, because of the throat cancer - but they are pretty good and there are glimpses of the man's goodtime spirit and joy.  It's a shame that he and Robbie Robertson never really buried an ancient hatchet** but he died with dignity and with his friends and family around him.  For Levon, that's what it was all about. I'm sure I'm not the only one who thought of such great songs as Rag Mama Rag and The Weight when we heard the news.  But I also though of the last track from Levon's Dirt Farmer - Wide River to Cross:

I'm only half-way home I gotta journey on
To where I'll find the things that I have lost
I've come a long, long road still I've got miles to go
I've got a wide, wide river to cross

I guess that journey's over.  Thanks for the music, Levon. It'll live on.
*ironically enough the two schools are being amalgamated into one because of falling roles.  Er . . .
** According to the obituary in today's Independent, differences seem to have been overcome as Robertson visited Helm in hospital. Apologies for the misleading comment.  I'm glad this happened, our older heroes are going pretty damned fast.

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