Schools are difficult organisations to work with. They live in their own cocooned world, populated largely by people who have known naught else. Like the notaries of Byzantium they enter this world in early childhood and know no other until taken by death or retirement. They have a tendency towards single-mindedness, sometimes to the point of absurdity.
Some schools and their teachers are brilliant to work with. They're communicative, positive and encouraging and their children have a grand time of it and we're glad to have seen them and hope they come back soon. Other schools are not. In fact, if some teachers are taken as examples set before their charges it goes some way to explaining why we live in a society full of pig-ignorant oafs and cloth-eared idiots. Two examples this week, sadly...
Frog's just had an author visit. It was arranged some time ago, the idea being that schools would be invited to bring kids to the event. This involves the usual business: sending emails out to the schools and getting no reply; then sending an article in the schools bulletin; then sending a letter to all schools; then ringing round and being told that they got no email, no schools bulletin and no letter and they'll get back to Frog shortly; then a follow-up letter; then a follow-up ring-round; then confirmation from one or two teachers that they're interested; then confirmation that they'd like to come; then another ring-round; then confirmation that they're coming; then a panicky 'phone call from the school asking for the details of the event. It's a well-trodden path. Nothing new there. The author, well-known and popular (which is to say that real children borrow his books, even during the school holidays), duly arrived and settled in. Frog provided the hospitality. And they waited.
After half an hour Frog rang the school and spoke to the teacher he was expecting.
"Oh, we decided not to come. I handed out a couple of his books and the kids weren't interested so I decided not to bother."
And now Maybelle's copped for one. She's arranged a Black History Month event involving some Francophone Africans who are coming over to talk about their experiences as refugees and their reactions to arriving and learning about living in Helminthdale. The whole point being that it's going to be all in French, which is an opportunity for older children doing their French A-levels to get experience in listening to, talking to and doing a writing workshop with native French speakers. Quite a lot of schools were interested and one in particular was so interested that they block booked all the places for its sixth form. Really encouraging, lots of potential and the sort of thing we should be doing.
Imagine Maybelle's chagrin when the teacher rang her two days before the event to say they couldn't come after all.
"It's too close to the mock exams."
(Note for readers: The mock examinations are the formal practice runs for the real thing. The date of them hasn't changed any since well before this event was set up and advertised. In fact they're the same as when I did them myself back in the dark ages. Not for months yet.)