A pupil wants to leave for another school? She's brighter than I thought!
Yesterday the deputy principal stopped me in the corridor, all furrowed brow and eyes wet with pain. "Just been talking to Fabriese Murphy in second year and she tells me she's applied to go to Merciful Hour Convent next year," this whispered as though the fate of the nation depends on our foiling this heinous scheme. "Oh," I reply, with sudden realisation that Fabriese has a lot more sense than I ever gave her credit for.
The DP, however, can't hide the shock of the 'ingratitude' that Fabriese and her mother have demonstrated after all we apparently have done for her.
I'm saying: "No, deputy principal, I don't know why she would want to leave just before she starts the key year running up to the Junior Certificate examination," but I'm thinking word must have got back to Mrs Murphy of how Dean Meaney stuffed the wastepaper basket full of paper during maths class, set it on fire and then jumped out the window shouting "f**k the lot of ye".
Oh well, at least he was suspended for a day. Or perhaps it's a simple case of snobbery; there are some who believe that a single-sex catholic-ethos school looks better on the CV than words like 'mixed' and 'community'.
Not that many of the so-called catholic schools that I know are filled exclusively with church-going hard-working kids, who play hockey or rugby.
They, too, have their fill of pupils who enjoy nothing more than a few cans of cheap brew in the local graveyard and then kick over a few headstones before heading home. No shortage of atheists there, and even a few non-Christian faiths thrown into the mix. To me, the only thing that seems 'Catholic' about them is a propensity to separate out saints and sinners so as better to distribute favour and punishment accordingly.
Yet my school has welcomed its own fair share of defectors from the Lord's schools and this has me thinking about kids who move school. Often it's simply because they've moved town and we offer subsidies on schoolbooks, cheap trips to Dublin and plenty of learning support. Or the other schools are so desperate to get rid of them they are willing to strike a deal and take one of our 'unhappy' people on exchange.
This never works. A troublemaker who hates school will appoint new cronies after a transfer. In fact, their fresh partners in crime have often up to now led blameless lives -- it's the inevitable chemistry of relationships and we've all seen what happens when there's a new kid in town.
Still, our DP has no cause to be upset. What Fabriese will find at Merciful Hour Convent is that rightly or wrongly, the heirs to the nuns run a regime that is inflexible but clear in its intentions. Guilt follows punishment, even though sometimes it's merely assumed.
Whether this is better than an overly liberal and woolly headed lack of direction depends on what you value in Irish schools.