Wednesday 21 March 2018

Diary of a Schoolteacher: Class falls foul of the books scandal

I really identify with the people in the 'Angry People v Poor Computers' clip on Youtube. This is a montage of CCTV footage of men taking out their frustration on helpless but infuriating PCs by slapping and punching them -- one guy carries his over to the photocopier and starts to crush it with the lid of the machine.

I know how all those frustrated office workers feel thanks to the fact that several of my classes have fallen victim to the great school book rip-off this year. Yes, we all know how this particular one plays out; most teachers I know are generally satisfied with, say, the 3rd years' course book that we've used for the past three years, that dog-eared tome.

You can instantly find that reference to soil creep or the future periphrastic, so you submit the same books to the school book list for 2011-12. Why change, when you have all the answers written in your personal copy?

Then three months later it's August and the staff member charged with sending out the book list tells you that they are all out of print or have been discontinued.

You scratch your head in confusion and ask yourself why -- surely if there's been no changes made to the syllabus and the book was good, why are you being obliged to start looking around again for a new and probably more expensive book and tell your classes that last year's course books can't be passed on by the big brother or sister or bought second-hand?

None of these texts is any kind of improvement on last year's model, it's all just different pictures and the chapters placed in a different order.

The only exception on the curriculum is CSPE, as the old book features a speech by someone called Bertie Ahern and pictures of the Progressive Democrats.

I only have myself to blame when I admit that I couldn't decide which new 1st year and 6th year text books to go for -- so many shiny products to choose from! This has led to me spend hours researching material online, clicking print and then for the next hour and a half cursing at the 'offline' message on the printer.

Watch me as I run up and down the stairs to alternative copiers and printers, fit to kill out of frustration. I surrender! I'll order those new books soon before I end up on 'Angry People v Poor Computers'.

Let's hope that this new deal between the minister and the school book publishers works. They promise to keep editions in print for two years, so extending the life of a textbook for a minimum of six years, while revisions will be available online.

Let's hope the days are gone when I have to tell my pupils that their parents will have to fork out at least €30 for a new book that I never wanted in the first place.


Irish Independent

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