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Diary of a Schoolteacher: I wonder if our new recruit knows how much 'draughma' to expect

Today before I enter the staff room, I catch a whiff of cigarillo smoke at the school entrance and correctly surmise that the new Transition Year drama tutor, a distant cousin of the principal, has arrived.

It's lunch time and the room is packed but even so I can pick him out within a millisecond and decide to approach him.

He's scrutinising a copy of the Guardian newspaper as I settle down beside him, and with his attention diverted, I manage to take in all the details -- the lightly gelled grey hair and the matching little grey moustache, the check shirt, collar open with the yellow silk cravat tucked in, the brown corduroy jacket, the jeans with the turn-ups and of course the Doc Martens.

Then he looks up. "Hi, I'm Mr Grade," I utter by way of introduction.

There's a fluster as he loses control of the Guardian and then recovers to stick out a hand: "Gideon O'Toole. Delighted."

I ask him what brings him here, all fake innocence. "Drama with your Transition people," he replies, though he pronounces it as 'Draughma' in a weird posh South County Dublin accent and then adds, "though my real métier is writing books.

"I'm writing one called Irish Foreigners at the moment, it's about Filipinos who sing sean nós and Chinese that build currachs. Books with the word 'Irish' in them are very popular at the moment and I know a lot of foreigners."

I hazard the guess that Gideon might be a teacher of English as a Foreign Language on top of draughma, (and of course a writer too) and he nods affirmatively.

I've met a few down the years and they always have unusual names like Rex, Raphael or Ross and they all speak and dress like 1970s ex-pats.

Our union rep, a nasty little Kerryman who expects to become our next principal, has let it be known that he suspects Gideon O'Toole of being some kind of a spy, planted in our midst by the principal and has issued the diktat that we are on no account to show him even a smidgeon of kindness.

As it would happen, the Transition Year crew have just got back from a trip to an adventure centre. Oh such high jinks!

Stories are circulating of how our teaching colleagues found themselves being tipped out of canoes into an ice cold river by Dean O'Thugarty and then how, while rock climbing, the PE teacher claimed that he had narrowly avoided plunging to a horrible death because the student up ahead of him, Jamie Fingerton, had "accidentally" stepped on his face.

A bit of whinger that PE teacher -- probably exaggerating.

Still, looking at this gentle soul, on course for a week of hell with our finest, I am suffused with pity and I can't help offering to escort him up to their room. No need, as of course the principal is already there reading the riot act.

Silence reigns.

E Grade

Irish Independent