Sunday 25 February 2018

Diary of a schoolteacher: It's results day and the postman always knocks twice... for her

E Grade

No other day exposes the power structure of our school than Junior Cert results day. You might think that the principal and his faithful lackey, the deputy principal, would be the first to go through the results, but you'd be wrong.

They might possess the titles, it might be their names on the school notepaper but when it comes to wielding real hard power, they are mere minions of the mighty one -- the school secretary.

Mrs Catherine Tramell derives her power from the fact that she is the awesome keeper of all keys, teachers' and pupils' computer passwords and most important of all the damning files containing our personal records. Catherine, always gets the Junior Cert results first.

The routine is the same every September. Secretary Tramell arrives at eight and locks the door of her office after letting herself in.

Half an hour later the postman arrives. Any request to take the post to her majesty will be refused should anyone have the courage to ask, and he is only admitted once she hears his coded knock (apparently he always knocks twice).

Staying for less than one minute, he then leaves and her door is locked again. Standing outside we can all hear the key turning and the bolts being slammed into place.

Claiming that she needs the time alone to make sure that no one who should be receiving results has been excluded, it is my firm belief that she is simply wallowing in her pathetic little power trip, brewing up a fresh cup of tea, probably unwrapping a Kit-Kat, finger by finger.

All the while the two bosses are fretting away in their offices, watching the hands of the clock crawling towards nine o'clock.

This year I have the thankless task (is there any other kind?) of keeping the excited 4th Years from marching on the reception area and storming the secretary's office like crazed starving medieval peasants.

There's no shutting them up today; "Sare! Why can't we get our results now?" they whine.

I shrug and tell them it's nothing to do with me, but at ten past nine I nip down for an update. There's Eldritch the principal and the deputy waiting outside her door. Looks like she's delaying it this year. What a pro that woman is.

Róin Shine passes by with an enquiring raised eyebrow. I snort, saying, "Still waiting there like a pair of eejits!" and we give it our best sneers.

Then she finally opens up and both men gasp with relief. Handing the envelope to Eldritch she smiles and says, "They're good", and turns on her impressive heel and shuts the door behind her again.

Elbowing the DP out of his way, Eldritch snatches it, glances through it, checking that no one important has failed and leaves. The DP picks it up and examines it slowly -- after all, he actually knows most of the pupils.

In her office Catherine smiles to herself, her pre-eminence confirmed for another school year.

Irish Independent

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