Life Learning

Thursday 14 December 2017

Diary of a Schoolteacher: They'll be 'back to school' before it even finishes next year

E Grade

My two nieces started back to school on 20 August – two weeks ago. Confirmation if you ever needed it that 'back-to-school', as the supermarkets call it, is getting closer to the beginning of August every year.

For the supermarkets the whole event is up there with Easter and Christmas as they rush out the latest line in school bags, pencil cases and the famous €5 white shirt – and it's not only in Ireland that the whole fuss starts up while we're supposed to be still enjoying ourselves on the beach – I noticed shops in France pushing 'la rentrée' as early as July – no wonder my nephews and nieces look puzzled when I come home bringing them presents of French pencil parers, geometry sets and copybooks.

Worst of all, as every parent in Ireland knows, is the whole school books saga. Witness in any Irish town the huge queues of bored (mostly) mums and kids standing with infinite patience in the local school supplies shop.

There they are clutching a list of titles, ruined in the wash last June but printed off the school website this morning, everyone rubbing their eyes with fatigue having already stood for two hours in the busy Main Street, fighting back flashbacks to their own childhood queuing traumas involving family holidays on Sealink car ferries.

So how the hell does this happen year after year, when we're all fed up with it? What about the teachers – especially ones like me who have kids ourselves and really ought to know better?

We are supporting a niche of the publishing industry in Ireland that otherwise might not exist?

The publishers have got so complacent that this year there you can buy a Leaving Cert course book for Irish and one for German that have identical covers. I predict confusion.

In general, over the last fifteen years there has been no or very little change to the various syllabi that make up the Junior Cert and Leaving Cert programmes.

Going back to French, our teacher tells me that this year you could still use the same set of books from 1997 – there might be a few references to Thierry Henry or Chirac but so what?

The same goes for most courses with the exception of the older CSPE books which feature a rogues' gallery of creepy politicians that we'd rather forget .

The only answer is the book rental scheme. Each teacher nominates one title that they will stick to for five years, the school or parents raise funds and buy the whole lot wholesale. Supplement lessons with the internet, don't waste time and funds on photocopies and everyone is a winner. Simple.

Irish Independent

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