Thursday 22 February 2018

Staff Only: Paddy's Day with the sex bomb, the Irish teacher and Tom Jones

E Grade

'Buama gnéas, buama gnéas, is tusa mo bhuama gnéas," rings out down the corridor, as I approach yesterday's last class, panting with the effort of having survived another day's punishment at the hands of the youth of Ireland, my only goal to collapse on a chair regardless of how many drawing pins await my buttocks.

So who is this sex bomb, this benefactor of Tom Jones' touching tribute to love? Singing ' Sex Bomb' in Irish, this being Seachtain na Gaeilge, seems a nice touch, but when I see who the raucous, and now in fits of laughter, singer is, I nearly drop my books and my duster in shock. It's none other than the hitherto paradigm of studious piety, Madison.

"It's Mr Shine," Madison announces over the roars of laughter that are spilling out of the classroom behind her. "He's teaching us Sex Bomb in Irish for the Paddy's Day concert." The formerly meek Madison skips into the classroom where I am greeted with smiling faces and 'Dia dhuits'. How does he get them to learn so much and behave so well?

Ever since he, Mr Róan Shine, a native of the Midlands margarine Mecca of Athlone arrived in our school, he has been showing up ordinary decent teachers like myself.

The guy ought to have been a disaster with his Ali G beard and the fact that his hometown has been blighted by the sinister Pentagon-like Department of Education HQ that some long-gone local TD/Minister managed to sneak in as part of decentralisation.

You can imagine them, the Department drones descending on Athlone at sunset like Irish-speaking vampires, discussing ML60 forms and the advantages of green ink over red when marking tests. Enough to turn off anyone growing up there from teaching, but no, Róan Shine has shone even in the teaching equivalent of Devil's Island -- teaching Irish.

Shine is the staff room's last superpower. He's a popular Irish teacher who manages to train the Gaelic football team, the hurling team, the girl's soccer team as well as playing guitar and singing competently at all our school concerts. His private life is a mystery. All we know is that he alternately goes for a run or a swim every day.

Plenty of opportunities for this well-built, six-foot-tall, strong-as-an-ox man in his mid-twenties. A third year was heard boast: "I fell on Mr Shine on the class outing -- it was great!"

I ask myself how long can a valuable educator like Róan Shine deliver to our school. The answer is: as long as he is allowed to offer useful skills and resists putting himself in a position where he becomes irrelevant to the students, he'll be fine.

However, if he takes a job that means becoming a joke and a lackey, then it will be all over. Without the sport and the teaching skills, his beard and his ridiculous accent will suddenly become obvious to all. Róan, never become a principal.

Irish Independent

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