Thursday, November 6, 2008

The whiteboard phantom

Someone had been drawing cryptic signs and words on the whiteboards at Emanuel school. Strange bloated hands with six fingers and rosh hashana wishes on the palm. Smatterings of Hebrew and mutterings in English about burial ceremonies and your favourite colour and conceptual families and clarifying self-talk and the root of maariv is maarav, for the sun most certainly sinks in the west. And when the maths teacher came into the class, and tried to clean these vague and half-baked scribbles off the whiteboard they would not be wiped, for the whiteboard phantom had written on the whiteboard with an implacable permanent marker, and in the process ruined the maths teacher's lesson.

Nor did this unconscious graffiti come to the phantom's attention, and it advanced from class to class innocently chalking up more indelible and incoherent Hebrew hieroglyphics on more boards in classrooms near and far, so that the Hebrew teacher too was unable to write on the board, and spent her lesson raging and muttering against the phantom, whose identity was well known to her, the maths teachers, and the authorities.

Angry emails flew backwards and forwards between the phantom's victims and the deputy head, and accusing fingers were pointed at a certain S________, becuase who else could be guilty of a) writing nonsense and b) writing it indeliblely, if not on the hearts of the students, then on the whiteboard. The word went out - get S______, and get him over there with mineral turps to undo the damage.

And when S_____, (for indeed it was he who was the graffiti teacher) tired and bewildered but proud of having survived another three or so lessons marched with a fakely confident stride into the staffroom (which collapsed immediately into a defeated crumple as he shut the door behind him and no-longer needed to worry that the students might be observing him), he sat down after pouring himslf a cup of hot water, flipped open his infernal lap top, and downloaded his emails, when he was gently summonsed to his HODs office, and was told there semed to be a problem with the whiteboards and that they (the HOD kindly used the plural, and meant it) would need to clean it up. S______ was surprised, and anxious, because he understood that underneath the gentle understatement, lay a number of emails (they leapt out at his eye from the HODs monitor) which expressed the kind of outrage that brews when people running down their familiar daily tracks are forced off them by the blunders of as yet unclassified additions to the school landscape to whom it should have occurred etc etc. And S______ truthfully had never thought about the whiteboards at all befre that moment, despite having stood in front of them for almost 8 months of school. And S______ was both mortified and defensively defiant and >internally and externally apologetic (would this be the beginning of the end?), and the next morning rushed over to the groundsmen to get turps and rags and tried to clean, but the boards had already been cleaned and what remained - the stains - would not be diminished.

Sometimes at school I feel like Our Man in Damascus, lehavdil elef alfei havadalot, zicharon tzadik livracha, leadin this intolerable double life, except that when I get "caught" it will be a great relief, forcing me to find another way to earn the rent which perhaps has more integrity....

No comments: