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I have become so long-sighted of late that I have to put on glasses to read my watch. Given the blurry eyesight, I did check, and I found to my surprise that it really is the second week of March: rather like my Year 13s, facing down the barrels of post-mocks reality, I wondered where the time has gone. Certainly not been spent in writing blogs, you might say – I have a list of topics I wanted to get cracking on (persuasive, calming words for 11+ candidates; why we don’t ascribe to the elderly the wisdom they most certainly have; my paperclip creativity moment; political ‘small print’ and our lack of willingness to commit to time to mastering it) but our biennial Gender Equality Awareness Week (GEAW) is on us and I’m twitching to have my say-so, so the other topics will have to sit it out in this blogger’s wings.

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‘Where on earth have you been?’ It’s the standard question my wife asks when I return from our wonderful corner shop, usually with one of our children happy to escape evening homework or their fair share of household chores. Our local store is an Aladdin’s cave of groceries and domestic hardware: in an emergency you can buy everything you’d need for a three-course meal, especially if you like your fruit, vegetables and pulses, but we tend to go there for a couple of items missing from the usual weekly shop, returning with a couple of bags of things we didn’t know we were missing until we spotted them. A chance conversation about red bush tea (then not stocked) led to our being introduced to the pleasures of Turkish tea and tea-making; another about Dundee cakes ensured that whole almonds, both blanched and natural, now feature on the shelf which groans under the weight of cake-making ingredients.

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I hope it’s not too late to wish everyone a Happy New Year! With Y11s having emerged from their seven-day incarceration in the Mallinson Sport Centre to do their mock GCSEs, term seems well and truly underway but it is nonetheless the beginning of a new year which will, I hope, bring much fulfilment and success.

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The world outside teaching smiles wryly when we say we’re busy towards the end of term: after all, we have three to four times more holiday than our labour laws prescribe, and the last time most adults had a summer break like ours was when they were at school themselves. But it’s wise nonetheless to listen in to teachers and to pupils when they say they’re ready for the end of term or, more frequently, that things are ‘really stressful’. I may even have reached for said epithet in defending myself against accusations of duty dereliction (I haven’t posted a blog in three weeks …)

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I won’t be the first to have started the post-half-term break asking how someone’s holiday was, with the rider: ‘Did you manage to keep the emails at bay?’ It’s a fact that even scanning work-related emails has the capacity to draw and claw you away from family and the family-friendly tempo of holiday-induced patience and real rather than feigned, snatched interest in your children’s thinkings and doings, and to curdle that relaxation. Emails, if we let them, mean we don’t often unplug: we only ever switch off to standby; an email works on us like pressing the remote control play button, and we fire up again. And I know that this is by no means limited to the education sector – hence the illuminating codes of practice in major companies banning employees from sending or reading emails after hours. Note to self - no point complaining: we just need to develop working practices which accommodate the new technologies.

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