Time was when there were something like 10 pupil-free days to give the teachers a chance to focus on curriculum and professional development. If nothing else it was a welcome opportunity to remind yourself that there is life beyond school.

No doubt our charges anticipated these days with as keen an enthusiasm as we did. Sadly, curriculum days have been reduced to a paltry three. It means that the Monday before Melbourne Cup Day is now a normal day. Try telling the kids that.

The train station that morning resembled an out-take from On The Beach. The train itself, normally groaning under the avoirdupois of too many sweating, swearing commuters, rattled like a bone cart. The idea of taking one of the many seats available was almost wicked in its novelty. The train literally flew to Lowbottom Station, which was similarly deserted.

You expected tumbleweeds to roll across the foreground of the long shot while Hugo Montenegro and his men provided the soundtrack.

Would classes be cancelled due to complete lack of interest? No, as it turned out. The borderline Asperger kids were all there, naturally. Well, they adore routine. So too the Asian students who have harridan mothers who whip them towards that medical degree from pre-school. There were other odd bods as well. But despite their attendance, the understanding was that this was a “bludge” day.

They were cruelly mistaken as teachers took out their resentment on the attendees with challenging worksheets and complex problems. In fact, it is their parents who are the real persons of colour in the woodpile.

For it is they who have lobbied the department about the inconvenience of having to care for their brood on pupil-free days.

Parenting, apparently, gets in the way of their busy lives. With luck the kids would have returned home haggard and ragged and bent on taking out their frustrations on mum and dad. What comes around, goes around.

Read the full Lowbottom High diaries here.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey