The Awkward Whale

It was a day too late. It was a skill I could have utilised. It was a social genuflection that would have been most fitting had I known it 24 hours earlier. I could have lain on the floor, floundering, making a long and pain-ridden high pitch screeching sound while the others in the room nodded in agreement.

I spent yesterday interviewing people for the position of Lunch Lady at our school. School Meals Supervisory Assistant is the official job title but we all know that is pretentious bull shit. Nobody calls them that, not even the school staff. Lunch Lady, Dinner Lady, Dinner Staff, but never SMSA: the acronym always makes me think of powdered baby milk.

Two people were to be appointed to posts and the fact that jobs are hard to come by, brought out a plethora of prospective candidates. It was a long and tedious process, asking the same questions of candidate after candidate:

  • Why do you want the job?
  • What experience do you have working with children?
  • What are the important aspects of working in a team?
  • How would you maintain confidentiality?
  • How would you promote equal opportunity for all?
  • Any questions for me?



One candidate was hugely impressive and she got the job on the spot. I was intrigued that she had run an Islamic Day Care Centre in the American Bible belt either side of 911. I rushed the questions with her and spent most of the time reviewing her experience of being forward thinking in what must have been a very intolerant environment. She was overqualified for the job but fascinating. I have no doubt she will be moved onto a more challenging position soon.

The second post was more difficult to fill.

One candidate’s kept her eyes shut behind thick glasses during the entire interview. Her grasp of English was so poor that all she could do (aside from conduct an interview with her eyes closed) was smile, nod and repeat the last word I said.

“What are the important aspects of working in a team?”

“Team. Yes. Team. “

“How would you promote equal opportunity for all?”

“Opportunity. All. Yes. Opportunity.”

“Do you understand what I am saying to you?”

“Understanding. Yes.”

“Let’s test that out then shall we? You realise that we use the children to sew cheap sportswear for disreputable Sportswear companies don’t you?”

“Disreputable. Yes. “

And at this point, dear readers, I lament the fact that I learned of something 24 hours too late for it to have been of use.

Over dinner tonight my daughters told me of the social phenomenon of The Awkward Whale. I had not come across the premise before but as it was described to me, in an awkward moment one can simply lay on the floor and emit a whale-like song. The aim being, I assume, to take the social sting out of the moment and replace it with…uh…randomness.

My interview with the self-inflicted blind repeater could have benefitted from the Awkward Whale. I could have rolled on the floor (unknown to the candidate of course as she had her eyes shut) and screeched, “Roll me back in the water!”

“Water, yes.”


The interviewee who followed had potential but the longer we chatted the more it became apparent something was fundamentally wrong. The candidate had volunteered in schools for many years and was a qualified netball coach. On paper, it was a very strong person.

However, child protection laws require that I have the candidate account for any gaps in their employment and/or training.

“You have not recorded what you have been doing since 2010,” I pointed out to the netball coach.


“I am obliged to ask what you have been doing since 2010.”

“ I hurt my leg.”

“OK when did you hurt your leg?”

“Uh….leg. When did I hurt my leg? My leg….hmmmmm. Let’s see.”

“It must have been in the past year, you were in full time training until December 2010. It must have happened last year.”

“Leg. Hmmm. Yes. Let’s see. My leg. Hmmm.”

It would have been that point, dear readers, I would have been sprawled on the floor, writhing for the surf.

If only I had known.



Keep the Faith,


The Head



Filed under Education, The Big Wide World

2 responses to “The Awkward Whale

  1. I wish I had known about the awkward whale movement before I retired. I could have used it occassionally.

  2. Oh my gosh. How they are all so similar!! I just finished 22 years in public education, and the meetings were just like that.

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