Tuesday, 20 March 2007


I'm meeting a lot of teachers at the moment, one way or another. And it's making me feel very grumpy.

I'll say two things up front. One is that I have taught, and one day will post up the stories I have about the children I met. The children were delightful, horrific, profound, naive, all on the same day and usually at the same time. The second is that I'll never return to teaching in schools. Of the teachers I meet I cannot understand why they teach in schools at all. Are they mad? loyal? desperate? caring?

If I met some of these teachers as ordinary people, I would probably think they're interesting and inspiring human beings. But the moment I know the people I'm meeting are teachers, something goes wrong in my circuitry. My hackles go up, along with my top lip, while my voice goes down and gets slower, and I growl.

The first teacher I met today was Mrs PO. She's a special needs teacher. I guessed it instantly, before anything was said. She'd grown into those rounded shoulders, the sort of shoulders that say, 'I'm not threatening; look at me. I just want you to sit near me. See me as your friend.' She said nothing (another special needs trait), evaded most eye-contact (probably in case it was going to be interpreted as confrontational) and smiled. A lot. She immediately reminded me of the special needs teacher that Jay had. Jay, aka The Dinosaur, was a kid at school who got that name for her resemblance in face and actions to, well, a dinosaur. My lasting memory of Jay is when she shouted 'I'm a dinosaur!' and threw her chair at the wall in the middle of my lesson on black civil rights. Off she went to the special needs department. Miss Pee, with the rounded shoulders and the battery-powered smile, always managed to calm her down.

Next I meet the stern Mrs Teech. Mrs 'I'm taking no nonsense from you, young lady.' She never smiled at all, but said a lot and looked intense. She also never really made eye contact. She had a way of looking at me without engaging with me. Probably because after 15 minutes I'd given her such a hard time and pissed her off so much she couldn't bear to be in the same room as me but couldn't send me out in the corridor either.

Then there was the head. I've noticed there is a breed of primary head teachers, grey-haired women, size 16 to 18, double chinned, Marks and Spencer clothing, who look like they should be something in Betterware but lost their way. I think these head teachers are made in a factory, quietly, somewhere in the country, then rolled out in container vans to schools up and down the country.

Actually, every primary head teacher I meet reminds me of Mrs A, who threw me out of her primary school two days after I'd joined. And I wasn't aged five either. I was aged twenty-eight, and I was doing an observation in her school before joining a PGCE course. Naturally, one bears grudges.

So that's three teachers I've met, and all in one day. And I think that's enough.

Now I'm going off to shout at the children, demand that Tiger puts her books away neatly, ask to see Shark's writing practice from today, and quiz Squirrel on her two times table, because she is still rubbish at it. If she doesn't get it right tomorrow, I'm keeping her in at playtime.

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