All a-quiver in Robin Hood's little john

My first teaching job was at a boys' school. I recall asking the fifth-former, Kiertzner, who showed me round, "What's in here?", pointing to a door marked "Private" in the basement.

Kiertzner (I forget his first name) smirked. "It's the female toilet, Sir."

Only one teacher could use this facility. She must have felt beleaguered, and I imagined her hiding in there as we spoke.

Having worked in a boys' school, a mixed comprehensive and a sixth-form college, I'm back in a single-sex classroom - a convent, in fact. But it's in the staffroom where the dangers lurk. I'm outnumbered, but not alone. I share the room marked "Private" with Chris, Terry, John, Scott (who teaches self defence - to the girls, not us), peripatetic music teachers, two foresters, Robin Hood (more on him below) and Stan the Man, a carpenter.

Teaching boys is different. I discovered this early in my career. You could shout at boys, but not girls. For them, I needed more subtle devices. "Are we keeping you up?" I'd say to yawning young women. But now, as an experienced teacher, Idon't need to rely on sarcasm. And teaching is teaching, whether with boys or girls.

But working with mostly female colleagues is tricky. And my wife is on the staff, making it trickier still.

At Christmas, I was in charge of the staff pantomime: Robin Hood and his MerryI Women. It told of the plight of a lone male in a forest full of women and talking trees.

"Ooh, I'm all a-quiver," says Robin. "Go to Nottingham, Robin, and do a bit of robbin'," say the merry women. "And get some chips."

Of course, they mean microchips but Robin (our head of IT) comes back with a fish supper.

The girls in the audience love all this. On stage, Robin Hood gives me a look. From where I stand in the wings, directing, I can see I've let my brother down. The two site managers appear as foresters and are spoken to aggressively by some rather wooden actresses playing trees. "What do you think you're playing at with that chainsaw?"

"Watch it, my bite's worse than my bark."

I've failed my fellow males, haven't I? - by producing a script that shows them emasculated, bullied and threatened. Poor things. We don't stand a chance.

I think back to my first job, the female toilet and its huddled occupant. Oh, but it's fun and I like it here. Being outnumbered has its compensations. But don't tell my wife - she's the deputy head.

Richard Hoyes teaches at Alton convent school in Hampshire

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