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The cat's away, so teacher must play

My mother once did a teacher-training course. During the year she stuck it out, I felt like Stella McCartney must have when Wings were on tour and she was in the tourbus, staring at the queuing fans. Like Stella, I was on the inside of the organisation.

As with Stella, I suspect it's ruined the mystique of the industry ever since. I am unable to see a collage on a school wall without knowing some poor chain-smoking teacher did it at 2am because the kids kept eating the glue and couldn't be trusted with the staple-gun.

Smoking was the first thing my mother learnt when she went back to school. She went from evangelically anti- to chaining Bamp;H within six weeks. The most notable change, however, was her switch from Incorrigible Optimist to Enervated Misanthrope. As I accompanied her on some of those 2am marking-and-collage vigils, I could see where she was coming from.

There were boys of 11 still incapable of writing their own names. She would daily have to try to explain to large men called Ray that the reason that Ray Jnr was still so thick was down to neither her teaching methods, nor levels of state funding, but, simply, genetics.

Still the money - which she was putting towards a caravan in Wales - kept her going until The Tailor of Gloucester. It was an endeavour conceived, executed and received entirely in hatred. All the other teachers - who'd been caught out on projects requiring 27 mouse-masks before - passed on it, leaving the whole thing to my mother.

Every child in her class (this being Wolverhampton in the eighties) considered singing to be tantamount to a confession of homosexuality. The dance routines were met in the first rehearsal with a sit-in.

In was on the first night, however, when the "Cat" and his understudy went off sick, that my mother decided she'd be better off on the dole. At least then she wouldn't have to don a tiny cat mask and sing about eating mice to a wholly impassive audience of big dads called Ray.

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