"Miss! Tell him! He's sexually harassing my daffodil!" Such comments as I walk into my form room can only signal one thing: Monday morning registration. Every week begins like this, it's our normality, strangely comforting in its routine. How could I forget, "I haven't done that essay Miss 'cos I shot myself in the finger over the weekend", from one who recently received his CCF sharp-shooter award? Last Monday, in response to why he was without his tie, Jacob replied, "I lost it when I got stuck up that tree on the way home", as if it's the tree's fault. Form members nod their heads in supportive affirmation. Welcome to our world.
It's normal for me to receive innumerable emails throughout the day titled: "Your form. Sorry ..." or to have other alerts appear on-screen about another of their escapades. It's usual for colleagues to approach me in a crab-like way, holding out a bar of chocolate before muttering the words: "Can I have a word about one of your form?"
So, when they ask me "are you gonna miss us then, Mrs G, when we leave?" I pause before replying.
My initial thought is: not likely. Even saints would have been hard pressed to have shown such patience these past two years without my props of chocolate, painkillers and gin.
Then I wonder. Who else will I educate about Paul Weller and The Jam (Tom K)? Who else will explain the mysteries of iPhone applications (Tom C)? Who else will make me exquisite origami birds to hang from my teaching room mobile (Rupert), fill in spreadsheets (Matthew) or update me on Desperate Housewives when I miss it having fallen asleep over my marking (George)? To whom will I be asked to impart knowledge on leg waxing, hair dye and the suitability of glitter thongs (don't worry boys, I shan't tell)? Who will engage in Welsh witticisms (James), humble me with their quiet dignity in facing life's challenges (Arun), or remind me who a true friend and gentleman is (Dami) and how to hold on to a dream (Jerome)?
Sometimes, it seems as if their lives move on and mine stands still. Every time I use the photocopier I think I will move that golf brolly that has been there for three years, or the tinsel stars droopily draped above the windows that have been hanging there since before I arrived. Or the florescent yellow statue in the locker room that has an uncanny resemblance to Elvis in a turban. No one moves them. They remain unchanged, term after term.
But this is the term of change. Colleagues announce their resignation to pursue idyllic jobs in warmer climes or to step up the management ladder. Some change is welcome, some brings sorrow and joy. Mr Knights, a legend in his own tracksuited time, is off to pastures new, leaving in his wake legions of sporting trophies. How will we manage with change such as that?
In a few weeks my form will have flown off to face study leave and the challenge of GCSEs. Monday mornings will be sadly quiet. Some will return into sixth form. Some will not. There will be another form for me to greet on Monday mornings. Things change and move. People change and move.
Thank you U5B for changing me and, yes, in answer to your question, I will miss you.
Julie Greenhough, English teacher at an independent school in London.