Life would be easier if I didn't have to put in full stops every time I reach a resting place, but I do it anyway

I have asked one of my kids to go back through her work and add full stops. She doesn't want to. I can see her swinging on her chair and defiantly kicking the leg of the desk. I'm pretty certain that when I go over at the end of the lesson, I'll find "Miss Warren is a complete bitch" written in Tippex somewhere on the furniture. I don't mind; I've been called worse.

This girl is pissed off with me because she spent a lot of time on this essay and in her head it's finished. She's mentally drawn a line underneath it, and does not want to revisit it. I've asked her to do something that she really doesn't want to do, although she might grudgingly admit that it's important. She doesn't want to do it, she probably won't and, as I've tried to explain, she probably won't get as good a mark because of it.

I didn't realise the extent of her frustration until I got home that night and thought about it. I spend my life doing things I don't want to do. Come to think of it, my life would be a lot easier if I didn't have to insert full stops every time I reach a resting place, but I do it anyway. I don't like changing the paper in the photocopier. It drives me bonkers when somebody leaves it full of pink paper; it's an irritation you don't need at 7.30am. I don't like doing break duty, and would rather stuff my face in the staffroom and moan about how government initiatives are leaving me so stressed that I don't even have time to eat. But I'm on the rota and I have to do it.

This is the big difference between adults and children: we do things because we have to, and not because we want to. Most young people know the right thing to do. They realise that dropping your empty packet of Frazzles under the teacher's nose is not guaranteed to get you home on time on a Friday afternoon, but they're in a mood because the teacher's made them go through their work and put in full stops, and they'll bloody well drop that crisp packet. My GCSE students know that watching EastEnders and Coronation Street on Monday night won't help them get their coursework in on time on Tuesday morning, but who can resist crowing over Phil's latest mishap or the goings-on at the Rovers Return? I envy this devil-may-care, live-for-the-moment attitude. I don't quite know when my sense of adult responsibility kicked in, but something must have happened to send me haring down to Sainsbury's on a rainy Friday night because I'd forgotten to buy eggs and - who knows? - I might just fancy a fried-egg sandwich for breakfast.

So much of my life is spent making kids do things they don't want to do - things I wouldn't want to do either. I wouldn't want to fill in a reading log every time I'd finished a chapter of my book, or stay behind to put up the chairs in my classroom when my friends were heading for the chip shop. Yes, I'd do it - but then I'm seeing it from the grown-up's angle, foreseeing the consequences and exploring the ramifications. Someone once told me that I should never make kids do things that I wouldn't want to do myself. That could involve rethinking half my day. Perhaps I need to be a teacher who takes a less adult approach for once. Is there something to be learnt from the sulkers at the back of the classroom?

Gemma Warren is an assistant special needs co-ordinator at a London secondary school. Email:

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