When I started out as a maths teacher, my dress sense might have best been described as charity shop chic. I had amassed an array of 1950s jackets and innocently thought that my new proteges would be impressed by my stylish retro cool. But my pupils fell silent as I walked in, then shared a communal "Ouch!" "Oxfam was it, Sir?" one asked. This was a tough school.
Finally a pupil called Mavis, aged 15, took me aside in a motherly way. "Give yourself a treat, Sir," she said, sotto voce. "Go to a proper shop and buy yourself something really nice."
"What should I wear?" is a question that (almost) every maths teacher has to grapple with at some point. Impeccably smart? Mufti? Ties? Heels? Sometimes I fantasise about the perfect clothing in a James Bond-style daydream that goes like this .
Q, the greying head of MI6's research and development branch, introduces Jonny (me) to Dr Leonard Hoffstein, who has created an ingenious "maths suit", with a full range of accessories, for my next assignment. Jonny, slim and tanned after a week lecturing in California, smiles broadly. "Delighted to meet you, Dr Hoffstein. The name's Gee. Jonny Gee. Licensed to teach mathematics."
A few minutes later, Jonny looks at himself in the mirror. The fit of the jet black suit is perfect. It's embellished with carefully tailored pockets: a semi-circular one containing a protractor, a right-angled pair for set squares, and a neat 12-inch by 1-inch that could secrete a metal ruler. Jonny sighs with satisfaction and checks his TI-84 carefully before slipping it smoothly into the under-arm calculator holster.
Q and Dr Hoffstein purr over their sartorial creation before explaining "a few little extras". The soft leather patches on the elbows are detachable mini-frisbees, excellent for giving someone in the back row a gentle wake- up call.
Dr Hoffstein then reaches into a small reinforced pocket by Jonny's chest. "This may look like a pair of compasses, Mr Gee, but if you break someone's skin with its point, it will administer a dose of Ritalin sufficient to sedate a rowdy student of average build for an entire 90- minute lesson."
"Good luck," says Q. "You have a tough assignment. SPECTRE is committed to ridding the world of enjoyable mathematics."
We are all allowed to dream. But until Q and Dr Hoffstein knock on my door, I will stick to my current rules for teacher kit: nothing too flash or too staid and, above all, everything built to last. I even wear a tie - and that I can still buy in the charity shop.
Jonny Griffiths teaches maths at a sixth-form college
IN THE FORUMS
Check out a debate in the TES opinion forum about whether teaching really is the worst dressed profession.
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