Meet Sheila: the teacher who is very, very sorry. Again

She's memorised the teaching standards, so often has her conduct been queried. What clustershambles is it this time?

Emma Kell

Woman looking a bit sorry and a bit mischievous

Sheila is semi-fictional. Everything that has happened to her has happened to teachers I’ve known or heard from.

Oh…flip it. Sheila’s there again.

(How can a shade of orange be so entirely unnatural? And what is this vile fabric that threatens to leave her thighs covered in welts?)

Sheila is in the 'seat of shame', waiting to see the principal. This is not the first time.

The walk of shame to the seat of shame has frequently been accompanied by wild speculation about what sheila has done this time. 

Has she left her windows open again before leaving? Has she written on yet another board with permanent marker? That hilarious story about unexpectedly discovering her neighbours are swingers, recounted loudly in the staffroom at breaktime… has someone taken offence?

'Which hole, Miss?'

Sheila’s sailed close to the line with a few films she's shown pupils, but the odd PSHE-style deviation from the schemes of work can never be a bad thing, she thinks. And Year 9's parents will surely be grateful that they have been unburdened of one particular graphic explanation (“which hole, Miss?”).

She was late on Tuesday. Just a couple of minutes, but a couple of minutes during which the pastoral lead was walking the corridors and she got a scolding in front of her class. “It’s OK, Sir,” said Tomas helpfully, and with a huge beam. “She’s always late!”

(Sheila makes a mental note to change this week’s value to “loyalty”.)

Sheila considers asking about the social-services implications of leaving her child on the street so that she can take the shortcut to work and arrive in time for the bell, but decides to zip it.

Proper boundaries

How was she to know that the parent of a child in her Year 10 sociology class was a long-standing Conservative councillor and would find the class moniker for David Cameron offensive? She has actually found that it resulted in some very useful metaphors for remembering contemporary sociological trends.

The staff asked her to arrange that end-of-year party, and when, after being laughed out of the bursar’s office, she decided to take a bit of initiative and put the deposit down on her own credit card, how was she to know that it would land her in a heap of trouble with the executive principal (no less)?

She’s pretty much memorised part two of the teaching standards, so often has her finger jabbed at the line about teachers’ “professional behaviour” and “proper boundaries”. But she had to count to 10 after the deputy questioned her choice of a sparkly, sequined tiger-top last Friday. It was Friday, for goodness' sake. And she doesn’t appreciate sartorial advice from someone who imagines that his strawberry-pink shirts complement his puce complexion.


But today she fears she’s really done it. What she really meant to say was that it was entirely unreasonable for her line manager to be requesting the pro forma detailing a breakdown of the departmental budget with three hours’ notice. What she meant to articulate was that, not only was she on duty, but she was teaching for the rest of the day and that, no, she was not prepared to ask her classes to “get on with something” while she sat at the computer and prepared this vital document for an unexpected auditor.

What she actually said to the deputy was “You’re shitting me!”

She did close the door first, so it is quite unlikely that the students heard it (and, she thinks, if they did, learning how to stand up to a monumental clustershambles might not be the worst lesson they learn all week).

So Sheila will say “Yes Sir, no sorry, sorry Sir (three bags full, Sir”).

PARDON, Ms Caversham…?

“SORR-EEE, Sir (again).”


Dr Emma Kell is a secondary teacher in north-east London and author of How to Survive in Teaching

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