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Playing dog

Teaching's a dog's life. Not only because the Government rubs our noses in the latest pile of social malaise, nor because we fetch A-Cs on command; it's also that we need to live our lives in dog years in order to get through our workload. We invariably have to fill every single minute with seven times as much effort as everyone else just to drag ourselves through the average working day.

Hence, we do everything at a breakneck pace, whether it's marking books, writing reports or completing schemes of work. I also suspect that we have faster sex than most. If we're too impatient to give our students "think-time" during questioning, we're hardly going to give our partners the benefit of a pre-match warm-up, or the luxury of a post-match debate.

Everything we do, we do at full tilt, like a Jack Russell on the scent of a rabbit. We even reduce our teaching and learning methodologies to simple dog-friendly imperatives. Where Fido has been trained to "sit", "beg", "give a paw" and balance a biscuit on his nose; teachers have been trained to "pose, pause, pounce and bounce" and deliver a balanced curriculum. Nor does the dog analogy end there, because when we're behind with our marking we usually "roll over", "play dead" and phone in with the flu.

When you work at a faster metabolic rate than everyone else, you find the company of non-teachers hugely exasperating. They move too slowly for a start. If we are The Stig zooming up the highway of life, they are the Mr Whippy van tootling along its hard shoulder. Sometimes you get stuck behind these slo-mos in the supermarket; they pay for everything with clubcard points and talk about the change in the weather. Recently, I met up with a non-teaching relative who invited me to a family christening. She could have waved semaphore flags at me from across the road and still got the message out faster. By the time she'd got round to naming the church, I wanted to shove a crank handle up her arse and give it a few hefty rotations.

Last weekend, I was invited out for a home-cooked breakfast by a couple of my husband's artsy friends. It was here that I realised how rushed my life has become. As you're no doubt aware, a teacher's breakfast is a hurried, cursory affair - a slice of toast at the traffic lights or smoky bacon crisps at mid-morning break - whereas this meal was silver service.

For a start, the table was spread with linen, instead of last night's korma. Our hosts had ironed a tablecloth, squeezed some oranges and still read the Saturday Guardian. The table settings and repartee were impressive: starched napkins, hallmarked cutlery and stylishly mismatched plates twinned with urbane remarks about theatre, art and lesser known politicians. It was like having breakfast on Newsnight Review. I was entirely unprepared for this airy level of conversation, since at school we tend to discuss MS Christmas opening hours and whose turn it is to get the milk.

The high point of the meal was undoubtedly the arrival of the eggs Benedict - a dish unknown to teachers on account of it requiring more than one pan. I was greatly impressed. But anyone who has enough time to "swirl the vinegary water to form a vortex and slide in an egg" and then grill bacon, split a muffin and whip up a tasty hollandaise sauce, obviously doesn't spend the rest of their life marking controlled assessments or Febrezing the feet of their tights.

As I said, it's a dog's life for some.

Anne Thrope (Ms) is a secondary teacher in the north of England.

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