It is a truth universally acknowledged that wherever you find hot water and tea bags, you will find teachers.
The staffroom is where the true personality of a teacher emerges. Having been in quite a few staffrooms over the years, I believe that tea-drinking teachers can be neatly organised into five main categories.
Tea levels: Teachers' staffroom habits
1. The Mainliner
Not sure you know a Mainliner? Check your emails. This teacher is the most likely to be sending (and consequently being told off for) emails sent to all staff in red capital letters, marked urgent, with the subject “MISSING CUP!!!!”
A Mainliner is both the first and the last staff member at the kettle, and is the most terrifying because they have absolutely no discernible system. They drink tea however they find it: black, white, hot, cold, two sugars, no sugar, stirred with a spoon, stirred with a biro – they don’t care, so long as they are not separated from their cup at any time.
For an easy life, let them go first at breaktime. They need it.
2. The Social Sipper
A busy teacher’s nightmare and the arch-nemesis of the Mainliner, a Social Sipper doesn’t see the kettle as an essential weapon in their teaching arsenal, but as an ice breaker for a chat with whoever is around at the time.
Even from afar, the social sipper is easily spotted: they’re often found blissfully unaware that they’re holding on to the staffroom’s only teaspoon, leisurely pouring and stirring into a cup that isn’t theirs as they discuss their weekend plans, because isn’t that what break time is for?
While they are undoubtedly a little slow, the Social Sipper is a staffroom essential, because they are always the first to welcome new staff or visitors. Their hospitality to newcomers is also the only thing that stops the Mainliners from sending more emails about their tea-making tardiness.
3. The Appreciator
If you hear a gratitude-filled, “Oh, if you’re making!” then you’ve found your Appreciator.
These are the exhausted teachers who can survive a 12-hour day on one tiny bottle of water because they’re so busy ricocheting between meetings and the photocopier that they barely have time to sip a cup of tea, let alone make one.
As a result, they try to avoid the staffroom and absolutely never offer to make tea – there’s a rumour that they don’t actually know how the kettle works. But they are so undeniably grateful to their colleagues for providing for them that they have learned to inhale a boiling cup on their loop to and from their pigeonhole, so as not to waste the opportunity for a hot drink.
4. The Experimenter
The next time you’re near the kettle, open the nearest cupboard. Do you find brightly coloured boxes stacked high, printed with bizarre fruit illustrations and giving off a strangely sweet aroma? Then you’ve found your Experimenter’s stash.
Experimenters are a constant source of confusion to their colleagues: why is their tea pink? Is there actually any caffeine in there? How do they always have time for yoga before school?
Experimenters march to the beat of their own drum and take everything in their stride – inevitably making the other groups wary.
5. The Busy Bee
The only group not in awe of the Experimenters are the Busy Bees. They descend on the staffroom at break time, breathless and overloaded with books, to create a mild sense of panic and to remind every other group how terribly busy they are.
Calls of “Are you sure? I’m making? I’ll leave it on the side” follow Busy Bees. But they fall on deaf ears, because their recipients are much, much too busy to engage with you.
Those newer to their role will comment, with a Professor Umbridge-level of faux sweetness, how nice it is that you have the time for a tea. They wish they did, haha.
An established Bee will only have to look at your steaming cup and you’ll be overwhelmed with the sense that you should be doing something – anything – work-related.
And the coffee drinkers?
Now, you might be thinking, “What about the coffee drinkers?”
Well, as anyone who has been into a staffroom before 8am knows, they’re the most concerning group of all. Avoid wherever possible, particularly before period one.
Lauran Hampshire-Dell is a teacher and tutor