Balance is news to me
There was a contemplative silence while he looked at my timetable and I admired his watercolours, praying that he wouldn't notice I had one teaching period less than I should each week. But no, his hawk-eyes leapt to my unwarranted 50 minutes - and seeing as I was happily oblivious to work-life balance, my naivety should be used to fill that gap in my timetable. Result: I'm now the school's "shout-about-it, positive PR co-ordinator".
My role is to get one piece of good news about the school and its pupils into the press every week. I'm scouring the corridors listening for news of Beauchamp college students' Oxbridge interviews, success in national rugby trials and round-the-world-faster-than-Ellen MacArthur sailing prowess. So far, all I've uncovered is that Nicky Bollard allowed Quentin Buchanan-Farquhar to get to third base at the Year 11 Valentine Disco.
Suddenly the Year 10 rep sprinted down the corridor towards me. This looked promising; maybe it would be worthy of Central News, not just the Leicester Mercury. "Miss, Miss... you know you want good news?" I held my breath - had someone got 10 A*s a year early? "Miss, I've done my Charles Dickens essay!"
I smiled through gritted teeth, acknowledging my PR ego was sabotaging my teaching soul. I didn't want sodding Dickens, I wanted ab-fab, knock-socks-off-the-private-schools headline news. She could tell I was disappointed and tried to compensate: "My hamster had eight babies - is that good news?" Hark the herald angels sing, get me a direct line to Ruth Kelly. But seriously, could I exploit this? Did she film the birth? Could we send it to Teachers' TV? Was cloning involved? Is there an A-level biology link? I was scraping the gutter I was lying in, my weekly deadline was causing my pubes to turn grey and I had to teach ethics and Philip Larkin all effing afternoon.
That night (when I was balancing marking with a large glass of wine), I read the Dickens essay and realised it was extremely good - surely a worthy winner of a young writers' competition? Better still, could I enter the pupil for Young Mastermind? Hm, prime-time BBC - that would surely be worth a gift-wrapped work-life balance masquerading as a bottle of ab-fab Bollinger.