'Big Brother' contestants are set tasks such as 'design a T-shirt'. Teachers have to come up with a new twist on the nativity story year after year

7th July 2006 at 01:00
I'm a teacher get me out of here!" is a cry heard from many a staffroom as people fight through the jungle of bureaucracy, performing daring tasks such as playground duty in the rain and seeing how many Ferrero Rocher presents from parents they can eat without being sick. This time of year, I can't help but be hooked on Big Brother, and there too are parallels with teaching.

First of all, the odd mix of attention-seeking people confined together for a period of 13 weeks (the average term length), each jockeying for position, forming groups and determining leaders. Then there are the pointless tasks, (see if you can make the national curriculum meaningful for young people with profound disabilities), the penchant for dressing up and the dependence on chocolate and alcohol. There you have the average staff team. Maybe I exaggerate a little, but think about the scavenger mentality ("I'm hanging on to this last piece of Blu Tack, and by the way, did you know Jane from Juniors is stockpiling spiral bound notebooks?"), labelled bottles of milk in the staffroom fridge, cries of "who took the last custard cream?" and sharing the shopping budget ("we spent a lot on geography last year, surely the PE department can have a few Kwik Kriket kits this year?") Being creative and entertaining each other is another feature of both establishments. Big Brother contestants are set tasks such as "design a T-shirt" or "make up a song". Teachers have to come up with a new twist on the nativity story year after blessed year, and magic 20 costumes out of a stack of budget tea towels and an old fur coat. There's always that feeling that schools are being bugged too, and maybe BB was watching as we filed that latest LEA directive straight into the dustbin or played Deal or No Deal with our suppliers. Much of teaching is about performance, of course, whether it's a whole school assembly or putting on your cross voice to deal with a single pupil. Some teachers even attain celebrity status in their own school communities; "isn't that Mr Stewart dressed up as Mr Blobby?"

What watching Big Brother gives me, apart from a feeling of guilt and wondering what else I could do with the 91 hours I spend on it, is a connection with our older children. When I'm trying to explain a concept such as "hope" in assembly, I can say I hope Pete wins BB, and the pupils will understand immediately; in PSHE lessons, we can talk about jealousy, leadership, bullying, friendship and shopping budgets and have a hook to hang it all on. So I'm going to enjoy the next few weeks of evictions and bad behaviour as we begin the countdown into the summer holidays - and then what? I hope I've not been the Weakest Link, but nevertheless, goodbye.

Maria Corby is deputy head of a special school for pupils with severe and multiple learning difficulties. She writes under a pseudonym

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