Charity begins at school

14th May 2004 at 01:00
It's Mufti Day; the pupils pay pound;2 for charity and wear their own clothes. On being asked what I'll be wearing on the day, I rashly agree to wear school uniform, providing that the pupils sponsor me for doing so. The sponsorship rushes in, committing me. The money I make will depend on the number of merits I earn that day. It begins well with a fellow teacher praising not only my neat uniform but my excellent behaviour on the bus and awarding me my first merit of the day.

Mayhem erupts as soon as I reach my classroom with a queue waiting to see me and laugh. I earn more merit points for looking smart and neat, but lose some for having hair well below the collar line and more for having it dyed.

I seek sanctuary in the staff room. Mr Mc is proudly sporting national dress and looks resplendent in kilt. He too is in search of sanctuary refusing to answer the perennial question of what he's wearing underneath.

Mr H wears boys' uniform gone badly wrong; white sports socks - not regulation black - shirt creased and hanging out, blazer pockets ripped, tie a disgrace and lipstick kisses on his collar courtesy of the drama teacher. I look a model of conformity.

I lose more merits by walking on the wrong side of the stairs carrying a hot drink. The pupils constantly stop me, demanding "Progress card!" just for the kick of watching me fumble in my blazer pocket. My head of department awards a merit for cute pigtails and a demerit for leaning against the wall displays. The pigtails prove to be a good test of classroom management as I attempt to teach with them bobbing on top of my head. Merits are duly awarded.

I spend all day cursing the collar and tie, feeling half choked, yet every time I attempt to loosen it or undo the top button pupils tut-tut about standards of dress and demerit me. I can't move my arms around in their usual windmill fashion due to the restricting blazer and must ask permission to take it off in lessons. The pleated skirt swishes around making me feel nervous and a lot less confident than in trousers. The head of year makes me kneel down to check that it's not too short.

By the end of the day my neck is red from the rubbing collar, and I have suffered the ignominy of having Britney Spears sung wherever I go. Any attempt to complain results in demerits for poor attitude. By the end of the day I fill six progress cards, with marginally more merits than demerits. Any excuse to dress up.

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