The dark side of the whiteboard

22nd July 2011 at 01:00
Day one of a six-week stretch

My son's Leeds Festival ticket arrived last week. It doesn't bode well for a relaxing summer; I'm already thinking about where I put the tent pegs, when he last had a tetanus, and whether I'll manage to drive to Leeds on a sweltering August day with four sullen teenagers squinting at me through their black Playmobile haircuts without swerving onto the hard shoulder and sweeping their fringes out of their eyes with industrial- grade kirby grips.

And if that's not enough to take the shine off the summer holidays, the arrival of a package from eBay did. It's an ancient, well-thumbed copy of I'm OK, You're OK, the seminal guide to transactional analysis (psychobabble for relationship counselling), which my husband's cognitive behavioural therapist advised him to read. The book's front cover bears a rallying call to action that urges you to "climb out of the cellar of your mind"; getting him to climb out of his reclining armchair would be a more propitious start. The rest of the blurb promises that after reading the book he will gain control of himself, his relationship and his future. His bladder and the arc of his early morning pee would be an added bonus. I had a quick flick through and found out that as long as you can recognise when you are being a prize twat, you can carry on being one. It was written by a man and that says it all. When we behave badly we're given HRT, hysterectomies or the elbow; when men behave badly they are given a self-help book and 20 sessions on the NHS with a mental health professional. Still, it prompted me to think about publishing my own self- help guide. Aimed at men, it's provisionally entitled You're OK Because I'm Doing All the Housework.

This idea that the process of identifying your failings is enough to get you off the hook is also popular in school. This year, I taught a kid called Lee who regularly threw tantrums, as well as the odd piece of furniture. Thanks to a spate of exclusions and a supportive child psychologist, he eventually made it back to my classroom. The change was remarkable. Following counselling, he would self-justify with a defiant yell of "I've got anger management problems" before he started chucking the chairs.

To be honest, I'll miss his vitality. Teachers suffer from Stockholm syndrome at this time of year. We form such close bonds with the kids that we miss them when they are gone; even their "I hate English - no offence miss" and their drawn-on comedy eyebrows. Because what is there to look forward to instead? Six weeks of hoovering up Cheerios, and watching Four Rooms on the telly. This new Channel 4 series is the Samp;M version of the Antiques Roadshow, hosted by a series of Bond villains who take it in turns to shaft greedy punters. My favourite is the dominatrix Scottish woman who looks like a cross between Lara Croft and a Clinique consultant, whose enigmatic Mona Lisa smile is prompted either by her vast fortune, or the stag antler sticking up her arse.

The only other exciting thing on my holiday horizon is a smear test. Oddly, I'm not dreading it. As any female teacher knows, having your cervix scrutinised is less humiliating than having SMT peering at your planner. It may be embarrassing but at least your GP won't shout at you for not keeping it neat and tidy.

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

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