The dark side of the whiteboard - Don't poo-poo my insecurities
In my school, we are constantly battling to bridge the gender gap. It is not just about making sure that we stimulate boys and girls equally; we are also trying to develop a shared conceptual understanding of how gender differences might affect the whole life experience.
On that front, the most challenging question seems to be: "How come men can move their bowels anytime, any place, anywhere, while women need to be completely alone in a series of nested, empty, sound-proofed rooms with a lavender air freshener close at hand?" A woman would sooner risk peritonitis, pinching her buttocks together until her colon inflates into a 12-berth dirigible, than bring herself to operate a full flush within 30 metres of the nearest human being. For us it is all about numbers: two may be company, but three is always constipation. That is why I never volunteer for school trips abroad: there are too many scare stories about the lack of facilities.
The most recent involved an over-crowded Bavarian hostel with a staff:toilet ratio of 8:1. In sheer desperation, two of my colleagues set their alarm for a 5:30am call, but were beaten to the bathroom by a whistling ski instructor. They returned to their room distended and dismayed.
Men are not so emotionally impeded. In fact, for some men peristalsis correlates directly with busy social gatherings. In my husband's case the equation seems to be Poo = MC2 (where M = My niece's wedding and C = the cutting of the cake). Needing to go at untimely moments is bad enough, but men also feel the need to share information about the proximity, size and olfactory qualities of their stools. Maybe in their world, faecal size matters. That is probably the result of poor potty training. When little Johnny proudly points out his first sloppy deposit, it pays not to be too effusive. Otherwise he will spend the rest of his life expecting admiration for every big job he does.
My department is luckier than most. Over the past few years our loo has been log free. Our last male teacher, a reedy specimen, took off in 2006 after taking exception to some particularly impressive ball carriers in our nude rugby calendar. Luckily, female teachers are hermaphroditic so when our departmental testosterone levels drop, one of us becomes a token bloke and restores the XY balance by wearing brown brogues and buying broken Marshall amps off eBay.
But not any more, because our head of department has brought us a new man to play with. He is really a maternity cover, but we are hoping to keep him for good. It took us a little while to get used to him. We spent the first fortnight taking it in turns to frisk him in case he was a wired undercover reporter, commissioned by Teachers from Hell. But now we love him to bits. He has adapted really well. Last week, he attempted his first female word - "teal" - and the following day he marched proudly in with an aquamarine shirt and tie. The relationship is satisfyingly symbiotic: while he has been acquiring a colour palette Cath Kidston would be proud of, we are up to speed on frotting, felching, rodeo sex and how to defrag a hard drive. And he doesn't come out of the loo looking smug and telling us we might want to crack open the window.
Anne Thrope (Ms) is a secondary teacher in the North of England.