The dark side of the whiteboard - Doorknob nipples award goes to ..

13th May 2011 at 01:00

Amazing. I've been shortlisted for a writer's award. I am giddy with excitement because I've never been up for an award before. My mother clocked that I had no perceptible talent early on and cannily steered me away from the usual run of bonny baby competitions, suppressing her competitive maternal urges until I hit puberty.

She then entered me for the one competition where blocked pores, NHS specs and a wiry black monobrow gave me an advantage: the church's annual Miss Personality competition. But even here I came second, trailing behind a girl with pigtails, pop socks and a lazy eye.

I'd rather hoped that motherhood would be my forte and it began in a promising way. During a routine pregnancy examination, my GP averred in awe that she had seldom come across "such magnificent breastfeeding nipples". I later learnt to my dismay that nipples like Ikea doorknobs do not necessarily herald superlative mothering skills: my firstborn was slow to gain weight, I dropped my second on her head and my youngest - now 16 - still eats pasta with his fists.

So any recognition that I'm doing OK at something is tremendously exciting, particularly since teaching offers little professional validation. Other than students giving you the thumbs-up on Ratemyteacher sites, or acknowledging you via some end-of-term Quality Street, teachers tend to muddle through their professional lives unrewarded and unsung. We recognise how important praise is for our students, going so far as to create whole appraisal systems to institutionalise validation as a norm, yet we don't do this for staff.

Take formative assessments. Two stars and a wish help students identify two things they have done well and one thing to improve. That way, they feel twice as good about themselves as they do bad. Would that were true for teachers. Every day a deluge of emails attests to our professional incompetence, the usual being failure to complete the morning roll-call within the four-nanosecond time slot; failure to collect in reply slips for the annual PTA trip to Debenhams; and failure to inform Kirsty Rogers that her packed lunch is in reception. On top of this, you can expect a litany of your other ineptitudes: not completing reports on time; missing KS3 targets by more than one sub-level and - if you're doing your PGCE - parking your Ka in the prinicpal's bay. My husband cheerfully reminds me of my other shortcomings. However diligently I cook, clean and hoover, I fail to shag like a crack whore on heat.

So, given that the only commendations so far have been for comedy nipples, you can see why I'm excited. Maybe instead of spending the next few years miserable and menopausal, I get to be a contender. I can see the blurb on my best-selling autobiography, Teachers! Dumped by her rat of a husband, broken-hearted teacher Anne Thrope hits the bottle and the qwerty keyboard. After shedding 30lbs and her Anaglypta wallpaper, she becomes a columnist. After a torrid affair with her Machiavellian editor, she buys her first Jimmy Choos, then rides to victory on a palomino at the Horse of the Year Show, snatching the puissance from her coke-addled half-brother Rupert, with whom she's having an incestuous relationship.

Or maybe she just carries on teaching and gets used to being incompetent.

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

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