The dark side of the whiteboard - My war against Attila the Buns

11th June 2010 at 01:00

In my next life, I'm going to be a PE teacher. Great tan, no marking and you get to blow your own whistle. Summer's the worst time for PE envy because while the rest of us are sweating it out in stuffy classrooms, hands clamped to our sides like Irish dancers to hide the maps of Australia seeping out from our armpits, the Aertex brigade are basking in the golden sands of the long-jump pit, slathering SPF8 on their bronzing bodies. Without a doubt, PE and performing arts teachers have got the cushiest number. Their subjects are optional at GCSE, which means they have keen, enthusiastic classes and any moans of, "God I hate drama," can be rebutted with a sharp, "Well, don't do it then!" I'd sell one of my kidneys to have that privilege in English. And lesson planning is easy - a quick starter from the Bumper Book of Party Games or three laps of the track while you catch up with last night's episode of Glee on your iPhone.

The teaching of PE and performing arts are two of the last few careers that discriminate in favour of people with impulse control disorders. The twitchier you are as a child, the more likely you'll end up with a stop watch or a Pineapple Dance Studios hoodie. This impulsiveness can be a problem during formal whole-school gatherings, such as mass or the collective act of worshipping the principal's new school development plan, where the pressure to stand silently while the boss wipes and fades his way through a 49-slide PowerPoint is often too much for our kinesthetic chums. By the 13th slide, they have already given in to a series of derisive snorts, tics and synchronised eye rolling.

Of the two disciplines, performing arts is the most intriguing. Not only does it require a first degree in wearing leggings and a leotard, you also need an ego the size of Greece's national debt. It is probably because of their intransigent personalities that performing arts teachers are always at loggerheads with one another. Just as Marmite divides us as a nation, the teaching of drama separates teachers into two distinct - and warring - factions: those who love musicals and those who can actually read. Hence, school productions are invariably either Mother Courage or something that involves dressing Year 9 girls like drag queens.

In my school we have our own grande dame of dance, who could easily give Glee's Sue Sylvester a run for her money. After my husband left me I was cosseted by my colleagues like a prize chihuahua with a skin disorder. But not by our Lycra-clad, tight-buttocked Attila the Buns, who felled me in the corridor with, "Oh my God, you look terrible," before going on to staple her dance festival posters all over the new NSPCC wall display.

Sadly, that's not my only gripe against my performing arts peers. Until hubby disappeared, I had a fabulous A-level theatre studies class. It was a joy to teach: only eight kids and when we weren't playing musical statues or zip, zap, boing, we used Stanislavski techniques to discuss what Macbeth ate for his breakfast and whether Willy Loman would buy a Smeg fridge. But when I returned, my class had been given to a newbie with a photo in Spotlight and an uncle who'd been on The Bill. Now I know how Arlene Phillips feels. Disappointed I may be, but I'm not without hope: Attila the Buns has already picked up the trail of fresh, young meat.

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

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