Dear Gemma

9th June 2000 at 01:00
I'd like a date please. No, not with you. I'm old enough to be your dad. It's not you I'm worried about. It's that nice new man you have started seeing. That Mr A who tolls away somewhere in the bowels of the BBC. He's the one I'd like to take to lunch.

Dating a teacher seems a bit of a novelty for him, and he might benefit from a little experienced advice - some wise counsel from one of those non-teachers, like me, who lives with a head. Perhaps even some monitoring, to use a term of the times.

Over the cocktails, I'd tell him to get a new diary and cross out all the page headings. Because months will shortly be irrelevant, and seasons, saints' days and the start of British summer time will soon be things of the past. In future, there will only be term time and holidays.

What about half-terms? Simple. Until they are renamed half-holidays, treat them as term. He will just have to become accustomed to the idea that all the love, care and attention that regularly gets lavished on him disappears like summer snow when term starts. It is immediately refocused on all those needy, greedy children.

He must try not to get jealous, but get a life of his own. Meet up with old friends, take up tai chi or even stay late at work.

And he must highlight one special date. For some reason, the day before the start of the autumn term is especially stressful. It's vital to keep calm as the emotional waves roll in.

As we sip our soup, I'll help Mr A undertand the nature of teachers' stress. You are always on stage, forever acting. But unlike other actors, you are always being you. It is your foibles, mannerisms and doubts on display. And the audience is unforgiving. It spots phonies faster than light.

Intellectualising all day at the Beeb will rightly be regarded as a breeze. But it's bad tactics for Mr A to disagree - conflicts are best saved for the holidays.

During the main course, I'll change tack. It will be time to hint that living with a teacher is not all bad. Nothing too specific of course. But he ought to know that you will probably make a terrific mum.

Good teachers are encouraging and spontaneous. They know how to create fair boundaries for social behaviour. Your kids will read at an early age, learn how to play and generally be good citizens. This may sound a touch worthy but the world needs more of these dull virtues - to counteract the froth and nonsense that media chaps at the BBC are paid too much to churn out. Another topic for the holidays?

Coffee? No time for dessert, as I have to collect the cleaning and prepare the emotional Elastoplast before teacher's return. But a last thought. The best teachers, like the best managers and the best partners, are a beguiling mixture of tender and tough. So, if Mr A believes in lifelong learning - there, I've slipped into education-speak again - I'd tell him to make a big play for you. Go for it.

Alan Cole lives in London

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