Distinct marks of martyrdom

16th March 2007 at 00:00
I'M SHOCKED. According to a new report, teachers do the most unpaid work of any profession. If only some of them would mention it from time to time - teachers are always so reticent about the downsides of their job (heavy sarcasm)!

Of course, they love nothing more than to complain about how it's the toughest job in the world. You might think that patrolling a street in downtown Tikrit is stressful, but soldiers don't have all of Year 4's papers to mark when they get back to barracks. I once worked with a deputy head who boasted how he did his marking in bed every night. Presumably, if he got really sleepy his pen would slip and his wife would turn up to her office job the next day with red pen marks on her forehead. ("Daubed with faint praise?") A newly qualified colleague used to take her marking on holiday with her until she realised that the proper place for marking was lying in the boot of her car for half the year. A head I once met at a conference proudly told me that he liked to get to his desk at 5.30am so that he could get a full two hours' work done before anyone else turned up. In our 20-minute chat, he mentioned this three times and I began to wonder if his staff would write me a letter of thanks if I beat him to death with a filled baguette from the cold buffet.

Another head, who worked the sort of hours that are legally proscribed under United Nations resolutions on torture, used to spread word of her endeavours by photocopying extracts of her Ofsted report and putting them in her family Christmas cards. Does this time management martyrdom extend to other professions? Can you imagine a builder boasting in the pub that it took him twice as long to build a wall than all his mates? They'd just tell him he was crap. A headteacher friend of mine says that if there were a teacher Olympics, the winner would be the one who crossed the finishing line last, moaning about their bad ankle.

No primary school would be complete without a group of teachers gathered in the staffroom at 4pm on a Friday, grumbling for an hour about how much they have to do and how they never get home at a decent time. My favourite tactic to wind up these colleagues is to spend all day working but make sure that when they walk into my classroom I have my feet up on the desk, perusing holidays on the internet.

Sorry, I've got to go - books to mark, wallcharts to back and all the rest of it. Ah, sod it! That non-fade-backed geography display on capital cities will do for another year. I'll just staple up a sign that says "Our Learning Wall" - and that'll be "develop an interactive teaching environment" ticked off on my appraisal form.

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