First encounters

10th September 1999 at 01:00
Gemma Warren can't wait to get back to work.

You've got to understand that it's very difficult being on holiday when you're a teacher. Don't laugh. I say that without the slightest hint of irony. Of course, there's the initial relief. All your reports are done, you've collected all your books back in, and finally, your last class heads out of the door.

But instead of a sense of overwhelming happiness, I was left with one of, well, anticlimax I suppose. There were no tearful goodbyes, no "Ms Warren you're the greatest teacher I've ever had and you've made an incalculable impact on the future course of my learning", just the unpleasant realisation that the classes you've worked so hard for over the past year can't wait to get out of the room. At the end of the day, my form, WAR 10, finally departed, leaving a few cards and a box of chocolates, and the strangest present of all - my life back.

The weirdness of being accepted back into the normal human race wouldn't go away. As a teacher, you live a kind of Jekyll and Hyde, holiday and term-time, existence. It's difficult to know which is best. I'd be standing at the airport, frantically counting, until I realised that I had no one to count. I'd be rushing from place to place, and then realised that I had all the time in the world. The life of a lady of leisure takes a bit of getting used to.

1 just want you to know that I didn't completely defect to the other side. You could still tell I was a teacher from the way that I planned our holiday timetable - sorry, itinerary, down to the last minute. You could see me coming from my 15 kinds of guidebooks in case we missed out one piece of educationally useful information. No other person carries Desk Arrangement: 200 Imaginative Ways To Unlock Intelligence; or Irritable Bowel Syndrome: What Every Concerned Teacher Should Know - along with their Jeffrey Archer.

I was blissfully unconcerned when 14-year-old boys leered at us on the beach. I'm happy when 14-year-old boys leer. It means that they're listening enough to be bored. You just can't explain that kind of thing to an outsider.

As my holiday drew to a close, I had to face two momentous truths. Firstly, I officially confessed that I am (shit, shit, shit) pleased to be going back to school. Do you know how embarrassing that is? When you were a pupil it was bad enough, but a teacher?

The second painful realisation that I've made this summer is that I love my job (shit, shit, shit). When film stars say that, it sounds so glamorous, but when teachers say it, there's something wrong with them. It's masochistic in a still-not-having-sex kind of way. I have realised this summer that I am not the adventurous, free-thinking spirit I thought I was. I can't live moment to moment. Well, I could, but that would mean that you could never write lists. I want my everyday routine back. I'm not happy just experiencing things. I have to learn them. I love school, I want to go back to work, and, here goes: (shit, shit, shit) I miss it.

The trauma of all this deep thinking and realisation has been too much. I have taken to my bed. I am pale and tired. I am riddled with doubts, fears, disbelief at the complexity of education and life. "You look like you need a holiday," my mum said. Brilliant. A perfect way to start the new term.

Gemma Warren teaches at English at the Latymer School, north London

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