First encounters

5th February 1999 at 00:00
New teacher Gemma Warren is intimidated by a student

I've been waiting weeks for our student to arrive. I'm sick of being the lowest of the low - I feel ready to delegate the job to someone else. I'm thinking that if we have someone really useless, it might make me look better. I spend whole days fantasising about the amount of marking I can load off on to her, all in the name of training, you understand. I feel it's important that she gets used to a heavy workload.

The only problem is that she's taking my lovely Year 7s. The ones who I've successfully trained to say "Miss Warren We Are Your Symphony" every time I walk into the room. They know that if they say it with feeling there's a good chance I'll be so choked up that I won't set them any homework. "Miss Warren," said one of them at the end of my class last week, "you have our sympathy." "No, it's symphony," I tell her. "Sympathy means something else entirely." "I know what it means, Miss," she said.

So our student is taking them, but I'm OK with that. At least I was until I met her. I had visions of happily patronising this little thing straight from university, but I've just been presented with an ex-Miss World who's circumnavigated the globe six times, specialises in modern poetry, and who's obviously a size 10. She doesn't look like she's subsisting solely on digestive biscuits and taking part in sleep-deprivation experiments. I hate her.

"Let me introduce you to your Year 7s," I say sweetly, "they're an extremely difficult class."

"You don't seem to have any problems with them," she points out. Well, that's just the kind of teacher I am, sweetheart.

I consider dropping her in it. I find the class in the morning and tell them that they've got a new teacher. "Now be nice to her," I warn, "she's a st-." Shall I tell them she's a student? Can I go that low? "She's a stu-." I try to get it out.

"She's a what, Miss?" Year 7 ask. I can't do it. "She's a stunning blonde," I tell them, through gritted teeth.

Her first lesson starts. I do everything I can to sabotage it. I consider setting off the fire alarm. I hang around in the corridor, making as much noise as I can, until someone from the history department tells me to sod off.

She's doing all these things like preparation, like interactive activities, like making learning fun. All the things I used to do in my days of naivete. "Well, it's all right if you believe in that kind of stuff," I tell her. "I never have much use for it myself."

I take her into the staffroom at the end of the lesson. "Now, let's talk about all the things that went wrong," I say hopefully, making her a coffee in my least favourite mug. "They were fine," she says. "Well, I told them to go gently with you," I inform her.

I corner them in the canteen afterwards. My paranoia is rising by the second. I'm on a diet from now on. "So how was your lesson?" "Great, Miss." "Great? Well, where do we stand now? Are you still my symphony? I suppose you say that to all your teachers." "None of our other teachers need to hear it before they start a lesson, Miss," they tell me. "But don't worry, she's not a bit like you."

I'm hoping they don't understand the concept of irony yet.

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

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number


The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now