Gemma Warren column

2nd October 1998 at 01:00
Don't disturb me. I'm watching my pigeonhole. Any minute now someone will come in with an enormous sheaf of papers and deposit them - I'll have arrived. I'll have meetings and everything. You see, there are two kinds of teachers. There are the ones who get loads of things in their pigeon holes - the useful ones, the effective ones - and Ms Warren. The trophy teacher. The one who hangs around in a new suit, but doesn't really do much. At the moment my pigeonhole makes the black hole of Calcutta seem like a friendly place for a weekend break. Compared to this, Valentine's Day is a laugh a minute. Maybe I should give my mum my school address.

Will it be for me? Foiled again. What shall I do now? I could clear out my drawer. Contents - one banana and a bumper pack of drawing pins. What shall I do now? I could arrange the books on my shelf in height order. Oh, already done that. Alphabetical order? That, too. Interest order? That's a PhD thesis. I look around the staffroom. Everyone has piles of folders, loads of papers - they all look so useful, so focused. I may be qualified, but compared to them I'm a pseudo-teacher. However hard I try, I'm just not as busy as them, and feel I'm missing out. I'm the eye of the educational hurricane, an admin absentee.

So why can't I move off the sofa every night? Why does my diet consist of nothing but digestive biscuits? Why have I developed the need for 18 hours' sleep? Let me blow apart a myth. Newly-qualified teachers don't get tired from the work. I was used to that. It's being the school joke that takes it out of you. Providing light relief is exhausting. It's not the teaching that's the problem. It's the bells. And the registers. And the different assemblies. And finding your classroom in perfect co-ordination with the start of the lesson. The Year 7s are more organised than me. This disaster stuff should be behind me; I should be part of the furniture, not a blot on the landscape.

It's probably not surprising that I'm not on all these working parties and action groups. I'd never find them. I'm sure they don't want someone who gets lost walking two seconds round the corner to her classroom - who thinks the school day ends half-an-hour earlier than it does. But I'm incredibly popular with the classes I take for last lessons.

I wanted to impress people with a few insights into the educational system. Make them glad they chose me. The only words most people have heard me say are "sorry", "thank you for pointing that out" and "I'm a teacher, actually". I'm more E-number than missing ingredient. I'm 95 per cent fact free.

The pigeonhole is still empty. Maybe I should start my own working party. The non-working party. Being useless is a full-time job. I do have potential. It's just hidden. Very well. Maybe I should start sending memos to myself. I want some important notices on my pin board. I want the serious stuff. At the moment all I've got is a postcard from my parents saying: "Good luck in your teaching career. We still love you, darling. PS: Remember, it's never too late to become a brain surgeon."

Gemma Warren finished her PGCE last term. She now teaches at The Latymer School in north London.

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