Gemma Warren column

16th October 1998 at 01:00
Dear London Underground, I am an English teacher working in north London, and am writing to ask if you could see your way clear to helping me decorate my new classroom. I don't mean access to your list of graffiti artists or sign writers - although "please keep feet off the seats" and "do not leave litter" is equally pertinent in both our cases. What I'd really like is some of your "poetry on the tube" posters. You know, those classy red and white numbers with a thoughtful extract from a well-known poem you use when you can't fill up the advertising space. Those posters are every English teacher's dream. Please make mine come true.

I have recently inherited my own classroom and am trying to make it conducive to the production of creative thought and inspirational critical discourse. At the moment, it's very Terence Conran - after a couple of nights out and a few drinks too many. We're talking chop suey rather than feng shui.

If that fails, my aim is to introduce English into my classes using the process of osmosis; with your help, if they're staring round the room, they'll have no choice but to read poetry. Short of contacting BBC's Changing Rooms, I am at a slight loss as to how to produce a look that would complement the hive of intellectual activity that should characterise my lessons.

I'm also in furious competition with the teacher next door, and would very much like to inhabit a classroom that didn't look like the fall-out from a nuclear holocaust. This isn't about aesthetics, it's about professional pride. I'd like to produce a sort of artist's cafe-cum-library-cum-living-room -cum-interactive information technology station. Failing that, anything from the IKEA catalogue would do nicely. Furniture should reflect my personality, I think. Easily collapsible.

You see, the general idea is that you decorate your room with stunning examples of work, but at this early stage in the term we're having such a good time that I'm too scared to mention that uncomfortable concept.

Every other teacher seems to have a hotline to trendy intellectual publishers. I did get a Leonardo DiCaprio poster, but decided to reserve that for personal use, if you know what I mean.

Could we make some kind of a deal here? If you provide the posters, I promise not to try to force them off your walls every time I get the last tube home and I've had too much to drink. Maybe this could start a whole new partnership; if you don't mind my saying, teachers and train drivers share a lot. We're both reviled by the public. We both hold people in confined spaces against their will for periods of 40 minutes or more. We're both concerned with destinations. You could do loads for my street cred.

Yours sincerely, etc, etc.

PS: Could you possibly sort me out with something for my flat? Anything yellow or pink will do. Thanks.

Gemma Warren teaches English at The Latymer School, Edmonton, north London

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