Gemma Warren column

12th September 2003 at 01:00
Welcome back. If you're a newly qualified teacher, isn't it great to be in school again? If you're anyone else, how many weeks till Christmas? So, what did you do this summer? I completed my key stage 3 test analysis. Not exactly fascinating, but I've been in teaching long enough to know that I will not feel like doing it tomorrow, the first Saturday night of term, even though I tried to tell myself I would when I was frantically backing out of the door in July. The wisdom of six years in teaching: thou shalt work through thine holidays. I didn't go away this summer either, because as I hurtle through my late twenties, most of my friends are doing what I did last year: getting married. So I spent my six weeks criss-crossing the country to get to weddings, throwing confetti, doing the lambada, and applying plasters to my feet, which are not used to being encased in high heels for long periods.

Gemma text = But I didn't mind sacrificing a week on the Costa del Sol to attend all these celebrations. I thought they might provide a little light relief from the rigours of the teaching year, if only by providing plenty of opportunities for meaningless small talk, rather than in-depth discussions about the inner-London allowance and rolling out the key stage 3 strategy. But, strangely enough, I spent more of this summer talking about teaching than ever before. Am I the only person in the profession to have noticed a worrying new trend at weddings? Who went to a wedding this summer and ended up sitting at - drum roll, please - the dreaded Teachers' Table?

It's an awful place. You're chatting pleasantly enough through the reception, you're buying a few drinks and everything's fine. You go through to dinner, and there's normally a table plan. Oh good, you think (naively), a chance to talk with people, to socialise like only adults can when they're safe in the knowledge that they can stay out as long as they like because they don't have to spend all Sunday marking; a chance to discuss nice things like films and books and even the weather - anything but school. You sit down. You introduce yourself to the people around you. You find out how they know the bride or groom. You say what a lovely service it was and how lucky we are that it's not raining like it was last weekend.

And then you find out what they do. They're all sodding teachers.

Are there really that many teachers in the world? Is it really true that all teachers are over 50 and heading for retirement? It can't be; the ones I met this summer all seemed to be in their late twenties with lots of friends who are getting married. You look sympathetically at your husband, whose heart is sinking when he realises where we're sitting yet again. And now he'll have to listen to us all trying to outdo each other with funny stories about senior management.

A note to potential brides and grooms: I know you think you're being wonderfully creative with your table plans, but you're not. Just because we're all teachers does not automatically mean we will get on. We can mate with other species. In future, sit me next to a rocket scientist, please.

Or a milkman. Or anyone who doesn't want me to email them a list of circle-time activities. Otherwise, potential lovebirds, next year it will definitely be the Costa del Sol.

Gemma Warren is acting special needs co-ordinator at a London secondary school. Email: gemmablaker@hotmail.com

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