Gemma Warren prepares for a blind date

4th February 2000 at 00:00
So one of my friends has set me up on a blind date. "And whatever you do," she warns me, "if you want to make this work, don't mention school." I'll never understand non-teachers. Are they seriously suggesting that discussing changes to the national curriculum and class management techniques for hours every night isn't an instant turn-on? I try to explain that if someone could explain to me how to control a class, I'd sleep with them instantly, but she's obviously not in the mood to listen to sense.

As the week progresses, I'm getting more and more nervous, so I mention my date in the staffroom. I need help, and where better to get it than from 60 subject specialists? My blind date becomes the unseen item on every agenda. It's in all our interests - if it goes well, I might do some teaching instead of moaning about the state of my love life all day. Let's just call it staff development.

I have lots of questions. What do I do if I open the door and he looks like Jabba the Hutt? The maths department are on to it. If we calculate the distance from the road to my front door, and identify the point at which I can see him through my front window, they can work out the quickest route for me to switch off all my lights and hide under the bed. Who said maths was a waste of time? I diligently measure the length of my front drive, and the calculations commence.

So if he doesn't look like a character from Star Wars, what will I say when I first meet him? "You need to sound warm and welcoming, but not too eager," says the head of drama. "Role play it with me. I'm the bloke. 'Hello Gemma, nice to meet you, I've heard so much about you'." I take a deep breath. "Er, nice to meet you. Er, what do you think about the recent changes to the national curriculum?" The assembled staff are nt impressed. We traipse off down to the drama studio, and by the end of lunch we have a script all worked out. I rush home to learn my lines.

By the time the geography department have made me sound well travelled and cultured (Cardiff is in Wales, Edinburgh is in Scotland, Iceland is not a chain of high-street supermarkets), history and politics have brought me up to speed on recent political developments (so who's that bloke who runs Ofsted again? What am I supposed to think of him?), and modern languages have given me a run-down of possible items on a restaurant menu (le Big-Mac is not French for steak and chips), I feel ready and prepared. Our departmental meeting focuses on the underachievement of boys. "If he turns out to be a loser," says my head of department kindly, "you'll always have your superiority to fall back on." As I leave school on Friday night, the head of PSE hands me our contraception kit, "though I wouldn't rely on them, because I think they've been in the cupboard since 1964". Sexy.

"Just think of it like a lesson observation," says my old PGCE mentor, who's come round to offer a bit of last-minute encouragement. I show her my lesson plan. Objective: make him fall for me. 8.05-8.10: time him walking up drive. 8.10-8.15: scripted conversation. 8.20-8.30: stun him with various aspects of my wide generalhistoricalpoliticalgeographicalknowledge. 8.30-8.35: order dinner in perfect French accent. 8.40-10.00: discuss issues surrounding boys' literacy. 10.00 onwards: get out mouldy old condoms.

"Good," she says, "you've varied your activities, and there's room for him to participate. Now one last point: don't mention school." As if I would.

Gemma Warren teaches at the Latymer School, Edmonton, north Londone-mail: gemmaw@callnetuk.com


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