How to direct flirtation hour

14th April 2000 at 01:00
ACCORDING to one lonely hearts agency, teachers are their best customers. The job is so demanding nowadays, it is said, that there is no spare time to go out and meet people. It is a pity when any profession consumes the whole life of its practitioners.

Other professionals report the same effects: medics, social workers, academics, people working in business and commerce. Social life evaporates and hormones drain into boots. I once met a man working in industry who told me that the best form of birth control ever invented was being married to a Year 2 teacher, since she rarely finished working until late each night.

It seems particularly unfair that some of those working in professions where the expertise they possess is vital to humanity, should be driven into isolation as a result.

People who serve their fellow citizens should be at the centre of social life, not at the edge, but you would presumably feel a complete idiot if you went round saying "Hi there, take me to your heart, I'm a cog in the machine of society."

One reason why so many people have a partner in the same line of work is because the other person will understand.

Police officers often say that you have to do the job yourself to appreciate fully the pressures it puts on you.

Someone else can only hear of it second hand. At one remove it is not quite the same.

All those astrology columns claiming to predict your future should have a qualifying clause in brackets for teachers.

"You will receive a letter (probably about this year's examination procedures)." "A romantic opportunity will present itself (but you will be snoring your head off at the time)."

Nor is there much consolation in the youth magazines with their front covers advertising features on how to find a mate, or "chat-up lines from the famous". "Do you come here often?". "Only at half term". Not much chance of a trip to Hollywood there.

The demanding nature of work in the 21st century is such that people seem to react after-hour in one of two ways.

Some only feel truly at home in the company of those in the same trade. I once got stuck in a corner with a ball-bearing manufacturer at a party and spent the evening trying to catch the eye of anyone in the education business.

Others go to the opposite extreme and avoid fellow practitioners like the plague, the equivalent of going round with a bell chanting,"Unclean, unclean, I'm a teacher." The quickest and most effective way to avoid others in the education business would be to ask, in a loud voice, "Is anyone free at ...?", whereupon the room would empty immediately.

Modern problems need modern solutions, so perhaps what is required is a competency-based approach. Since the Teacher Training Agency requires student teachers nowadays to have passed as many as 851 different competencies, they are the obvious body to design it.

Competency 1: can purchase brand new pair of Hush Puppies. Competency 2: can walk boldly up to complete strangers and say, "hello gorgeous, I've read all the new national curriculum documents."

On the other hand, it would be awful if you were at a conference, or away on holiday this Easter, and some foaming maniac on this new TTA lonely hearts course came striding up, eyes glinting, bearing clipboard and pen, about to tick competency 147b, saying, "Marry me, and we can mark books together for ever."

So, even better would be yet another of those neat, official schemes of work produced by the Department for Education and Employment. It would be specially designed for people in quest of a mate at a party and would be called the Flirtation Hour.

This government scheme would start with 15 minutes of shared talk about league tables (whole party), followed by 15

minutes of analysis of SAT scores (whole party), 20 minutes of chat to individual potential mates and small clusters of candidates (not more than two ability groups allowed), and finally 10 minutes of review (whole party again).

That should do the trick.

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