How to dodge other teachers on holiday
You know a romantic holiday for two is about to take a turn for the worse when one of the loving couple, breaking off a moment of Mediterranean intimacy in their sun-dappled apartment, murmurs: "I'm sure I know that voice."
As feared, the head of key stage 3 science and his wife are sitting on the next balcony, both dressed in voluminous yellow shorts and ruminating over a book of sudoku puzzles.
This is what happened to a former colleague of mine when he and his partner thought they were getting away from it all on a lesser-known Greek island. The holiday lost much of its carefree momentum as an obligation to be sociable took over. Sweet nothings on the beach at sunset were replaced by the science supremo asking: "Are you going into school on results day?"
Discovering that you're sharing a holiday destination with a colleague is not as uncommon as you might think. And even if a great escape is free from familiar faces, you can safely assume that other teachers will loom large sooner or later. This is no great surprise, really, given the matching holiday times, similar budgets and the shared psychological need to escape in late July.
Many will be familiar with the little summer holiday ritual that is habitually played out when one teacher spies another. Both of them do the opposite of what a pair of dogs would do: there is no running over and sniffing. Instead, the eyes meet knowingly, a distance is kept and a mutual pact of silence follows; both know that the other is probably a teacher but this becomes a thing unsaid. The holiday may be almost over before one of them breaks the ice and 'fesses up.
Such reticence is not because we instinctively dislike our fellow professionals. Quite the reverse (some of us have even gone and married one). It's more about both parties being determined to forget about the job when they're away. There is an understandable fear that if the teacher truth gets out, there will be a return to the endless school talk that should have been left at home.
Here's how to avoid those awkward reminders of what we are for most of the year:
Get into the teacher mindset
If avoiding other teachers is a major holiday priority for you (maybe you had a bad experience last year involving a work-obsessed literacy coordinator from Swindon), then you need to delve into the teacher's summer mindset. The essential question to ask is: "What locations are teachers most likely to seek in August?" Opt for places that seem diametrically opposed to the answer.
Head to 18-30 resorts
Most teachers are understandably keen to have a break from noise and from large numbers of children. As a result, I know many who are drawn to various group-walking holidays around Britain and beyond. So one way to avoid teachers is to consider places offering a very different kind of experience.
Vibrant resorts such as Magaluf, Kavos and Zante would seem to fit the bill perfectly. They are loud, busy and almost certain to feature herds of intoxicated sixth-formers - another good reason why you are highly unlikely to meet a teacher there. And even if you do come across one, the chances of you or them remembering it the next day are slim.
Choose a holiday with a routine
Teachers tend to stay away from tightly scheduled coach tours. We are normally slaves to the mighty timetable and bell, so we like our summer holidays to be about easy-going spontaneity. Not for us the detailed itinerary, where every city, excursion and meal has a date and time next to it. As such, the highly regimented bus tour is another fairly safe option if you are keen to avoid fellow educators.
Steer clear of France
Keep well away from rural France. That same desire to feel free draws teachers in droves to our Continental neighbour's inviting open countryside, to all those fine campsites and gtes. Village markets seem to have a particularly high teacher-to-normal-person ratio. You can scarcely turn a corner without coming across one of our number sauntering aimlessly from stall to stall. Few of us really know why we are there but relish the experience anyway. We are simply content and at ease - no bells, no targets to meet, no risk of failing.
So again, you could avoid teachers this summer by opting for the other extreme. You could put yourself under the usual term-time pressure by going on an intensive course throughout the summer holiday - perhaps even one with a rigorous exam at the end of it.
Perhaps the above options for finding a teacher-free trip sound distinctly unappealing. But there's another solution: simply learn a part and present yourself as holidaying vicar, opera diva, gunrunner or whatever. That way, we can all at least believe that we have escaped the world of teaching - which, at the end of the day, is all that matters.
Stephen Petty is head of humanities at Lord Williams's School in Thame, Oxfordshire