I'm almost six months into my latest incarnation as a media teacher. I took on a set of Year 12 media students last September in a moment of madness that followed a stupid notion of wanting to broaden my horizons. Anyone who thinks media is just about sitting around discussing films that no one's ever heard of couldn't be more wrong. I may as well be teaching A-level chemistry for all I know about film noir and panning shots.
I approach each of these lessons with the trembling anticipation I experienced in my teaching practice days. Everything is planned down to the last second and cunningly engineered so they won't get a chance to ask any questions. But I was in full flow the other day when one of my kids stopped me and said: "You know a lot about this, don't you, Miss?" I could have kissed him. But he's right. Out of the confused mire of my textbooks and "Teach yourself how to be a media teacher in 10 easy lessons" manuals, has sprung a module that was made, nay, destined, for me. A God-given sign that I was meant to be a media teacher after all.
I am currently teaching "Celebrity and the tabloid press", and I feel as if I've died and gone to heaven. Those lovely, clever people at the exam board knew what they were doing when they created this module. It's a safe harbour in the gathering storm of camera angles and diagetic sound. I am an expert on celebrity. The tabloid press is to me what Tom Jones is to middle-aged women. I worship it.
My obsession with celebrity and tabloids is relatively new. In fact, it coincides with the start of my teaching career. No surprises there. I spent my university and other formative years reading broadsheets, and never going to see a film that didn't have a multitude of indecipherable subtitles. But six months into my PGCE course I found I needed some light relief and, like a guardian angel, OK! magazine found its way into my life.
I've never looked back. Don't you just need something frivolous after a day of putting condoms on plastic willies and trying to make the apostrophe of omission sound like the most scintillating subject on earth? (Not that it isn't, Year 8, if you are reading this.) I used to view my tabloid habit with the kind of guilt I've always associated with buying pornography, but it didn't take long for me to shed my pseudo-intellectual hang-ups. Now I read my tabloids on the train as proudly as any businessman reading his copy of Harry Potter without the adult-styled cover. "You only read them in an ironic way, don't you?" one of my perturbed colleagues asked one day. Nope. I read them because I've developed an appetite for trivia, and I'm sure I can't be the only teacher who loves to relax with a copy of Heat and a cup of cocoa.
My new media module has given me a cast-iron excuse to buy loads of tabloids under the pretext of using them as research for my new subject.
God I love media. My head of department gently suggested that after six months maybe my class was getting a bit sick of celebrity and the tabloid press, but I patiently explained that it was actually a very complex subject. Multi-faceted. And, after all, teacher enthusiasm is everything.
Gemma Warren is an assistant special needs co-ordinator at a London secondary school. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org