I have gone off the boil

29th June 2012 at 01:00

My pan-fried spicy sea bass with Gorgonzola mash and fresh pesto dressing hasn't turned out quite like I expected. It's also left in its wake a scene of utter carnage. Every pot, pan, knife, spoon and food processing attachment known to man has conspired with every ingredient known to Sainsbury's to throw the wildest party since 1976. That was the year my parents went to Scarborough for the weekend and left me in charge of the house.

I sigh. Having used the last of the kitchen roll to wipe olive oil off the now battery-less smoke alarm, I'm forced to lick my watch to check the time. My wife will be back from her over-fifties Zumba class soon. And the ends of my foray into haute cuisine are never going to justify the means.

It is easy to get dispirited at this time of year, when you are no longer living life in the fast lane: chasing improbable targets; straining for measurable improvements; avoiding a headteacher whose glare hints at capability procedures. From now until the end of term there is only the mundane slog of churning out seven-page pupil reports, which will, in true Ofsted style, contain several copied and pasted statements.

As a way of putting off this task for as long as possible I have spent most of the morning watching Saturday Kitchen on BBC One. How do TV chefs do it, eh? How do they make cooking appear effortless? How does Rick Stein turn a dead fish and a bunch of assorted foliage into a culinary work of art in a fraction of the time it takes me to make a Jackson Pollock out of our kitchen?

Mind you, I would hate to be an ordinary bog-standard chef these days, an era when television has turned the brightest and best into demigods. But then, do they really turn out perfect portions at every sitting? Are there not times when even Michel Roux thinks, "Sod it, I can't be arsed today, I'll just rustle up some beans on toast instead?"

The reason I ask is because isn't teaching a bit like cooking? I have 28 years' experience and I know that despite the ever-shifting Ofsted goalposts and the unpredictable nature of children, I can produce - especially when an inspector calls - a good or even outstanding lesson. But then like any great meal, an outstanding lesson requires not only expertise but quality ingredients, detailed preparation and lashings of creative energy. And I'm not sure this is achievable on an everyday, every lesson basis.

It is at this time of year more than any other that I reflect on the fact that in teaching terms I am a mere mortal. Although I stand in the footsteps of giants (are these not the column inches where Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw struts his stuff?), there isn't a cat in hell's chance I can keep pace with them.

Like most teachers, I start each year bursting with the belief that I can inspire my children to academic greatness way beyond the aspirations of their impoverished backgrounds. Halfway through the year, I'm still hanging in there, gritting my teeth in an effort to wring every last sub-level out of the sods. Finally, surrounded by sheets of depressing data, I think I should throw everything in a black bin liner, lock the door behind me and head to the pub.

Do you think Heston Blumenthal - or even Sir Michael Wilshaw - ever has a similar urge to head for the hills?

Steve Eddison is a key stage 2 teacher at Arbourthorne Community Primary School in Sheffield.

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