I want to be a mechanic...Just once I'd like to feel a sense of completion. Job presented, work done, issue resolved

21st March 2003 at 00:00
It's the end of break in the staffroom. It's always in those final five minutes that we start having the most interesting chats - a teacher's kind of sod's law that makes it even more difficult to go back to trying to make consonant trigraphs relevant to the life of Gareth Gates. We can only but try to inject some interest into our lessons. Anyway, we're talking about what we'd like to be if we weren't teachers. I love this conversation - I've had it on Inset days, in other schools, in exam halls where we're supposed to be invigilating silently. It tells you a lot about your colleagues.

The most common choice for would-be ex-teachers seems to be running a book shop. That's mostly the English teachers, but I can understand it. It's still intellectual and retains that sense of providing a service for the public while listening to people's inner thoughts all day. Gaining in popularity is jewellery-making: creative, original, yet still with scope for earning tons of money, especially if you get in with Jade Jagger.

There's always a sprinkling of counsellors or aromatherapists - you can see how those caring, sharing types thought teaching was all about loving and learning in those heady, marijuana-fuddled days when they started their PGCEs.

I want to be a mechanic. I am desperate to be a mechanic. I even looked up courses in my yearly bid to find an evening class last September. There were lots, but I couldn't understand the titles. I fantasise about being a mechanic because I fantasise about actually fixing something and making it work. I'm having a recurring dream at the moment. Someone comes to me with a broken-down car. I look under the bonnet. I do that mechanic thing of hissing through my teeth and looking concerned, but then I fiddle about with a spanner and, lo and behold, it's sorted. My customer is overwhelmed with gratitude, and pays me huge amounts of money.

I know, you don't need to be Joseph with his technicolour dreamcoat to work out where this is coming from. I've worked in special needs long enough to realise that children are not cars, they are not fixable, and I'm never going to be paid huge sums of money for spending time playing games with flashcards. I can't add my kids to my list of "problems to be solved", right underneath trying to get into size 12 trousers, and deciding whether to tape EastEnders or Coronation Street if we're going out on a Friday. But once, just once, I'd like to feel a sense of completion. Job presented, work done, issue resolved. Not incident occurring, child and me arguing, decision reached in consultation with 15 other professionals, memos written, forms filled in, sleepless nights agonising over whether I've done the right thing, incident happening all over again.

I'd make a great car mechanic. I wouldn't overcharge. I wouldn't dismiss all technical problems as figments of a hysterical female imagination and slyly suggest that perhaps the persistent rattling coming from the direction of the engine is due to it being that time of the month. I wouldn't raise my eyebrows if a certain teacher customer came in for a new wing mirror for the umpteenth time, still unable to negotiate the sharp bend between the temporary classroom and the playground. Don't get me wrong, I would miss teaching, but if I got bored I'm sure I could fit in some jewellery-making on the side. What would you do?

Gemma Warren is an assistant special needs co-ordinator at a London secondary school. Email: gemmablaker@hotmail.com

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