Mugs step in where angels fear

27th August 2004 at 01:00
Ascot ladies' day has passed. Henley regatta has been and gone. But the most exacting social event of the season has yet to occur: the new school year.

Teachers starting at a new school should not take acceptance into the higher ranks of staffroom society for granted. Debutantes should ensure that they arrive well-versed in the necessary social graces. This is the advice of seasoned teachers, who have given newly-qualified colleagues the benefit of their experience on The TES online staffroom discussion board.

Key among the social faux pas is encroaching on a rival's territory.

"Check which cups are for common use, otherwise you will make enemies of the sweetest, meekest people," one teacher advised.

"And check where it's OK to sit. Oldies who've been there aeons get very uppity if people sit in our seats."

Brash newcomers who flout these rules, though, should not assume that they have committed social suicide. One teacher suggests that the situation is redeemable with a few simple gestures of obsequiousness. "You can't go wrong if you bring in bickies, alcohol or home-made cakes," she said.

Another recommended: "Make tea for other people when you are making yours."

But, perhaps most importantly, newcomers should remember that it is their duty to be seen and not heard. Should this prove harder than anticipated, there will be numerous older, more experienced teachers on hand, to patronise them into acceptable conformity.

"Don't stick your chewing-gum on the side of the kettle," one such teacher reprimanded. "Don't send text messages during staff meetings. Always put things back when you borrow them. And never swear in front of the wrong people."

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