My colleagues hate me
I don't think some of my younger colleagues like me any more. It's been at the back of my mind for a while, but now, as they slog their way to the end of a long year, it's becoming more obvious. Their morning greetings no longer have any sincerity about them and I suspect those weary smiles are little more than gestures to cover up their true feelings.
Their antipathy is born of jealousy. You see, until recently, I was just like them, my enthusiasm for teaching slowly sucked out of me as I was forced to slave long hours at the conveyor belt of mass-produced learning. A conscript in the battle to hothouse students to that pale, standardised uniformity demanded by the education factory's quality-control team.
Then I discovered the Holy Grail of classroom survival - the one sure way to make teaching manageable. Against all the odds, I did what some of my younger colleagues might never achieve in their teaching lives: I found a work-life balance.
The solution turned out to be a simple one: part-time teaching. And although it comes at a heavy price (two-fifths of my salary), it is a price worth paying. I might not be able to afford a new car these days, but I can at least afford to smile.
Mind you, smiling in the presence of those needing to work full-time to service huge mortgages and spiralling living costs doesn't necessarily make you popular.
I know what they're saying about me behind my back. "It's all right for that decrepit old codger, swanning in on a Wednesday morning after his four-day weekend. I don't see him carrying a huge burden of expectation on his shoulders. I don't see him weighed down with unrealistic targets and an impossible workload."
The truth is, they think my generation was never really up to the job in the first place. "Teaching was a doddle before they introduced the national curriculum in 1988. You did all your planning on the back of a fag packet and buggered off home as soon as the bell went," they say. It's not true, of course. I admit I never stayed behind to annotate lesson plans or input pupil data, but I did run an after-school drama club and manage the football team through its worst-ever season.
I don't deny that teaching is harder than it used to be, and that my young colleagues are justified in being jealous of my part-time status and superior pension benefits.
It's their prerogative to be envious of the fact that I don't turn up at school at the crack of dawn and stay until the caretaker arrives in his pyjamas to throw me out. I just don't see why I should be made to feel guilty about it.
It is a strange irony that an old fart nearing the end of his long career should feel the need to sympathise with those who have their entire teaching lives ahead of them. But then, I've seen the future, and do you know what? They can keep it.
Steve Eddison teaches at Arbourthorne Community Primary School in Sheffield