Nightclothes with attitude

16th June 2006 at 01:00
'Tis the season to be revising; 'tis the season to be going grey. The pressure of getting 502 Year 11s through two English GCSEs has had a marked impact on my sleep over the past month. It all started with the idea of taking the 50 most borderline CD pupils on a weekend residential revision course. I sold it to them with flowery sales-speak: two days at Quorn Hall, a converted stately home, and it will only cost you pound;36. The next day, I expected a flood of cheques.

"Sorry Miss, but mum says Cornwall is too far from Leicester for a weekend." Quorn Hall, I yelled, not Cornwall - it's just 12 flipping miles away. Fortunately, a few pretty girls and a couple of boys from the football team signed up, so the cheques flooded in.

The first day went really well. The sun shone and a few kids even learned a few life skills, including the difference between the apostrophe of possession and the apostrophe of omission.

But night-time turned things sour. In theory, the boys and girls were on separate floors but, as midnight crept into 1, 2 then 3am, the gender boundaries became as blurred as my tolerance. It was not just my loco-parental role that concerned me; I was also fretting about my clothing.

At school, a funereal suit or a simple skirt and shirt serve to differentiate us from the adolescent mass. But at 3am, I suddenly felt as exposed as George Galloway in a Lycra cat-suit and wished I'd packed a dressing gown. Bursting bra-less in my PJs into a dormitory of 16-year-old boys would do nothing for my scary teacher persona. (They were marginally more appropriate than the caramel silk, lace-trimmed Janet Reger nightgown I'd nearly packed.) To minimise my embarrassment and maximise my authority, I simply switched the lights off and bellowed into the sweaty darkness. Phew, no one noticed that the scary-witch was wearing sky blue pyjamas with "Little Miss Giggles" across her chest.

For the remaining three or four hours I slept fitfully, fretted and vowed never to run anything of this sort ever, ever again. Let them all get grade Ds and Es. What did I care? My need for sleep was over-riding any need for an increase in A to C passes.

Before breakfast I searched out the warden to apologise for the behaviour of our nocturnal vagrants. He looked confused: hadn't heard a thing. And you should see how most pupils behave - the Germans set off the fire alarms; the French exchange bodily fluids. Our lot were angels in comparison. Maybe they do deserve their grade Cs after all.

Back at school, we handed out 1,546 A3 revision timetables (with plastic wallets) for Years 11 to 13 to complete. Every evening was segmented into three two-hour slots and each Saturday and Sunday was divided into six slots. Hoorah, two students completed the charts as intended. Unfortunately 1,544 did not; they decided they were perfect World Cup planners.

While we were hoping that June 22 might indicate two hours of geography followed by two hours of maths, their charts show that Japan are playing Brazil in Dortmund. A vague geography link I suppose. Some of the girls have stuck Texaco collectors cards on each day ("I'll swap you a Henri for a Beckham") and some entrepreneurial sparks have modified the charts into stats and facts sheets, including a betting ring. There's a clear maths link here. They're offering 18-1 on Ronaldinho being the top scorer, which is surely worth a fiver.

My latest endeavour to maximise their results involves neuro-linguistic programming. I sat my form down in comfy chairs and persuaded them to shut their eyes and envisage the August results day. If they could visualise a positive outcome, they were more likely to be able to identify the steps needed to achieve this scenario. Unfortunately, I forgot to mention the word "positive" before "outcome" so most of them imagined a wholly pessimistic day where they failed to achieve their target grades. Silent tears slipped down the faces of two kids. They left the classroom with their heads bowed and their attitude lethargic. I vowed to leave the brainwashing to Paul McKenna in future.

One final revision blast was needed. Time to try the parental route; if Mum and Dad have the examiners' tips booklet, past papers and those revision time-table, all could be hunky-dory.

Perhaps not. Of the 100 emails sent out, I received one reply - and that was correcting my sodding spelling. I'm clearly the only one in the whole school who doesn't deserve a grade C.

No matter what the results reveal, there is one lesson that I've learned: next term I need to get a life. (And maybe I'll buy some "Little Miss Knackered" PJs with my Ronaldinho winnings).

Genevieve Fay teaches English at a Leicestershire comprehensive

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