Summer cure for winter blues

8th February 2008 at 00:00
The wisdom of Henry Walpole.

Hello you, reading this. Welcome. You're not a classroom teacher, are you? February is the most miserable of months and by 7.45am each morning the jobs sections of The TES are torn to shreds and scattered across the staffroom. And in the school that you tore out the job advert for, a teacher is sitting with an advert for your school, thinking "that sounds better than here".

February is especially depressing for teachers. You go to work in the dark, try to persuade some bolshy little troglodytes to work, then go home in the dark. It's like living in Tolkien's Mordor. My trips to school are filled with more angst than an Ingmar Bergman movie. In the funereal procession of the traffic jam, I peer through a demisted patch on my windscreen, with the only heating provided by Led light on my malfunctioning radio.

As I paused at some lights yesterday, scarf wrapped around me like a Star Wars Tusken raider, a businessman in a hulking BMW pulled up beside me. It was like a Dickensian pauper pressing his nose up against a five-star restaurant. He sat in his shirtsleeves in temperature-controlled luxury and sneered. The lights changed and he roared off, giving me the finger. I content myself by speculating that his stereo might well be worth more than my car but it's probably playing James Blunt.

Actually, Februarys are usually so gloomy that most staffroom conversation is less about changing schools and more about complete career changes.

The first port of call for the desperate is usually a spell in the army. Maybe the discipline would suit teachers. The horrors of the last key stage 1 nativity mean you are immune to combat stress, but you can't stop mid-battle for your regular mid-morning discussion with colleagues about your cat's latest operation.

Assuming you don't mind an empty feeling in your life where your soul used to be, how about city investment banking? The hours and the salary might suit, but most teachers would get annoyed by the accounting methods. ("That isn't how you add profits. What about partitioning the tens, hundreds and thousands? Can one of the secretaries get us some coffee, some unifix cubes and some big sheets of sugar paper?")

Maybe we should just accept our fate. As the saying goes: "If you can't do, teach" (and if you can't teach, teach teachers).

But by March, the long, downhill slide to summer begins. Soon the miseries of winter will be forgotten. This is a great job. I'm already looking forward to those long, lazy days. If I get the chance, I'm going to park my crapmobile by the salesman in the BMW at the lights and tap on my window. "Fed up? Having a long day?" I will slowly extend six fingers. "That's right: I'm a teacher. Six weeks' holiday!" The lights will change and I'll bunny-hop off in a belch of exhaust.

More from Henry in a fortnight.

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