Talkback

4th September 1998 at 01:00
I have forgotten how to teach. I haven't been in a classroom since May, and I seem to have reverted back to that thing I was before - a normal person.

I've become Gemma again - Ms Warren has gone on a long distance holiday and doesn't want to come back. I've been told that teaching's like riding a bike - you quickly pick it up again, but I never progressed from stabilisers.

This is slightly worrying as my new school seems to be expecting some outrageously enthusiastic newly qualified teacher with loads of new ideas and her finger on the pulse of the national curriculum. A sort of computer-cum-cheerleader. I want to explain to them: "you know that person you interviewed - that wasn't me. It was Ms Warren: the alien impostor who takes over my body in strange harmony with the academic calendar. She doesn't exist anymore. She's blasted off into the outer stratosphere."

Told I would be teaching Jane Austen and Charles Dickens, I frantically scanned my class lists and then remembered that these were not the names of pupils. My copy of Great Expectations lurks unread on my desk; all I consume are horoscopes in the hope that they might herald an imminent change in career.

Similarly, my teaching practice seems to belong to a parallel universe, an idyllic pastoral interlude. I vaguely remember turning up, having loads of nice chats, having lunch, reading loads of nice books, having coffee, and then filling in loads of targets with "I will try to do better next week". I think I also taught a few lessons.

On Monday afternoon I remember that I taught two in a row and that was my big stress of the week. Being ridiculed by two or three classes seemed sweet and gave me a couple of good anecdotes for the pub. What days of blissful innocence before the fall. My new timetable is suspiciously lacking in slots labelled "nice chats" and being ridiculed by eight or nine classes isn't fun anymore, it's a recipe for a nervous breakdown.

I must remain calm, resume control of this mission. If Ms Warren were here, how would she cope with this? She would prepare, she would plan lessons, she would read her copy of Animal Farm, rather than use it as a door-stop. She would carefully take notes from her GCSE syllabus rather than leave it by the oven in the hope that it might catch fire. She would stop trying to feed her new mark book to the dog. She would stop going to see disaster films with titles like Armageddon and The End is Nigh.

Earth to Ms Warren: prepare to re-enter the galaxy. I'm going to get Dead Poets Society out of the video shop; that ought to make me feel better. That's what started this whole thing off in the first place. Except in my version, the guy doesn't commit suicide, he decides that he's madly in love with his English teacher, they run away together, and er, she stops being a teacher. It's all coming back to me now. Houston: we have a problem.

Gemma Warren finished her PGCE last term. She now teaches at The Latymer School in north London

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