Talkback

7th September 2001 at 01:00
A new magazine will be rolled out in full force this month. It's called "You and Your Teacher" and is packed full of helpful hints on how to care for your teacher - housing, feeding requirements, etc, with a special feature on rehoming strays.

This section is guaranteed to tug at the heartstrings. It has appealing photographs of the lost teachers, looking soulful, with their hair nicely brushed and wearing their suits, with accompanying details, as far as can be established (naturally, details are often sketchy) of how they came to this sorry state.

But by far the biggest section is on the care and rehoming of NQTs. This carries an important disclaimer: before adopting one of these, it is important to understand the conditions under which they are likely to have been kept. They are characterised by their extreme wariness of human contact, having been deprived of this for at least a year. They are likely to treat with extreme suspicion all offers of a helping hand, resources and constructive criticism, and are particularly wary of a kind word. They know that it is all their fault. However, looking on the bright side, they are no longer enthusiastic and are relatively docile and easy to handle. They will not give much trouble, provided they are fed and watered on a diet of chocolate biscuits and coffee. They do have a few peculiar habits that you must watch out for. They tend to laugh hysterically and take quite a while to stop when conversation turns to the easy life of teachers with all those holidays.

And if you are having a party and are wondering how to keep the conversation flowing, they can be brought in and relied upon to provide a number of amusing or horrifying anecdotes, depending on the audience. They should be employed in this manner with caution, however, as there can be a problem in getting them to stop. Only use with care in this capacity, unless you are completely confident of your restraining ability.

These teachers are also surprisingly intolerant of conversations with other educational experts - such as those who attended school themselves some 20 years ago. They do not seem to want to listen to detailed accounts of these experiences, and will confine themselves to grunts or monosyllabic responses along the lines of "things have changed a bit since then".

These strays show a distinct aversion to other people's children, but really have the biggest problem when trying to integrate back into the community in the local supermarket. They can be easily identified, even when in mufti, as they are the ones in the queue at the till demanding that the checkout operator looks at them when they are talking to them and expecting them to be able to give the correct change.

Some of these NQTs have a dream - of a new home with adequate resources such as textbooks, pupils who are there to learn, pupils with pens (that they use to write with), pupils who can read and supportive parents who turn up to open evenings. They dream of a home where there are no more new initiatives involving the word "key", and where they are paid more than the average checkout operator per hour. Above all, they dream of a home where they feel wanted and valued for their enthusiasm and ideals, and where possibly there might be a chance of them having their life back again.

They would like to experience a home like this before they take their skills and ideals and expensive training and leave the profession forever. These dreams do have a basis in reality. It's called the "independent sector" or leaving behind the kids who need them most. Sad, isn't it?

Dr Kristina Humphries has just finished her NQT year at a Staffordshire comprehensive. She now teaches in an independent school

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