Teaching seems to run in some families

1st October 2004 at 01:00
Teaching seems to run in some families. Is this due to a lack of imagination, or are family members so enthusiastic about their jobs that it inspires everybody else?

Can you just check my hair?" asks my sister. She's just finished her first week of teaching practice and is feeling rather itchy.

People have made various comments about my sister changing career and becoming a teacher, usually along the lines of: "You haven't put her off then?" No, the tales of nightmare visits to the hairdresser's, Sunday nights with a planning file and the "it's my turn to do assembly" blues have only engaged her curiosity.

Teaching does seem to run in some families: teachers marry teachers and the children of teachers often teach. Is this due to a lack of imagination, career-wise, or are family members so enthusiastic about their jobs that it inspires everybody else to go the same way? Friday magazine's dating column intrigues me too, and I'm half tempted to answer an advert - in the interests of research - to find out more. Who puts them in? Is it other teachers wanting to meet a partner who would understand when, in the middle of a snog in St Mark's square, you suddenly shout: "That's given me an idea for Year 9 technology." Or are they people with a fetish for chalk dust, school dinners and sensible shoes?

As a singleton myself, I've not found school a productive place for finding romance. I never look at my best with gravy on my shirt and playdough in my hair for a start, and the atmosphere in your average school corridor just isn't conducive to intimacy. In a small special school, men are few and far between anyway; we have to resort to yet another topic on "people who help us" to get the fire brigade in just to provide some eye candy.

Joining evening classes can be difficult for single teachers wishing to meet people, because you may attend a couple of classes on "crochet for the terrified" and be quite enjoying yourself, when you suddenly realise your class clashes with an extraordinary governors' meeting, an awards evening or a fundraising bash. It means you miss the vital week when the French hooker technique is taught and decide it's not really worth going back.

The children of teachers get a mixed deal. They get their mums and dads in the holidays but they get experimented on too: I used to get my kids to listen to stories I'd made up for the children at school and they always seemed to like them. It was only recently that they admitted they'd been listening to Cradle of Filth or Slipknot on hidden Walkmans the whole time.

They did make their contributions, though: "Flossie, can I borrow your stripey socks? We're doing 'Mrs Mopple's Washing Line'." "Jim, do you know any good football chants? I'm doing repetition, rhythm and rhyme with the 16-plus group and I want something age-appropriate." Parents can get roped in too. "We're doing The Wizard of Oz at Christmas, Mum. Any chance you could run us up eight Munchkin outfits, a good fairy and a troupe of flying monkeys?"

I'm glad my kids have grown up with me working in special schools, have taken an interest and spent time at school fetes, fairs and fun days. I'm pleased they relate easily to people with disabilities and have stuck up for disabled kids at their own schools when they've been picked on.

So would I be happy for them to follow me into teaching? Yes. They understand the pleasures and the frustrations. And am I pleased my sister's going to be a teacher? Yes. As long as she doesn't give me nits.

Maria Corby is deputy head of a special school for pupils with severe and multiple learning difficulties. She writes under a pseudonym

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