Thank God it's Friday

3rd July 1998 at 01:00
Monday "Eh, Miss - yer room's burnt down!" says a Year 11 boy waiting to go into his morning exam. I know. I spent a couple of hours yesterday sifting through the smoking ashes of what used to be the drama studio and office.

Tears well up as I look at the now boarded-up wreck that used to be my home from home. I spend the morning wandering from room to room, looking for my equally confused students. None wants to do drama; they want to talk about their loss of coursework and the devastation of a space they felt they owned a part of.

In the afternoon I walk around the ruin with a fire officer while he tries to determine the cause of the blaze, which started next to the gas heater in my office. I copy out a new register that night and try to assess which of my own books perished.

Tuesday Senior management finds me a permanent base, throwing art and maths out of a large room so that I can move in. With nothing but three felt pens and a board rubber, this doesn't take long. Everything has gone - from the television through all the GCSE coursework to my schemes of work, resources and personal collection of theatre posters and programmes.

I am devastated - and although I know there is no going back, I cannot motivate myself to start again. The rumour among the children that the fire started because I left the heater on over the weekend is quashed when the fire officer reports back that it was arson - most likely some form of petrol bomb thrown through my office window.

Wednesday A lack of evidence makes it difficult to believe anyone will ever be apprehended. Year 10 are very sympathetic - they are already planning a fund-raising evening of drama. I rain on their parade by pointing out that we no longer have any props, costumes or lights, but they are determined.

Now well ensconced in my new room, I spend my free periods making signs for the walls, in an attempt to make the space look a little more drama-oriented. The children are being quite good about moving the desks out of the way and not sticking their heads in the kilns or buckets of clay. The sign saying "Drama Has Moved" falls off when someone steals the piece of Blu-Tack I borrowed to stick it to the door.

Thursday Almost a normal day. My heart seems to have caught up with my head in realising that the only thing to do is start afresh. A drama teacher from a nearby school offers the loan of resources, which cheers me up no end. A student sums up my feelings of helpless anger by saying: "At least if it had been nicked, someone would be putting it all to good use."

I plough through catalogues, re-ordering many of the lost items. It is sad to note how much stuff was made by teachers and students - and how much of my own life I had in that little office.

Friday This feels like the longest week of my life. My lessons are becoming more organised now, and I am starting to rebuild files. Year 10 have been assured that the loss of their work will have no effect on their final GCSE grade, and all students have been told that the school will have a new drama base come September.

Although my mind is now firmly focused on ordering newer and better facilities for drama, a part of me blew away with the ashes of my work. My job here will never quite be the same again.

Jennifer Tickle teaches drama in a north Manchester comprehensive

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