Thank God it's Friday

6th February 1998 at 00:00
Monday I read in The TES of the ex-primary head now happily ensconced as caretaker at his local secondary school. He works a 37-hour week and doesn't have to think about the job from one day to the next. I've got a fantasy job like that - working the "mums'" shift at the local supermarket, where you clock on after you've waved the kids off to school and finish in time to collect them at 3.30. The dark lining of this silver cloud is that you no doubt spend all your free time thinking about how to exist on a very small salary.

Tuesday Under the umbrella of drugs education, I take a group of lively juniors for PSE and we discuss "substances". In disbelief I watch them completing a chart on how often they consume certain substances - angelic little writers are ticking "rarely" for chocolate and cola. They seem to have forgotten that I have intimate knowledge of their lunch boxes, and have lived with them on residential trips. These are the same children who can confidently outline the basic requirements for good citizenship while kicking their neighbour under the table.

Wednesday I'm watching the BBC's Auntie Mabel with our youngest juniors when my assistant confides that she'd really like to live with Auntie M. What's so appealing about her life? Well, she's got an immaculate, easy-to-run bungalow and she doesn't seem to have to go to work. Later, in the staffroom, a straw poll reveals that many teachers share this fantasy. They love the way Auntie M has so much time to sit and knit, sip afternoon tea from cups with saucers and keep her garden neat. I'm sure more valuable research could be conducted into Auntie M's appeal for fortysomething female teachers.

Thursday The school is eerily quiet at 8.30am. So far my deputy and I are the only staff in the building, apart from the broom-wielding caretaker who was late. The silence is punctutated by calls from staff delayed by builders, forgetting to set alarm clocks or nursing sick offspring. Worst of all, we are suffering caffeine deprivation as neither of us has ever learnt the intricacies of the coffee maker. I imagine the staff canteen at the fantasy supermarket, spilling over with big-bosomed Auntie M-type ladies pressing the workers with steaming cappuccinos. I feel suddenly light-headed. As the withdrawal tremors increase there is a sudden influx of staff, and within minutes the aroma of coffee emanates from the kitchen. The day can begin.

Friday Why, after 22 years of teaching, do I always forget that the light-hearted feeling engendered by the arrival of Friday is closely followed by despair when faced with the overwhelming Friday evening list of Things To Do for the next week? But for a few moments I can pretend I am Auntie Mabel, and the only thing to think about is taking Pippin for a walk before getting out those cups and saucers and picking up the knitting needles. It's a lovely feeling... and our celebration assembly at the end of the day has a festive and affectionate air that binds us all into a big, warm family. There couldn't possibly be a better job than this, I muse, as I struggle to shove petty cash into my bulging briefcase, and make a mental note to find a nice knitting pattern over the weekend.

Sarah Jackson is head of Parayhouse School for the physically disabled in Chelsea, London

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