Thank God it's Friday

3rd December 1999 at 00:00
Monday Postman Pat brings an unexpected missive. It seems that eight years into retirement I am "entitled to a vote in the forthcoming elections for the General Teaching Council". Amid much verbiage and following the rider about my being "in receipt of a teacher's pension", my attention is gripped by the statement: "You are a qualified teacher". I note the present tense.

Tuesday The retired have a habit of being grandparents, and I'm no exception. Today, half-term, I am holding the fort for one of our families. Twelve-year-old granddaughter needs a useful occupation to minimise the arguments with her siblings. As a mechanical typist, I ask her for help with computer word-processing.

She can scarcely disguise her amusement at Grandpa's efforts, but her ego has been given a boost and she has less need to throw her weight about. Applied psychology is the name of the game. I know. I am, after all, a qualified teacher.

Wednesday Postman Pat calls again with a fat envelope. I am doing some translation for a solicitor. My years as a modern languages teacher seldom included such vocab as "last will and testament", "executor", "inheritance" and "beneficiary", but dictionaries come to the rescue.

How much should I charge? I consult the fees recommended by the Institute of Translating and Interpreting and prepare an account. I am not a member of the institute but I am, I proudly recall, a qualified teacher.

Thursday I spend the morning preparing a Sunday sermon. There's no need to consider class control, interactive learning or structured group work. But I must give attention to style, use of humour and pacing. I have never taken the lay preachers' course, but the rector knows a qualified teacher when he sees one.

Friday My wife and I are on a weekend's break in a country hotel when we are awakened by a fire alarm at 2am. We pull on our coats and proceed down the stairs in disciplined silence. Other guests chatter excitedly. I have an overwhelming urge to utter a stentorian: "No talking!" At the assembly point, I want to line up the disorganised crowd into tutor groups. The staff announce a false alarm. They do not attempt a roll call. I am secretly appalled by their complete failure to turn the occasion into a properly conducted fire drill. That's what comes of being a qualified teacher.

Michael J Smith lives in Norfolk

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