Thank God it's Friday

14th January 2000 at 00:00
Monday I arrive in college with a sense of fear. On Sunday I was in a body-piercing studio, giving moral support to a chum having her bellybutton done, when one of my students came in for an eyebrow piercing. We clocked each other. He was with his mum. I've got him next for A-level media. The embarrassing moments never pass in this job. They keep coming around again, like bad episodes of Columbo.

Tuesday I've survived the eyebrow boy, but today have my delinquent GCSE media lads to contend with. We are doing a storyboard for The Avengers. I ask them - stupid I know - to give ideas for simple "easy-to-draw" costumes for the characters. Moronic Mark says "leather pants and fetish gear". But it's not all bad. They've learnt a new word - dominatrix.

Wednesday My fashionably late second-years sashay in at tutor time. Their lack of stress and wrinkles reminds me of the vapid faces of Barbie dolls. As they teeter off, I watch my innocent charges at play outside, pushing each other off the college wall, pouring Cola down each other's jackets. I watch the boys with their "flop top" hair and baggies, and the girls with purple dreads and Tank Girl tops. I feel suddenly old. I pat my Mamp;S "16 long" jeans thouhtfully. Mamp;S. Samp;M. Tomorrow I'll wear my dumbo T-shirt.

Thursday Dumbo is a big hit. Especially in my media sets. He is matched by a South Park T-shirt, sported by one of my more populist students. In fact, Dumbo is so hot that he becomes a handy visual lead-in for a rich variety of classroom debates, from the merits of various eras of animation to the issues of violence and imitative behaviour in contemporary cartoons. Not to mention a conversation piece on fashion styles.

Friday Every pub I visit contains an assortment of A-level, GCSE, and repeater students. Still, that's what you get when you live in a four-street town. I feel like a stranger in no-man's land - too young to be "in" with my predominantly 30-plus colleagues - too old to fit in with my teeny charges. Help.

I'm propping up the bar now. Life looks pretty bleak. Then two of the Barbie girls appear. They have drunk enough to speak without inhibition - truthfully. One of them, Shelly, remarks on my now rather grimy Dumbo top, saying: "It's well cool Miss! D'you like South Park?" I say I do. We look at each other with renewed respect. It ain't so bad.

Cassandra Hilland teaches at a sixth-form collegein Surrey


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