Thank God it's Friday

29th December 2000 at 00:00
Monday "Any luck?" staff ask as I enter the staffroom. It is seven weeks since I was told that my one-year contract is not to be made permanent. I have been teaching history to Year 7, and food and textiles technology up to GCSE. All my qualifications are in history. This year I have decided I will settle only for a full-time history post. But this year, like the past two, there are hundreds of other history graduates with the same aim.

Tuesday Good news - an interview for tomorrow. I see the head to arrange a day off and later the deputy head in charge of cover. I re-plan Wednesday's lessons because covering teachers won't be happy making fruit puddings, or inserting zips, and because I don't want to miss out on the fun of the medieval medicine game with Year 7. I teach all day and complete a food practical over the lunch hour. At 3.30pm I race between sites to stick cover work to desks in appropriate classrooms. At home I receive more interview offers. Things are looking up.

Wednesday The interview is at an inner-city school with fortress walls and Big Brother cameras. Sixth-formers run along the corridors shrieking and kicking a football. Our teacher tour guides dodge around them withut comment. Noise comes from several classrooms; the shouts of teachers, the derisive jeers of pupils. A door crashes open. Teacher and pupil emerge. "How dare you be late to my lesson?" the teacher screeches. Her prey stares back at her nonchalantly. The school seems tense and unhappy. I am tense and unhappy. I withdraw. No one asks why.

Thursday I have turned down one interview to attend another at school A. I arrive only to be told that interviews had also been held the previous day. The post was filled.

Friday An independent school; a green oasis separated from the city by red brick walls, carefully cut hedges, vast playing fields and ample parking. There are plush sofas and a bar in the staffroom. Laptops are left casually on the gravel pathways. The sixth-formers, wearing suits and carrying large umbrellas, walk and talk in an adult way. The pay is great, the holidays extra long, there is no check on photocopying, and each child has his own textbook. I feel uncomfortable in the face of such wealth and am relieved not to get the job. But I begin to wonder if I will ever become a history teacher.

R A Freemantle teaches in the West Midlands. He writes under a pseudonym


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