Thank God It's Friday

27th October 1995 at 00:00
Monday: Three weeks into my one-term contract and I am presented with the ideal opportunity to prove myself to the head of department it is my turn to bake for the modern languages meeting after school. I settle on hot Dorset apple cake and watch eagerly for a sign of approval from his eminence.

"Sehr gut," he announces at length, displaying considerable linguistic dexterity, and I know at once that my position is secure. I feel confident enough to speak to the 30 pairs of Year 11 parents he has kindly lined up in the dining hall for me.

Tuesday:"Coffee in my room after school please." It sounds ominous but there is a smile on his face and the promise of lemon drizzle cake to come.

"Cake?" I ask, "on a Tuesday?" His reply demonstrates an appalling lack of confidence in me.

"I was worried you might forget yesterday, so I bought one just in case. "

Oh ye of little faith! One look at my waistline should have reassured him. "Es schmeckt gut," I venture.

"You should check the gender of cake," he suggests.

Wednesday: No cake, but today is a "jam" day when I am allowed to taste a dish rarely set before a newly qualified teacher: a Top Set. I am reminded of the caviar served up in huge dollops on board the Russian ships I once visited, and the long periods of deprivation between visits.

"Enjoy!" a heavily accented voice urges. And I swallow greedily, but all too soon I am back on dry land, subsisting on baked beans.

Thursday: I naively assume that "lunchtime meeting" means "after lunch" rather than "instead of". I struggle with a long-dead French stick, staring uneasily at the school rule about not eating in the classrooms, while others wrestle with the curriculum. I seem to remember contributing something in between bites, but how the spluttered mouthful will appear on the minutes is anyone's guess.

Friday: I'm lost, somewhere near London, desperately searching for a training centre. A young policeman appears from nowhere but before I can speak, he offers some friendly advice. "Oi. No parkin' mate."

"I'm lost," I plead, waving the A-Z in my left hand. "I said you can't stop here mate, so shift it."

"Take his number," the teacher inside me urges. But then I remember how I felt when I'd come to the end of a night-shift in a previous existence, when your sights are set on the canteen's early morning greasy breakfast.

But oh joy! The well-hidden training place doubles up as a catering college. I imagine a long banquet table, groaning with goodies.

"Oi, one biscuit only," says the student chef at morning coffee. I wonder if he has a brother on the beat in the Met.

Stephen Spencer is a mature newly qualified teacher. Formerly an immigration officer, part-time soldier and Alfred Marks temp, he now teaches French and German at The Ramsey School, Halstead, Essex

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today