Thank God it's Friday

6th September 1996 at 01:00
Monday: An in-service training day. Everyone turns up for the early morning staff meeting in shorts and mini-skirts. They are brown and relaxed. It is such a pleasure being in school with no pupils, so much less stressful. If the Government really wants to get the best out of teachers they should introduce 160 INSET days and five teaching days each year.

Tuesday: The new pupils arrive and line up in the playground. They should be nervous, quietly waiting to be told what to do and where to go. In fact they chat and play as if they haven't a care in the world. I cannot believe how noisy they are. I am con-vinced I was terrified on the first day of my new school.

Walking into the staffroom there is a total change of atmostphere from the previous day. No one has taught a lesson and yet there is a haunted look on everyone's faces. The bell goes, there is a tense silence then a rush for the door. Of course it's not as bad as we all feared, the children are fresh and keen, especially the new ones.

My nine-year-old son is one of the new boys. He seemed very nervous this morning - is having Dad as a teacher at his new school going to affect him? Later, in the school canteen, I'm charged twice the amount I had expected for lunch. I ask if the prices have gone up over the summer. They haven't.

The dinner supervisor informs me that my son came through earlier and said, "I've forgotten my dinner money but don't worry, my old man'll pay." Concern over!

I am on duty at the entrance as the pupils go home. One small nine-year-old shows me his lunch-time pass. I tell him he doesn't need to show it to get out of here. He explains that he knows that, but nobody looked at it at lunch time.

Wednesday: The new children are being shown round the school. As they file through my room, their teachers explain that this is Mr Masters, he teaches maths and will probably take you next year. I make a point of growling unpleasantly at as many of the children as I can. Frightening them now will pay dividends later.

I overhear one child say he doesn't like me very much. The girl next to him replies that I'm her older brother's favourite teacher. I glow with pride until I hear her explain that her brother says you can get away with anything in my lessons as long as you give your homework in on time and don't yawn out loud.

If I wasn't his favourite teacher, I'd give her brother a really hard time this term.

Thursday: The school bully comes a cropper in the playground. He picks a fight with a new boy who looks like being the bully elect. It is not serious, more strutting and hot air than anything.

We have a new music teacher who is tiny - she's not quite 5ft. She wades in to stop the fight with such aggression that the school bully starts to cry and has to be comforted.

All the staff watch the whole incident from the safety of the staffroom. Some wag had placed a ladder in front of her pigeonhole but it's removed and all sizest jokes cease.

Friday: After school we sit in the staffroom in stunned silence. None of us can believe that only five days have passed and that it is three full months to Christmas. How long then, before we can wear shorts and mini-skirts again?

Richard Masters teaches maths at Fairlands midddle school, Somerset

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