Monday Snakes, scorpions and French orals are guaranteed to turn the most fearless student into a wreck. By first break there have been palpitations, perspiration and tears. And that's just me. I've tried to squeeze too many candidates into the day. I apologise to a student for having to delay hers till tomorrow. "Yes!" She punches the air.
Tuesday I return a call to an angry parent. His daughter arrived home yesterday suffering from stress after vainly awaiting her oral exam. I apologise to no avail. My error was inexcusable and is tantamount to child cruelty. He demands special consideration for his daughter, who had asked if she could sit her oral after school but I had said that I had to go. He dismisses my version. I see no point in explaining that special consideration requires examples of work from the GCSE course and that his daughter has never done any. He is a secondary teacher.
Wednesday I receive a furious, five-page letter from the parent. Unless I apply for special consideration for his daughter within 24 hours, he will contact the director of education.
Thursday Music booms from my form room. Study leave doesn't begin until tomorrow, but the leaving party has already started. A head of year walks in and pulls the CD player's plug from the wall. "Has the council checked this for safety?" The owner worriedly shakes his head. "I'd better look after it then."
Friday I join my Year 11 tutors at the gate, nervous that Edward, a student with whom I've had frequent run-ins, has saved the worst for last. "I know we never really got on, Miss, but if it wasn't for you, I would have been chucked out ages ago. Thanks." I want to hug him.
Jenny Owl is a head of department in a northern comprehensive. She writes under a pseudonym