Thank God it's the holidays

7th August 1998 at 01:00

It's first period. I walk into my Year 8 class, and suddenly realise that I have no recollection of what I'm supposed to be teaching them. They wait expectantly. The class seems to have grown from a manageable 30 to hundreds of kids, all wanting instruction. A few giggles. I stall for a minute, get them to open their books, but I still can't remember what I'd planned for the lesson.

Little bouts of anarchy are breaking out in the corners; the head of department looks questioningly round the door. I'm panicking now; the room is spinning. I look down and find that I'm naked - why didn't anyone mention it at the staff briefing this morning?

I wake up. It's 6.30am. When will my body understand that these are the holidays? No more lessons, no more Year 8, no more sleepless nights, allegedly. Yet I can't relax. I've forgotten how - it's a terrible side-effect of the PGCE. QTS, QTS I keep on chanting to myself. Get it into your head: you're Qualified To Sleep.


The nightmares are beginning to abate. I'm determined to enjoy these last few weeks of life as a student. I can now do all those things that I couldn't do during my PGCE:read, go to the theatre, utter words of more than two syllables after 4pm, read an article and not instantly try to turn it into a teaching resource. Set off to find a pavement cafe, and tap into my new-found student spirituality.


Broke and bored. Phone up best friend. "So what are we doing?" "When?" "Today, tomorrow, the rest of the holidays..." Bad move. Being a whingeing teacher, I forget that while I have six weeks off and can sit at pavement cafes whenever I like, the rest of the population is doing proper work; while decent honest people are slaving in unconditioned offices to pay my wages, I'm painting my nails; while children become more illiterte and uncontrollable, I'm home early enough to watch Ricki Lake and still complain about how little money I make. Why don't I do some temping? I try to explain. "I don't want to temp. I have a job." "Yes, but not a real one." Ostracised, broke and bored.


I'm on the beach with a Spanish waiter, watching the sun come up. It's strangely reminiscent of the opening scene from Grease, with the odd touch of From Here To Eternity. As I turn to leave, he tearfully hands me something. It's a letter, written after hours of torment and heartache. I look at the pages in my hand, stifling the urge to correct them, and they slowly start to transform into one of those postcards that you pick up free at the cinema. Puzzled, I read the white print: "Nobody Forgets a Good Teacher".

It's 6.30. I wake up with a start. I can't even fantasise properly anymore. QTS, QTS - Questioning Teaching Suitability. Querulous, Tetchy, Sexually frustrated. Find two letters waiting for me. One is about student loan repayments, the other goes on about now being eligible for something called Council Tax. Go back to bed. I'm sick of the holidays.


Visit my new school "for a chat" and to get my timetable for next term. Come out five hours later with 15 books I haven't read, a telephone directory which turns out to be my new GCSE syllabus, 10 different class lists, the departmental handbook, the school handbook, the preparing-for-OFSTED handbook, the NQT handbook, the union handbook, the Year Team handbook, and the stress management handbook. "Just to ease you in gradually," said my new head of department. I check my diary. How long till the holidays?

Gemma Warren finished her PGCE last term. She now teaches at The Latymer School, Edmonton, north London.

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