Thank God it's July

21st July 2006 at 01:00
MARCH I am not superstitious but I am a teacher and I can't afford private health insurance. So, when I'm told the NHS consultant can perform my simple foot surgery on March 13, I ask for six weeks off. The premeditation makes me feel like a criminal. I'm bound to be bored at home, my colleagues say, so I wouldn't mind doing some marking, would I? Acutely aware of the disruption to my students, I hope my comments in their books will remind them that I'm not actually dead.

APRIL Marking Year 8's "guide to the gurdwara" - I know Aaron was in the lessons on gurdwaras (Sikhism) but his guide makes frequent mention of the mosque (Islam). At least "mosque" is spelt correctly. GCSE practice papers from Year 11 are delivered and David uses a question on "reasons why some people believe in God" as his opening to rant against organised religion, school rules and the police.

MAY My now-infected foot looks like a football - not the light-weight nancy-type ball used in the World Cup but the solid, aggressive, sort-the-men-from-the-boys type favoured by Bobbie Charlton. My return to school is three weeks overdue; I should be back in harness. I hear imaginary voices saying "early holiday" and "bloody OK for some". It's not my fault but it sure feels like it.

JUNE In hospital on a drip for a week. When the nurses find out I'm a teacher they ask for my help with some assignments. I feel useful again - but they only want me to blow into a peak-flow meter, the lung capacity of teachers being legendary. It's impossible to remain emotionally detached when a man gets intimate with your feet and my relationship with my consultant has cranked up several notches, which prevents an outburst of comprehensive school expletives when he tells me I need further surgery and another six weeks off. Post second surgery and the consultant takes my hand (to prevent me using it as a weapon) and tells me that I need yet another op. How about taking some of the guilt that is weighing me down and throwing in some free liposuction? Back to school mid-September, he promises. Not good. Only a teacher knows that everything depends on you being there at the beginning of term.

JULY My colleagues must feel some sense of justice knowing that I will be on crutches and in plaster all summer holiday and have kissed goodbye to a fortnight's surfing and a weekend at the Reading Festival. Thanks to the superb efforts of staff at Colchester General Hospital, I will see you in September, guys. Please excuse my absence, which was unavoidable.

Anne Maxwell is a humanities teacher and e-mentoring manager at The Plume School, Maldon, Essex

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