The wandering eye

15th March 2013 at 00:00

I love my school. Admittedly it's not the first flush of passion; rather it's the sort of beleaguered affection that settles in after the initial romance fizzles out. If this was a marriage, I would say I'm past the stage where the sight of your naked partner sends tingles down your spine and entering the bit where it drives you to the bathroom to rip out your contact lenses and smear Vaseline over your eyeballs. I love my school but I see it for what it is: a flawed and flabby institution with a lot of revolting habits.

For me, the marriage metaphor neatly expresses the emotional relationship teachers have with their schools. It's a relationship based on symbiosis and respect. We will happily look after the kids, tidy up coursework and put on a sexy corset for Ofsted if we are given the odd box of chocolates or told that we look great in front of a class. Teachers, like wives, will put up with a lot if they are given a small amount of attention. But where wives need TLC, we need TLRs. All it takes to stop us wandering off is a hearty acknowledgement that we're doing a good job, and those teaching and learning responsibility payments to put a few more quid in our pay packets to prove it. But when that kind of devotion is missing, we're tempted to look for it elsewhere.

And that is where I'm at with my school. Having been married to it for nearly eight years, I'm starting to fantasise about being somewhere else. Why should I spend the rest of my life slaving away in a dilapidated old building, the bastard love child of a 1940s bus depot and a retail carpet warehouse, when I could run off with a hulking new academy with a bulging atrium and a fully functioning server?

These buff new schools put our old ones to shame. They have interactive whiteboards as standard, whereas in my school you are lucky if you get a 12-inch telly and a Betamax of King Lear.

The temptation to leave is strong. I spend hours drooling over the recruitment porn on the TES jobs website. Every time I see a job I fancy, I play out my imaginary future based on all the information I can gather about the school, its environs and how many miles it is to the nearest TK Maxx. Usually the fantasy keeps me satisfied. Once I've leaped out of my hand-carved oak bed, closed the Farrow and Ball-painted door of my artisan cottage, popped into the Bodleian for a quick flick through York Notes and then punted along the Isis to my school, I've had enough.

If I'm honest, it's fear of rejection that keeps me from applying. As long as you don't approach him, you can always convince yourself that you would be George Clooney's first pick for a spouse.

My other option is to move up the ladder in my own school. The obvious antidote to my seven-year itch is to scratch it with a promotion. But that takes balls. However fantastically you have performed, however many C grades you deliver, however many times you read prayers in morning chapel, the job will always go to the one "who performs best on the day". This unconvincing mantra makes applying for jobs against external candidates a humiliating process. It's like walking up the aisle only to find that your fiance is eyeing up the woman in mauve in a nearby pew.

There is, of course, a third option. Do nothing, apply for nothing and reach for the petroleum jelly.

Anne Thrope (Ms) is a secondary teacher in the North of England. @AnnethropeMs.

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