War could be a 'nice break'

14th February 2003 at 00:00
Teachers seeking relief from the stress of the classroom have been advised to enlist for the impending war. "I know it is an odd thing to say, but it is a nice break from the classroom," said John Sampson. "At school, you take all the decisions. So it's quite relaxing to have someone else in charge."

Mr Sampson, a 43-year-old biology teacher from Somerset, has been a part-time aero-medic for the Royal Auxiliary Air Force for three years.

Last month, in preparation for possible conflict in Iraq, he left his post at Somervale comprehensive to train at RAF Lynam.

While awaiting transfer to the Gulf, he takes daily lessons in such subjects as field survival, coping with biological and chemical attack and handling weapons safely. As a medic, he also trains in dealing with casualties and working from a battlefield ambulance.

Many of these sessions are followed by written exams. In the past two weeks, Mr Sampson has taken six tests, and anticipates at least two more.

But, despite all the exam pressures and regular 12-hour days, he claimed that life in the forces had proved less demanding than in the classroom.

"The workload isn't as great and there's a split between mental and physical activities."

The stresses of his full-time job have been good preparation for warfare:

"I've developed useful patience and communication skills. As a teacher, you can plan a lesson and then something changes. Here, too, you have to be flexible. And it can sometimes feel like the frontline in the classroom."

Mr Sampson became a teacher five years ago after a career in industry. His interest in the RAF stems from his father being in the air force. His pupils, he finds, share this enthusiasm. Boys are interested in the minutiae of aircraft and girls in the injured people he will help. And any teacher willing to sign up to a routine of lessons, exams, communal meals and uniform checks can only command respect in the classroom.

However, he acknowledges that few teachers share his fondness for the forces. "Teachers tend to be left-wing. But, as an aero-medic, I'll be going out to help injured people. Even those who dislike the military agree with my role in it."

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