What keeps me awake at night - It's hard being the only man in a primary school
Another baby photo; another photo album of wedding snaps; another engagement ring; another "What do you think of this colour scheme - will it match the chair covers?"; another "Oh no, I shouldn't, I'm on a diet."
It can be a slightly isolating experience being the only male teacher in a primary school.
Of course, the above is an exaggerated, tongue-in-cheek version of the staffroom. And as a male, newly qualified teacher, I am fortunate to be surrounded by a very supportive, maternal team.
However, the general topic of conversation in the staffroom does echo some of the above. As I sit there, drinking my tea out of Mrs Smith's cup, I have two worries. The first is the unspoken rule about using someone else's mug. The second is more serious: I can't pretend to be enthusiastically interested in yet another detailed "giving birth" story. And that puts me in danger of being very disconnected from the rest of the staff.
I have tried to avoid this by making an effort to get to know my colleagues - to learn about their interests and hobbies and offer information about myself, too. This certainly helps to steer conversation into more inclusive areas. But the problem still arises. And there is another issue, too: sometimes I find myself becoming the butt of jokes. As I sit munching away on a carrot, I am greeted first by raised eyebrows and then by comments such as "Oh, nice carrot, son", finished off with a cheeky wink.
Of course, I take this as a bit of fun. But if I were a 23-year-old girl surrounded by a group of men, would such "banter" be viewed differently?
At a time when we are really struggling to get men into primary schools, I fear for those who make the leap but are turned off the profession by the isolation.
I'll leave you to ponder that one. I'm off to pass judgement on invitation designs and make comforting and horrified noises about birth stories. I love it.
The writer is a newly qualified teacher in a primary school Email firstname.lastname@example.org
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