You know you're a teacher when..

16th October 2009 at 01:00
Comment: Catherine Paver

"You're a teacher, aren't you? I can tell."

I'm supposed to say, "Is it that obvious? Hahaha!" What I'd like to say is, "That's not a sensible question. Do you want to start again?"

In September we clung to our summer-time selves. Now we have admitted we're teachers again.

The world is our classroom. Teachers can part crowds just by saying, "HERRRRRM!"

We command attention because we are so certain we will get it. Teachers even project their voices when they are in bed with their partners.

We are achingly reasonable. We will appeal to the listener's better nature, even with pets. A teacher's rabbit will be asked to "think about whether that was a good decision or a bad decision". A horse that has thrown a teacher will hear that it has made its rider "very sad and very disappointed". A teacher who finds out that the dog has eaten the cat's dinner will ask the dog, "Was that helpful? Was that kind?"

Pets get the quiet voice of moral calm. Everyone else gets the cheery, boot-camp-at-dawn voice. Teachers clap their hands a lot and say "OK, right!" and "Now!" - especially in pubs.

When things aren't going their way, they fold their arms and say, "I'm waiting." If they're losing an argument, they say, "That's just not an acceptable answer."

If you want to spot the teachers in a group of strangers, try throwing away leaflets, sequins, folded cardboard - in fact, anything at all.

"That might come in handy in the classroom," they will say, hands twitching.

Then start chewing gum. This is the only time a teacher will tell you to put something in the dustbin.

Teachers have an intense relationship with stationery. Blu-Tack in different colours will make our eyes light up as if we are gazing at unicorns. Say "laminating" and we get a peaceful look; at the words "laminated, still warm, no air bubbles", we start to drool.

Conversely, try taking the lid off a felt-tip pen and chucking it on the floor, humming.

We're a bossy lot, but we're trusted; resented, but admired.

People expect us to know everything and are crestfallen when we don't. Strangers assume that we are fascinated by their children, even when we are coming round from an operation or have just been burgled.

We always walk on the left and make total strangers form an orderly queue. We also count anything that moves.

When we give someone money, we fold their fingers down to make sure it stays in the palm of their hand. Teachers do head counts of their friends on entering and leaving a nightclub. They know where everyone should sit in a restaurant - especially those two, who should never sit together. They walk at the back on the way home to make sure no one gets lost.

Perhaps we need to be laughed at. Left to ourselves, we will spend our entire income on highlighter pens from pound shops while our children starve.

We will die clutching a glue stick, whimpering, "Can't they read the label? It's mine!"

Even dead, we will still be bossy, shouting as we're lowered into our coffins, "Put the lid on! And make sure it clicks!"

  • Catherine Paver, Writer and part-time English teacher.

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