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Warned off by a fried geranium

A life in the year of Emily Shark

A life in the year of Emily Shark

A life in the year of Emily Shark

"where do you see yourself in five years' time?"

"Er ..."

Why is it always five years - never two, or next year? OK, I'd like to be still alive and able to feed myself, perhaps with a nice man or a spaniel. Oh, sorry, did you mean at work? Well, I'd like to be not working for someone horrible, stupid or mad. If you are any of these then you will fail this job interview.

This room has set off alarm signals. That miserable geranium frying on his windowsill for a start. What kind of headteacher kills plants? And he has framed photographs of himself jumping out of aeroplanes. Hmm.

"Right, Miss Shark. How flexible are you about time?"

"It depends."

What does that question actually mean? Well, I'm comfortable in 11 dimensions, but I prefer to keep to the usual space-time continuum. It makes programming the video easier.

"Would you be free on Saturdays if we wanted you to give extension classes?"

That's not good. Extension of what? Maybe he wants his pupils to grow an extra brain so they can take more subjects and boost his results.

"Would I be paid for it?"

Ooh, wrong answer. He looks as if I've squeezed a lemon on him.

"Not in it for the money, are you? Let me explain. Our philosophy here at Hackney Crop is to fill every minute of our boys' time. Teachers can do what they like, within certain limits, as long as the results don't slip."

"What do you do if ..."

"So let me ask you this. You've got 30 Year 8 boys. How are you going to spark their interest - right now - then keep it going until the end of term?"

Oh, dear. Now I get it. In your head, you're in the army, aren't you?

All the signs are there. The gimlet eyes that are meant to be commanding but are just small. The barking voice and, most of all, the weird military view of lesson planning.

Teaching a scheme of work might require calling in the army, but planning it can be done calmly at home, with plenty of time and tea. If you're going to bring a "We attack at dawn" urgency to everything, then I will not enlist. Stop playing soldiers and look at that geranium. If it could talk right now it would be barking orders at you to water it.

Well, he failed that interview. I would rather raid dustbins than work for him. Still, at least I've learnt that it's not necessarily better in a private school.

On to the next interview.

"Good to meet you, Miss Shark."

"You too, Miss Take. Where is that screaming coming from?"

"Oh, just Year 7 in high spirits, I expect. Now, I see from your letter that you would like to meet the pupils. I'm afraid the governors won't allow that for health and safety reasons.

"So, where do you see yourself in five years' time?"

More from Emily in a fortnight.

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