I've been locked in a number of colleges over the years. Not due to bother-causing, mine or anyone else’s, just dithering about and losing track of time. It happened again yesterday.
I didn't know it was shutting early. And having just learned that at least for the next half-term, I’m going to be installed in a classroom of my own for my two days a week, I was nesting. Nesting deep.
As a roving sessional, I've never had even temporary classroom roots before and, delighted at the prospect of my own learning gaff, I’d set about moving in. Not just wafting about organising folders, but really thinking about what I could do with the place.
Half an hour later, having waded up to my knockers in Pinterest classroom decorating ideas, I realised it was dark outside my room and thought: “Bloody 'ell. I've done it again.”
Stalking the corridors brandishing a bendy ruler
In the past, I’ve been accidentally shut in massive scary campuses and felt compelled to search my handbag for weapons to brandish, just in case, as I stalked my way down never-ending corridors to a fire exit.
Just as well nothing untoward ever happened, because I'm not sure how much defence a roll-on deodorant and a bendy ruler would provide.
Interestingly, in this college where I feel safe and welcome, finding myself alone in the building was just a mild irritation rather than the opening scenes of a slasher movie.
Funny how you can let your thoughts about an organisation seep into its bricks, isn't it?
'You could’ve got some great B-roll footage'
After 15 minutes or so wandering the dark corridors, jamming my face up against any office windows with a flicker of light trickling out and trying not to let my mind picture any extreme scenarios, I found another human.
The lovely caretaker had evidently clocked that I was still in the building and was patiently waiting by the other doors.
When I told my husband, after checking I was okay, the next thing he said was “Did you get anything on film? What if you want to do a horror film with your Friday group? You could’ve got some great B-roll footage.”
It got me thinking. What are the things it would be daft NOT to do if you get locked in? Here are a few ideas:
Make a horror film
If you're stuck in a rural school or college, you’ve basically wandered into the real-life plot of The Shining.
In the modern city spaceship-like campuses, getting lost down endless glass passages is disconcerting – you may as well be stranded on another planet. And in FE, no one can hear you scream.
Be someone else
Obviously, use the opportunity to sashay down the corridors as though you're a finalist in RuPaul’s Drag Race. That goes without saying. Get Beyoncé warbling out of your phone and werk it, gurl.
If you're not a part-time supermodel, like my good self, and your school has those lights that are triggered by movement, you could always entertain yourself by pointing at them, watching them come to life and pretending you're Yoda. Or God.
Dish out the beef stew
If you've got beef with someone and it’s been stewing for a while, why not treat yourself to an emotional purge.
Trot to their office, stand outside the door and share your uncensored thoughts. Blow raspberries, give ‘em the Vs, eff and jeff ‘til your heart’s content.
And the higher up the pay scale your victim is, the better. You could even pop round the principal’s office and see if that open door policy they’re always PR-ing about is just for when the flag’s flying and they're in residence.
Here’s a little soundtrack suggestion to help you clear your grudge-pipes:
Go on the rob
Now I'm not suggesting that you attempt to heave a photocopier onto your back and lumber it down the fire exit. Or in fact, anything that would get you in criminal bother.
Just a little something that you could justify. Your best bet would be the canteen. Go on, poke your sneaky trotter through the metal grill on top of the counter and hook out a Twix or a bag of Quavers.
The only downside of canteen thievery is that, if there were any, y’know, threats in the deserted building – zombies or vampires or velociraptors, for example, they too would likely be attracted to free tuck shop favourites, or you.
As an English teacher, I can feel my neck muscles tighten when I see a poster that offers Half Price On Friday’s or hear someone gush that they are literally over the moon.
Schools and colleges are not exempt from punctuation and vocabulary hell (he’ll). I have a teacher pal who surreptitiously harbours a black Sharpie in her clutch to make corrections whenever needs must.
She has even stuck a small notice beneath her department’s ‘stationary’ cupboard which reads ‘Standing still?’. She is my hero. So go on, get your marking biro out and show those signs who’s boss.
DISCLAIMER. Before embarking on any of the above endeavours, please ensure you are out of range of any CCTV cameras, or you may risk becoming a YouTube hit for all the wrong reasons.
Sarah Simons works in colleges and adult community education in the East Midlands and is the director of UKFEchat. She tweets @MrsSarahSimons