Sunday, 8 March 2009

Stepford Teachers

I am a primary school teacher. I am proud of being a primary school teacher. I am following in the footsteps of my kind and beautiful mother, who taught for many years. I truly believe I have the best job in the world and look forward to every lesson. Well, maybe not the Science . . . or French . . . but you know what I mean.

There is one part of the job that drives me bonkers. Basically, it is the other teachers. I call it the phenomenon of the 'Stepford Teacher'. Staffrooms are full of them. Let me describe the key features and characteristics of this awful creature.

1. Martyrdom. The S.T. is comfortably smug in the absolute belief that no one works as hard as a teacher. This is curious, as the most fervent S.T.s have never actually done any other job. Staffrooms ring with the sound of competitive S.T.s trying to out-martyr each other.

'I was up till 2 am finishing my reports.' sighs the inspid, languid Miss K.

'Well, I was up till 4am this morning doing mine booms an on-the-edge Mr P.

'Well, as a Year 6 teacher with SATS coming, I haven't slept for 6 months.' snarls Mrs M.

Then everyone starts moaning about how no one understands how difficult teaching is and they proclaim that they will certainly be leaving the profession within the next year. Mrs M has made this promise/ threat for the last 15 years, sadly she never keeps it. None of them do.

2. The tendency to talk to everyone as if they were a primary aged child. This is particularly true in infant schools. I worked in a lovely infant school during my PGCE. I particularly enjoyed listening to staffroom phone calls home to husbands and partners. All of them made in a saccharine, sing-song Playschool voice;

'Now darling, you have remembered to hang the washing out?' (disappointed, passive-aggressive sigh) 'Well, I think we shall have to talk about this when I get home. I feel very let down by you. Have you anything to say to me?' (pause) 'well, thank you for apologising. I suppose that is something.'

3. The complete inability to talk about anything other than teaching. Loving my job, and my class as I do I can almost understand and excuse this trait. I expect my friends would not agree.

4. The most ruthless and machiavellian conniving and scheming that takes place anywhere in the world, takes place in a school staffroom. Teachers are savage. Heaven help the poor, hapless supply teacher who sits in the wrong seat at breaktime or uses the wrong mug. The first symptom of S.T-itis in myself was when a teacher, taking my class for a lesson, failed to put a lid back on my red marking pen. I spent 2 weeks steaming with resentment and loathing, fantasising about ways to make the wretched man suffer. I even considered getting my whole class to do a DT project on voodoo dolls.

Stepford Teacher symptoms that I display? Well, at times all of them I am afraid. I am now in my 3rd year of teaching. Like Katherine Ross (let us never speak of the Nicole Kidman debacle) I am fighting it. However, one of these mornings I may find myself bereft of make-up, in BHS slacks and sensible shoes, battering a colleague with an interactive whiteboard rubber for forgetting to return the magnifying glasses to the science cupboard. It is surely only a matter of time.

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