Something like forty percent of teachers are aged between 50 and 54.

It must be this fact that makes the arrival of the first-year-out teacher in the common room akin to the happy unexpectedness of a change-of -life baby. What our parents used to call an accident.

Like the new bubs, the inductees are fresh and pink and shiny and know to smile a lot if they are to receive love and attention. They can even prompt a spring in the step of the elderly. For weren’t we once brimful of optimism and education strategies to shine a beacon into the darkness? Wasn’t there a time when we couldn’t wait to spend sleepless nights in dormitory bunks acting as a human prophylactic on junior camps in parts remote? And did we really volunteer to fetch and carry for the subject coordinator to demonstrate our complete willingness to muck in?

Wipe your hand across your mouth and laugh. The worlds revolve like naughty children picking up rubbish from the playground with rubber gloves and kitchen tongs. We smile knowingly, we teachers of long standing, and take quiet bets on how it will be before the newbies, like the infants that they are, open their eyes and see the world as it really is.

We note how, in the winter terms, our young colleagues begin to look old before their time. Why did no one at the useless institutions from which they have acquired their qualifications at great expense (we of course had our education paid for by Uncle Gough) tell them that they would be expected to become instant experts in all aspects of, say, history ancient and modern, as well as demonstrate proficiency in IT, classroom management, teenage counselling, staffroom tact (just because someone is a twat does not mean you don’t have to work with them) and what is known at Lowbottom as ‘that f-cking photocopier’?

Before that climacteric, of course, we coo over our little babies and their small achievements. And they respond in kind with disarming gurgles and sun kicks.

It keeps us young and all is right with the world. Until Easter anyway.

Peter Fray

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