Sitting in a corner of the staffroom, hiding behind a cup of coffee, the new teacher stares into space. She looks tired. Her face is drawn, cheekbones taut, eyes sunken, shoulders slumped. She makes eye contact with no one. Such exhausted isolation is not uncommon after a hard week of teaching, but this is only Monday. I don't think she'll make it.
Loud, boisterous, flinging witticisms (at least he thinks they are witty) another new teacher makes his entrance to the staffroom. You can almost see the opera cape flowing from his shoulders. He's not as self-assured as many think. He hides a core of fear and uncertainty behind a shield of bonhomie. Burnout within 8 years.
|Look at me|
Engaging smile, slightly nervous but slowly gaining in confidence another newbie bounces in. This one has a core of self-reliance. He's not as fragile as the other. This one will last.
An older teacher shuffles in, heading for the coffee like a smackhead for a fix. He needs the lift. Worn down by awkward and difficult kids that he still wants to help. Dispirited by inefficient management, ideological governments and ivory-tower educationalists, he still struggles on.
Ringo hurtles through the room, ignoring all and sundry, They are far to beneath him to be noticed. He's like an unguided missile powered by a hidden agenda.
(We say hidden, but we all know the outline. Me first.)
Another oldster in the corner, wriggling comfortably in his chair. Milo in his mug, and a broad smile on his face. His pupils adore him. He's firm, friendly, yet slightly aloof. He sails through most days like one of the great ocean liners ploughing through the Atlantic. But the smile isn't as broad as it was at the start of the day. He'd been sent a pupil who had been difficult with another teacher's class. After he'd arrived in his class, the kid had told him to "Go f*ck yourself". He'd fought back the instant rage, and the impulse to grab the angry boy by the neck and shake some sense into him. He knew the pupil. He knew his home life was terrible. He tried to understand.
Outside the Deputy's room. He sits staring into space. His face is drawn, his eyes sunken. His legs in his threadbare shorts are like sticks of spaghetti. He hasn't had any breakfast. He has no lunch or money for food. He couldn't sleep last night because it was so cold, and he had only one blanket. He was hungry. He was always hungry. He was a bit sorry he'd told that fat old bloke to f*ck off. He wasn't too bad, not like some of the others. But he'd tried to be kind to him. That wasn't enough. He was hungry for affection. Some indication that someone, anyone really cared for him.
A lovely Polynesian girl strides past. Eyes smile, spirits lift as she passes. She's so full of life and youthful enthusiasm that it's almost tiring. She has her eyes fixed firmly on the horizon. She has an objective. She has a plan to get there. She'll succeed.
At the front office, three parents wait patiently to see the office ladies.
The boss sat behind his desk, his head in his hands. The budget was strained to breaking point, the staff's morale was getting low, and the kids were getting restive. On his desk was the latest missive from the Ministry. His budget was going to be cut from next year. The classes were going to get bigger, but he had to improve the school's results at the same time.
Logical, wasn't it.