It’s the jolt from private to public that did for me – getting the game face on after the hols. You’ve been a private person for six weeks – blobbing on a beach or bopping at a Carnival or meditating in a monastery or gripped by the Ashes or reading Ian or Zadie or Fifty Shades of Filth or snoozing on a Lilo off the Adriatic, pondering jacking it all in for a goat herding in Albania. Whatever.
You’ve not been a pillar or scapegoat of society, responsible for the fall of civilisation. You see delinquents arsing about on street corners. So what? You care not a jot. “Appalling!” you sigh. “I blame them teachers!”
But now you must be one and go all “loco parentis”. You have to be this multi-tasking public person – a mix of pastor, moral icon, lion tamer, academic, diplomat, bouncer, shrink, stand – up, priest, ring master, Mafia Don – and have the charisma of José Mourinho.
You must also look terrifically fascinated by fools and dullards and bad language – and the children aren’t always much better.
The first day’s fine. Your chums are cheerful and tanned and look 10 years younger. Your pupils have got whizzo grades. The hordes aren’t in ‘til Thursday. You feel good. You’re determined to stay like this. Fat chance. There’s a grim predictability about things. There’s the first staff meeting, the keynote address for the year. Our theme might be consistency/industry/positivity/rigour/blind acquiescence – and cooking the books for the imminent Offhead raid. There’s the daft targets and Pollyanna aphorism. And there’s your timetable, which is both shock and insult. You will be spending the year in a broom cupboard with the school’s more florid hooligans.
Still, the 7th years are a delight. They pop in on the Wednesday. Nice, beaming, freshly scrubbed, manically curious tots. You forget to not smile ‘til Christmas. You’re pretty good. Of course you can do it.
Then wallop! The hordes are in by Thursday. The 11th year tutor set charge in, hardened lifers all.
Dave Mania pimp rolls in.
“Alright then, sir?”
“The nightmare returns, eh, sir?” Indeed.
“I’ve changed! No worries! Good boy this year. Going straight, sir!” Very large pigs hit the turrets of the West Wing.
Shaka Lynch shambles in. “Shaka Back!” says he, arms akimbo. By Friday, Shaka back in detention and you’re back to being knackered. You need a hols and ponder that goatherd gig in the mountains of Albania.