The Blackboard Jungle

days spent beating back the seeds of doubt

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Thirty three degrees in London, and the uniform issue is becoming, well, an issue.
Daily, hourly, by the minute, we struggle with each other to get ties on, to take ties off, to ban all water fights, to cool ourselves off, to ease the load, and, somehow, to add to it. There's no sense in the uniform regulations on a day like this, but experienced teachers know instinctively that the uniform battle is less stressful than those other, more dangerous battles which wait behind.
A class enters the room, the lines are drawn - shirts buttoned, shoes changed, ties on! Barking peremptorily makes your inner self cringe at how petty you've become, but hard experience tells you to get it over with quickly. You are the voice of authority in this room - if you abnegate that authority, you need more energy than the stifling heat can give you deal with what the loss incurs.
"Why do we have such a stupid uniform?" moans Christina.
It's less stupid than other schools' uniform. You don't have to wear dingy turd coloured sweaters. (As if that helps.)
"Miss can we not change the uniform rules?" whines Hayley, flopping into her seat in the full streaming sunlight.
It's not an issue I have control over. It would be a good idea to put it to your student rep, though. (Who will never do anything about it.)
Across the hall, Kyle barges late into Pat's classroom - "Miss can we not change the uniform rules?" he announces loudly enough for us to hear.
"Black blazers aren't very realistic, though, are they, Miss? Not in this weather," points out Matthew. I have to concur.
Hayley scrutinises me. Loose shirt, wide linen trousers, scuffed boots, glasses.
"You can wear anything you like. Anything!"
Sigh. Yes, but I put in eleven years of uniform too. (More than you buggers have.)
"And what do you decide? You wear black. All black."
I look down.
"You're mad you are. Black." Hayley slumps to her desk, shaking her head in disbelief.
I feel the sweat dribbling down the small of my back. I could go for the angry response, tell her not to speak to staff in a disrespectful manner. But hell.
I think she has a point.

Today I'm wearing white jeans, marker pen smears on the pockets, and a sky blue cotton shirt, with gravy drips.