I’m feeling a bit fragile today. There’s an ache behind the eyes and the need to eat everything in sight (that must be resisted). Last night I came home, dropped my stuff and got into bed, I did at least remember to get undressed.
The entire night’s sleep was disturbed by weird dreams of me saying stuff to people that couldn’t be undone, that I would pay for – occasionally my brain would start to rouse itself and would tell me “It’s a dream, idiot!” But then I would fall back into my drunken coma and relive the whole thing.
Finally, when I woke, I frantically checked my phone for any messages I might have sent that would have offended…but it really was all a dream. I was relieved because it is all too easy to disgrace yourself on a staff night out. I know.
Before I became a teacher I worked in places where going out and getting wasted together was absolutely necessary – you weren’t part of the team if you didn’t take part. Drink after work? Every night? Don’t worry if you are still half cut the next morning – it’s all good. In fact, it’s funny.
I could never do that now, and not just because I am ten years older, it’s because teaching and hangovers do not go together. In a normal job you can hide behind a computer maybe, sweat out all the booze in peace and go at your own pace until 5pm comes. Go home, get into bed, sleep it off and go to work the next day feeling ok.
Now imagine getting up with a hangover, carrying two tonnes of books into work, running around all day while students talk oh so loudly and the unholy scream of lesson changing bells explode your ear drums. Good luck getting anything from the canteen to soak it up – it’s all too healthy at the Healthy School, you need a burger and full fat Coke not a chicken salad wrap and a bottle of water. You could possibly have a secret nap in that free lesson after lunch but instead you are drafted in to cover a crazy Science class whose teacher had the good sense to call in sick. At least you finish at half three, right? WRONG! Tonight is ‘Twilight Training’ – a fab three hours, added on to your day, of CPD that isn’t relevant to you. Sweat it out, let your body ache and try not to drop off as you are bombarded with team building exercises and a trainer who is very interested in what you have to say – you are not going to get away with blending into the background this time.
And of course there’s the moral issue, it is totally unfair to come into work in such a state. It is entirely unproductive for your employer and when you’re a teacher you are letting down all your students who don’t deserve to be subjected to a double silent reading lesson. The guilt factor is too high. You should be ashamed of yourself.
So with this wisdom that has been passed down to me, I do not drink on school days.
However, that doesn’t mean I don’t have a drink at the weekend but I have to be careful about that too as once you are a teacher, anything and everything you do can come under scrutiny.
I live in the same town as my school. I am from said town and obviously I know it well – it is MY town. I’ve been going out in this town since I was 17, you know the kind of thing: drinking in the park with my friends, being sick in car parks, weeing in the bushes? I am allowed to do that kind of stuff because it is my town, I have literally marked my territory. But not so when you become a teacher. All my rights were revoked.
I once dared to go to an annual musical event in my town which I had always attended previously, some of my friends were DJing there, and I had, I believed, every right to be there.
Monday morning – “Miss, I saw you at…”
“I know, I said hello to you, remember?”
That is annoying enough but this started the beginning of a four year campaign by a boy I didn’t know, who would always come up to me and say, “Miss, do you remember that time you were drunk at —?” Naively, I made the mistake of trying to tell him that I wasn’t drunk, I had actually just had a couple of beers but I wasn’t giving him the answer he wanted. As far as he was concerned I was drunk, a kind of alcoholic, I was a teacher and I had violated some sort of code. I used to dread seeing him around school, he would always smirk at me and I would cringe and worry that he would tell my colleagues and I would get into trouble, for what I wasn’t sure but I felt guilty all the same.
Finally, when he was in Year 11, and I had a few more years experience, I asked him one day, after another “Miss, do you remember when…”, “Who are you? And why are you so obsessed with when I was at —-?”
He told me his name and replied that he wasn’t really that bothered about it, he just liked to have a joke with me (apparently) and actually he’d seen all the staff drunk at some point as he liked to wander around town on Friday and Saturday nights, like some kind of stalker.
I went to a wedding recently where all the kids I had ever taught were in residence. They had a fantastic time getting drunk (and I highly suspect doing more than that) as did their parents, while I, the saintly paragon of virtue, had to remain ever present of the effect of what drinking too much might do to my standing as a middle leader in the school at the centre of their community.
But I don’t have work today so I am not feeling guilty. It’s the first day of the holidays and I do keep pinching myself that the moment I have been waiting for all year is here. And if I want to, I guess I can get drunk every night, but NOT in town and NOT around anyone who might know me or know someone who might know me because, after all, I am a teacher and must pretend to be faultless.