Gloria arranges her newly sharpened pencils in their pot and pats them with the palm of her hand. The state of someone’s pencils speaks volumes, as she’s endeavoured to convey to her staff. She’s never understood the derogatory use of the term ‘control freak’.
She surveys her Deputy’s desk and rolls her eyes, even though she’s alone. A half empty coffee mug rests, coasterless, amongst crisp and biscuit crumbs. Wrinkling her nose she sweeps the debris into the bin, then smacks her hands together. Pinned to the corkboard above Steve Honey’s desk are the pictures and notes pupils have given him. He never throws them away. ‘To the Best Teacher in the World’ one of them declares. Gloria sneers. Even his screensaver irritates her, the picture of him in Hawaiian shirt and shorts, surrounded by over-excited ‘kids’, as he calls them. It was taken on one of his innovations; a ‘Fun Day’. Another excuse for everyone to run wild.
She returns to her own desk and arranges herself carefully, checks that her blouse is free of crumbs and correctly buttoned. She glances at her reflection in her computer monitor. Appearance is important, which is why she introduced the dress code, knowing it would make her unpopular. She’s not paid to be liked. It had been getting out of hand; teachers barely out of college parading round in clothes better suited to a Saturday night out. Not the kind of Saturday night she ever has, of course.
Something thuds against the office window and she opens the blinds a fraction to peer out. Steve, in the midst of an unruly football game, sees her. He raises his hands in a ‘Sorry, Miss’ shrug. The children around him jeer delightedly. Someone even dares to pat him on the back. She snaps the blinds shut and returns to her desk, where she pencils in ‘maintaining a professional distance’ as an item for the staff meeting.
She works for the rest of lunchtime, reviewing Pupil Assessments, which are as disappointing as ever. She snorts as she imagines Steve’s exaggerated Geordie accent proclaiming that there’s more to life than exam results. Tell that to the Board of Governors.
As the afternoon session commences there’s a timid knock on the door. She forces her face into a child friendly expression and invites the visitor in. Grace Bennett, four years old, enormous blue eyes. She clutches a crumpled sheet of paper, which she seems to offer to Gloria as she shyly toddles forwards, thumb in mouth.
‘Is this for me?’ Gloria asks, stretching out her hand. Grace recoils in horror, frantically shaking her head and pointing towards Steve’s desk with her soggy thumb.
The smile remains on Gloria’s face as she promises to make sure Mr Honey gets his picture. She keeps smiling until Grace has backed out of the room, leaving the door swinging. Then, with a cursory glance at the stick-like drawing, she screws the paper into a tight ball and hurls it at the waste paper bin.