Now, you could be forgiven for thinking that break duty consists of a member of staff languidly ambling along the corridor, contentedly sipping his or her tea or coffee, dreamily whistling his or her favourite tune from his or her favourite era before stopping, gently swaying from side to side and cheerily greeting - in between verses, of course - bright, enthusiastic young pupils as they breezily pass by on their way to homework club. You could especially be forgiven if you also think you are closely related, through your friend's dog's one-legged great granddad, to the late Queen Mother which, after thorough investigation, you conclude, makes you eighth in line to the Fijian throne.
However you would be greatly mistaken. Break duty is not a calm, pleasant experience. Not pleasant at all. And, for the very first time, I was just about to discover why.
Kids were everywhere! They were running along the corridor - ostensibly being policed by me - crashing through the two sets of double doors at either end, and, most worryingly, ignoring every one of my lame protestations to remain in the playground. I was tasked with keeping the corridor clear of pupils, apart from those with teacher-sanctioned passes and, I thought, those desperately needing the rather unsanitary ablutionary facilities. But as you can probably tell, I was failing miserably. Every time I asked, 'Have you got a pass?’ they either blankly eyeballed me as if to say, 'Who the fuck are you?' before nonchalantly disregarding my query, or, if I were lucky, gave me a cursory glance before rudely replying 'No'. Either way, the effect was the same. They were ignoring every one of my desperate, hollow attempts to enforce the school rules. My nominal authority was just that: nominal. It was embarrassing! That said, I continued to ineffectually plug away, keen to prove my worth.
As the bell rang to mark the end of yet another surreal encounter, a veritable tsunami of kids rushed the double doors and flooded into the building. It could only be described as the very embodiment of chaos. Pushing! Screaming! Running! Swearing! Hoodies, headphones, trainers and mobile telephones everywhere! I felt like Dante as he began his odyssey through the nine circles of hell. Nevertheless, and under the circumstances, I decided to wait until the corridor was clear before heading back to class.
Needless to say, it took several minutes to clear and, even then, there were a significant number of stragglers unenthusiastically trudging towards their next lessons. I hurried them along till I spotted, hiding behind a wall, a young man. He was tall and thin and covered in adolescence-induced spots. He must have been a Year 11 pupil, I concluded, before urging him to get to his next lesson.
'Shhhhhhh!' he implored, index finger pressing against his partially opened mouth. 'Teachers,' he continued in a low whisper, still hiding but now smiling and pointing towards another, more senior member of staff at the other end of the corridor. The implication was clear. He wasn't scared of me. To him, I was a pretend teacher. I disconsolately, wearily plodded back to the torture chamber that had – hilariously! - been labelled my classroom.