Staff only: My life in a gangsters' paradise -- as a teacher
W ith all the antipathy and criticism being levelled at teachers and the public sector from the press and the Government, it's as if they think we're all gangsters.
I think this might be a good time to write my story -- the story of a guy who became a teacher and got in too deep.
This my story, told in the manner of the classic mob film Goodfellas.
It was during the last Irish economic depression of 1844-1996 and there weren't many opportunities.
I'd got me a degree and some of the wise guys in my old school gave me a few part-time hours.
Before I knew it, I was a made man with the untouchables in the NUI giving me a HDip by ancient ritual.
This involved me drinking lukewarm tea and eating vol-au-vents.
After this, there was no stopping me and I moved on to a new town and became part of a firm that urgently needed someone who could fill in those missing hours in the timetable before the feds came sniffing around that September.
I quickly made my name whacking kids that didn't come up with the goods.
You know the kind of stuff I'm talking about -- no homework done, being on the wrong page, leaving their course books at home.
It was dirty work but someone had to do it. You gotta be hard -- handing out lines and detention with searing sarcasm is how you make your name in this business.
I looked at those stiffs in the private sector and how they had to pay for their own pens, chalk and apples and I got the feeling they weren't alive at all.
Not like I was.
All the wise guys loved me. I could walk into the staff room and they'd all know me. Fritz, the German teacher from Tipperary, turns and says: "Tag!"
And there's Finnegan, who handles the Geography account, greeting me with his customary: "The Met Eireann website forecasts rain this weekend."
The rest of the crew were all called Pat or Mary.
At the top of all this was the guy they called the 'Principal'.
This all-powerful dude kept his distance from his foot soldiers and you only went to him if you really needed his help.
He controlled his troops through some ruthless timetable manipulation and his flunkey, the deputy principal.
The DP was a little guy who made everyone laugh but could turn on you any second and land you with extra yard supervision.
It wasn't long before we realised he was out of our control and that we'd gotta take him out.
Principal's job in some huge community school in west Dublin should finish him off real good.
Only problem was that my girl's mom was private sector and hated teachers.
When I called to her house, I had to pretend that my timetable was an expenses sheet.
That's my world, folks, and though the money's not as good as it used to be, I know there's no way I can ever leave it.