By Alice White

I have a collection of forks that aren’t mine. I steal them. Use them, then take them home with me. I find them in the cutlery drawer at home; alien forks that don’t fit in with the set.

I have a fork from the private school I worked at for a year, where the teachers had so little to complain about that they moaned about the salad, questioned the point of computers and laughed at me for mentioning ‘The Arab Spring’. I have a fork from the conference room where I spend so many afternoons (because I’m a ‘leader’), looking out of the window, envying the birds. There’s forks from different staff rooms I’ve been shifted into, the first so dark I had to buy a lamp to read my students’ work. They gave me an old grey desk in that staffroom, with a locked cupboard and no key. I sat next to the Art Teacher who cried and the Food Tech teacher who slept through her lessons. The next staffroom was an architect’s dream and I sat with the Science teachers and learned about the placentas of mice. The last one for the year was where I stayed – the English staff room. My final haven, full of teachers bursting into 80s pop, opera, musicals, comedy sketches. The management mistake this for collegiality, but instead it is a kind of manic survival mechanism. We are like soldiers in a war, clinging to each other as we are ordered into another senseless meeting and pointless professional learning activity. Trench humour to survive the tsunami of jargon, tick boxes, lectures and expectations; an endless flood of predictions of future obsolescence, effect sizes, data, VCE scores, scales, graphs, measurements. All indicating our abject failure to engage, connect, understand. So we break into sardonic song whenever we can, letting our rebellion show only in snatches of Frozen, Monty Python or stolen forks.