Could do better: my first half term as a maths teacher, “I still see the electronic white board as my sworn enemy, but I am sometimes able to make it bend to my wishes”

Lucy Kellaway:

There are rules governing where I need to be, what I wear and how I comport myself

An even more radical change is that I have come to love rules. Pre-teaching, my life had been almost entirely rule-free. I was educated at a liberal school that viewed rules as an impediment to creativity. Later, as a journalist, I made a point of disregarding the few rules there were. It was my job to mock corporate rigidity. I even wrote a column once, boasting about how I had never read my own company’s code of conduct.

Now I live in a world where rules rule. Mossbourne is famous for its strict ways — uniform is worn perfectly and students move around the school in silence. “No excuses” is one of the school’s two values (the other being excellence) and that applies to the staff as much as to the students.

There are rules governing where I need to be, what I wear and how I comport myself. Bells ring every 55 minutes, and as students move between lessons I station myself on the staircase and try to bark “hands out of pockets!” as authoritatively as my colleagues.

By lunchtime I am so ravenously hungry that I fall on a plastic tub of soft pasta

These rules, and the punctilious way in which they are upheld, daily save my bacon. It is thanks to them that no one has thrown furniture at me. That no one has sworn at me. That instead, students come to lessons ready to learn.

I welcome the rules in another, less obvious, way. They have freed me from the ambiguity that has dogged my professional life. For the first time I know precisely what is expected of me — with the result that I feel oddly calm.