I have just returned from a lovely lunch with a lovely bunch of primary school teachers. Primary school teachers (along with librarians) are the real backbone of this country, because they encourage people to read – and if no-one in the future reads, then I can kiss my job goodbye, probably in an inappropriately lingering way. It also helps that members of my immediate family work in both a library and a school (Mom, can you get those fines wiped off my card? No? Never mind then).
These three teachers are celebrating the start of Easter holidays with a slap up lunch in a suburban roasthouse/pub. We all know the kind; pub/eatery hybrids that are products of the boom years and have had to pull their socks up fairly sharpish in order to preserve some business. It was very pleasant. Instead of cutting corners, more money appears to have been pumped into the food and decor. It was also very busy.
The saying is cliched and overwritten, but true. You’ve got to spend money to make money.
There’s a comparison to be made with wise investment in restaurants and wise investment in the future of Ireland by not totally screwing the teachers over with poorly thought out wage agreements. However, this is a fashion column, so we’ll talk about their wardrobes instead.
Dress codes are hard to interpret at the best of times, especially when you need to preserve a sense of order, mold young minds and wear fabric that can easily be washed free of snot, puke and the crumby remnants of the annual fundraising bake sale.
My lunch companions, it appears, had got their own formula down pat. No-make up make up, no hanging jewellery that could cause an injury, natural, swishy hair that came straight off the old Herbal Essences ads, simple and colourful statement pieces and, surprisingly, the odd pair of jeans (which are apparently a no-no, but anything goes on non-uniform days).
Through careful observation – and by observation, I mean rooting through my primary school teacher sister’s wardrobe – a person can easily see that the teacher’s lifesaver garment is the cardigan. It’s as authoritarian as a blazer, but you can easily move your arms. When you are a teacher, movement is essential for emphasis, attention-getting and dodging the odd flying object. When a job involves commanding respect as well as deflecting pencils and paint, a blazer or suit jacket will be of no use to you. Teaching is a surprisingly physical occupation.
Not that the teachers and I talked about clothes, though. Nor did we talk about children, for that matter – the contents of that conversation must remain private.
When I said I had to go home to write this, I was asked what I was going to write about. I didn’t know.
“You can write it about me”, one said jokingly.
“Maybe I will”, I thought. Teachers don’t get enough good press.