Life has dealt me another strange hand these last few weeks. Sadly, a colleague and a friend has suffered a heart attack and is off work convalescing. It is a reminder to us all that we cannot expect to keep going through thick and thin without looking after ourselves. The stresses that teaching place on us are often unseen and despite what the politicians and the naysayers propose we are a dedicated, passionate group of people who invest more time and energy into our jobs than the general public gives us credit for. The “official” school hours belie the time put in by the majority, over an above the 40 hours we are paid for. Yes, I know that many other professions put in just as many hours and just as much energy and passion but they don’t seem to get the same negative press that teachers do. Just the other day I heard someone suggest that we “get paid for all those holidays”! I won’t go on, because, if you are a teacher or married to one, the parent of one or the child of one you will understand the lack of understanding of that statement, and if you are not related in any way to a teacher, you probably won’t get it at all! Anyway, the point of this post is to talk about my new “hat” – the newest of many I already own! In the absence of my friend and colleague I have been asked to take over her Year 9 Food and Nutrition class until she is able to return to work. I have never taught Food & Nutrition, or Home Economics, Cookery, Domestic Science, Food Technology or any of the other names that it has been known as over the years in my life before and, to be honest, it is a challenge! It is a challenge because I am not trained in teaching this subject, because I have to prepare each lesson to the smallest detail so that I don’t get it wrong and can anticipate whatever the girls might throw at me, because my friend is one of the most passionate people I know about her subject and I know that I cannot possibly match the enthusiasm and extremely high standards and expectations she has of herself and her students. Nevertheless, I am following her very well-prepared workbook and have manage to fool the girls so far that I have some inkling of what I am talking about! Until Friday, I had only taught theory classes whilst another colleague (suitably qualified) took the practical cookery lessons whilst I took her Maths class (another challenge!). However, now that I am “officially” in charge of taking the class, this week I had to take the bull by the horns and go for it! Egg Foo Yung with twenty nine 13 year old girls, many of whom had never chopped an onion or used a frying pan before! If success is measured by the fact that nobody was burned or scalded, nobody cut their fingers off, there was no blood and despite the smoke billowing out of the open windows and doors, none of the food was burnt, then my first practical Food & Nutrition class was a success! The food tasted good and some of it even looked edible and was presented beautifully. It was interesting to see how much imagination the girls have to think up ways of presenting their food to disguise the lack of regularity of the patties, or the fact that the Foo Yung did not necessarily stick together as it should! We did not achieve perfection but we had lots of fun and hopefully we all learned a lot along the way – isn’t that the point of education?