Age: 22 | Location: Leeds, UK
Everyday, at 5:30 in the morning, The Teacher gets out of bed. It’s an early start, but without the money for a car she has to take the bus, and the bus takes an hour door to door. Lessons start at 8:30, and there is always lots to be done before they begin.
She did have the money for a car, at one point, but thinking she would never pass her driving test she spent it on food and new clothes, some of which are still sitting in her wardrobe with the tags on. This I discover later, when I ask her what she spends more money on than she should.
Her favourite piece of clothing is an orange satin dress. She wears it to feel fancy, for posh dinners and nights out in the city. The last time she wore it? New Year’s Eve.
Leather shorts are a close second. A clothing staple, she believes, that everyone should own. When I suggest that they might not always look so good on men, she giggles and changes her mind.
Sunglasses, she settles on.
‘I always have sunglasses on my head, without fail.’
The Teacher has a green satin dress too, as well as the orange one. They hang next to each other in her wardrobe. Only the green one she regrets buying.
'It has cut out sides’ she laments, revealing she ignored the reviews which warned that it wasn’t suitable for anyone above a size 10.
'In the gaps that were meant to show off your cute rib tattoos, my tits were just hanging out. I didn’t read the reviews. I didn’t listen.’
For most people, ‘what’s your best feature?’ is not that difficult a question. Eyes, smile, hair. People often have a quick answer, something they are known for or put extra effort into maintaining: eyes, hair, height.
The Teacher replies instantly, but with a question not an answer: ‘Physical?’
I sense that her features have perhaps been more a source of anxiety than of pride. When I tell her it’s open to interpretation, she decides on her sense of humour.
Later she admits that her appearance is what makes her most unhappy. ‘That’s what’s causing me tears at the minute.’ Then, an afterthought. ‘Although I am hormonal at the moment. I really put myself down when I’m on my period.’
For breakfast, The Teacher has Weetabix. Pressed for time, she didn’t used to have breakfast at all. On school days, at least. Weekends she makes avocado on toast or eggs. It was only when she realised she was getting grouchy mid-morning that she decided it was important to eat before she leaves the house.
That being said, lunch is where she really comes into her own.
'I could sell the sandwiches that I make. I’m alright at cooking in general, but my composition of flavour in a sandwich is exceptional.’
As a teacher, life happens according to a school timetable.
I ask when her last holiday was, and she says October half-term. Anglesey, Wales.
That’s her favourite time of year, as it turns out. ‘October to December. Pumpkin picking and mulled wine and all that cliché 2013 Taylor Swift Tumblr shit. I love it.'
Beyond planning lessons and marking homework, it’s the pastoral element of her job that The Teacher especially enjoys, not what she expected when she decided to become one aged thirteen. She loves it when students pick her in particular to come to with their personal issues, instead of any other member of school staff: ‘Sometimes at lunchtime I’m not free at all, because I’m helping sort out an issue. It’s just nice knowing that they want to come to you about something.’
I expect the proudest moment of her life to be something teaching-related, so her answer surprises me.
‘Getting out of a toxic relationship. I’m very proud of getting out of that. The relationship was a whirlwind, really quick, intense feelings from the off. The one I’m in now was such a slow burner. I wasn’t even sure I liked him at the start, then it was actually like, 'oh my god, okay, I do love you.' But the other one was intense.'
'After nine months together, Happier Never by Billie Eilish came out and I thought, this is going to be a really good song when we break up. You shouldn't be thinking that when you’re with someone, right?’
We laugh together, stiffly.
‘I tried to break up with him in August, but he reeled me back in. We argued every weekend. Physical fights. And then one weekend in November, I was just like, no, this isn’t happening anymore. And I left.’
For The Teacher, heartbreak feels like the entire world is going to end.
'You can’t imagine living another day. That’s how I felt. Disbelief.’
Who does she go to when these sorts of thing happen? Which of her parents is she closer to, I wonder.'
'Oh God, that’s hard. Any boy issues or life issues I’d go to my mum. I’d probably say my mum. Although me and my mum can clash like hell. Me and my dad have a much more steady relationship.’
The other thing that is guaranteed to make her cry is watching videos of old dogs enjoying their final days. ‘This sounds really bad, but you know when you feel a bit clogged with emotion? It helps. Yesterday I really needed a cry, watched loads of those sad videos, and it relieved me. It was good. It made my cry. And I’m a cat person.’
The last thing that The Teacher does before she goes to sleep is put a podcast on.
It’s normally ‘My Dad Wrote A Porno’ by Jamie Morton.
'I have to go to sleep to that. I pretty much live with my boyfriend now, so if I’m with him I don’t need the extra sound. But if I’m upset or I can’t sleep, I’ll put it on. I always used to have audio books as a child, like the Horrible Histories CD that my mum used to put on for me when I was seven or eight, and I’d go to sleep with those stories. I think I’ve always needed a soundtrack.'
We talk about death for a little while. She has a fear of being murdered, or being ‘jumped’, as she calls it, in a dark alley at night, but in reality, she thinks she’ll die a different way.
'I’ve got a lot of cancer in my family. That’s quite morbid, but yeah. It’ll be something internal. Something internal’s going to go wrong.’
My last question for The Teacher is how she’d like to be remembered.
‘I wouldn’t want a bench or anything. Just talk about me all the time.’