At the beginning of the story Dunmore presents Carla as a part time member of a school's canteen staff, on a basic wage. She has a Polish mother who used to teach her the Polish language and Polish poems until her English father stopped it when she was six.
One of the techniques Dunmore uses to present Carla is that she uses Carla’s character to narrate the story from start to finish as it shows the reader that Carla is not connected to any of her colleagues or her boss and that neither does she share an intimate relationship with any of them; the narration therefore does the job of presenting her as an outsider. We know that Carla doesn’t have a relationship with the adults around her as she say that she “dishes out buns to the teachers... and shovels chips on to the kids’ trays, however she clearly states that she likes the job due to the kids, but does not mention the adults again.
Now she has only half memories of it all.
The way that Carla speaks tells us a lot about her character in the story.
Her attitude to her job and to the people she works with is quite complicated
Carla Carter - social self-doubt
In some ways she appears to lack self-esteem, being very aware of her low wage and status. When she writes to Steve and lets him assume that she is a teacher it is because she believes he would not bother to write to someone who is 'only' a part time canteen assistant. "The person he had in his head when he was writing to me was an English teacher, a real professional. This person earned more money than him and had travelled and seen places and done things he'd never been able to do."
And when, later, she realises that he is coming to the school expecting to find that she is a member of the teaching staff, she feels that all the teachers will stare at her and she will appear ridiculous: "there'd be a whisper running all round, followed by a horrible silence..." She also thinks that Steve will be angry that he has wasted time...