Hope to catch up with you there,
Just as if a butterfly flaps its wings in New Mexico and causes a hurricane in China, so my decision to leave caused its own little domino effect. People who took me for granted are going to have to work a bit harder. There, that’s it. Get over it.
Another cause and effect came into place when something happened in my teaching that had never occurred to before. I’d placed the children in a circle around me and was measuring one child using a meter stick. I farted. It would seem the asparagus that I had unwittingly ingested the night before had ventured from controllable to uncontrollable.
Now it was just a little one. A little zipper. The type you get away with in a noisy classroom or even when pressed up against a radiator during an assembly. But not this time. Every child in the class was staring at me. In silence. Now History will judge me but I decided to say “Whoops, I seem to have gotten so excited that I farted”. 10 minutes later, the results had been compiled, the graphs drawn and questions answered, but the snorting laughter, just like the lingering smell, remained.
Onto parents evening and now I was beginning to get nervous. My wife is expecting our first child and I knew my phone could go off at any moment. I had visions of quickly speed reading through the child’s reports and condensing the 10 minute slot into 10 seconds. Failing that, I thought of grouping all the parents together and announcing “All of your children are making the necessary progress…apart from your kid”. Alternatively, just to line the parents up and give them all a quick capsule review as I moved along “Excellent” “Good” “Average” “Shit” etc.
As it turned out I was probably far too positive for my own good. That’s the nature of knowing you’re leaving. Every child develops a halo. “What’s that? You’ve been asked to leave the playground for repeatedly punching a child in the face? Yooouuuuu! What are you like?” Even the most irritating of children, including the autistic child who for no reason suddenly screams as if he’s about to get struck by a train, could not falter my week.
It’s different for the other staff that remained. I overheard one teacher ask another to do something to stop a parent potentially overstaying their welcome. “What do you want me to do?” she asked “feign a cardiac arrest?” Thankfully for all concerned, the parent left in good time but I could see the woman in my peripheral vision gearing up for it.
The other beautiful thing about my last few days was the opportunity to tear up the textbook, if only for a while. We play classical music during our ‘Big Writing’ sessions and as I closed the lesson the music reached a crescendo. “Get your air violins out” I said and we all started to play along to the music. And as the music played, we had fun. Sheer fun. No learning objective. No mini-plenaries or steps to success. Nobody even stopped to ask why we were doing it. We just did it and laughter, the type that would make Gove retch, filled the room.
I’m going to miss the class. As a presentation of clothes for the baby was made, I pretended to look startled. “These aren’t going to fit me?” I protested. In their innocence they jumped to their feet, wide-eyed and aghast screaming “It’s not for you! it’s for the baby!” They genuinely thought I would risk a hernia trying to get into a 0-3 months sailor suit.
During the end of day goodbye hugs, one child’s reaction stayed with me. This was a child whose life away from school makes a Brazilian soap opera seem like ‘Waiting for Godot’. After we hugged goodbye his whole demeanour changed. With his head bowed and shoulders drooped he walked slowly to his Dad. “What’s the matter son?” his Dad asked, looking at me to see if he was in trouble.
It made me realise that more importantly than creating extra work for the staff, my decision was going to affect some children’s lives, if only for a short while. I’d wrestled with this choice for many months and had decided that for the first time in a long time, I was going to put this job second. Time will tell if I’ve made the right choice.
I want to say a very sincere thank you to everyone who has supported me through my teaching, either by visiting my blog or posting messages on Facebook and Twitter. In particular, I would like to thank Jo Pointer who is always the first to give me support, make me laugh or remind me nothing is worth taking too seriously. I wish all current and new teachers the very best for the future. To quote Socrates ‘teach the shit out of ‘em lol!”
Okay I made that quote up but these are some genuine quotes which are worth remembering;
“Not a shred of evidence exists in favour of the idea that life is serious”
“I tell you, we are on earth to fart around and don’t let anybody tell you different”
Oh and this isn’t the last you will hear from me, after all there’s a book to be written…
The news was broken that I was leaving. Staff formed an orderly queue to express their sorrow, well I say queue; it was more of a Conga line. The last time I gave news of my leaving to my previous class, the first question I was asked was “Can we wear our own clothes to the end of term party?” This time the reaction was more subdued. One child told me she would miss me. “I will miss you more” I replied. To this, even the normally stoical teaching assistant turned and had the briefest of blubs.
Speaking of weeping, one child could not stop his own tsunami of tears, although it was not as a reaction to my news. As a result of ‘Read Write Inc’ (or ‘reed rite regress’ as I call it) our classes have now been mixed up in the mornings. Among the children who visit my class, is a child from Reception who sobs constantly.
I’m not used to dealing with tears and went from social worker sympathy to barely concealed contempt of the grizzling green. By the end of the lesson I’d sent him on his way, determined to make a better impression next time. I saw his teacher in the hall, “I think when he looks at me he sees this,” I explained, I emitted a deep growl, screwed up my face and used fingers to represent horns on my head. At this point the child wandered around the corner pushing the lunch trolley. Our eyes met. My pose froze. It was decided he should be moved elsewhere.
What made my leaving all the more real was receiving a job alert email for my position. I decided to give it a miss. Although should I decide to return, there’s a cat-flap for ex-employees I can crawl through. But just as time waits for no man, so the school day gets a shift on and what I thought was a strange hairy sea creature turned out to be a child’s hair piece, just as another child asked me if I’d heard of a “Jagger Bomb”.
At the end of the day I sat alone in my classroom. I shut my eyes and experienced a flashback of my time at the school. I saw me and I was surrounded by a warm-hearted, sincere and supportive team. It was at this point I realized that the wrong memories had flashed past.
To the future and as yet it’s unclear what I will do next. Postman? Clown? Gigolo? Perhaps I will return to teaching in September, either to teach part-time or teach full-time (at school where children are only expected to make half the effort).
It’s been said before, but bears repeating, that there are many parallels between myself and Justin Bieber:
• We are among the top search terms on the web – porn trends in UK revealed that ‘teacher’ is the top term (I was young and needed the money)
• We have both decided to ‘retire’
• We both regret buying a monkey
What I didn’t expect when I handed my notice in, was to see grown women sobbing, flailing their arms around hysterically and grabbing my legs to stop me leaving. This is good, as it didn’t happen. In fact, when I arrived with resignation letter pressed nervously in my palm, there was…no-one there.
It turned out that the Head Teacher had temporarily left for unknown reasons. The now ‘Acting’ Head informed me of this in the same tone that was used to tell me that Daddy was gone and I’d be seeing a lot more of Uncle Godfrey.
Like Stormtroopers, I’m easily bamboozled and I was fed enough rhetoric to leave me confused about where I stood. I left with my resignation letter unopened and with everyone doing a lot of nodding and supportive smiling. The only thing I remember was being called the ‘soul man’.
I was surprised to discover this was my nickname, and used my best jive to return the compliment. I referred to her as my favourite ‘shit dawg’ and a ‘crazy ass coochie’. It was only once I’d been forcibly removed that I realized she meant ‘sole’ as in ‘only’.
The previous evening I’d drawn up a list with reasons to stay and go;
Reasons to go
1) The knives were out for me from day one. I spend so much of my day biting my tongue I’m concerned I might one day swallow it.
2) The job is aging me. During a Science lesson I asked the class for an example of an ‘irreversible change’. One suggested my greying hair.
3) I want to leave before I become one of those blokes who chases ducks in parks
Reasons to stay
1) I live within a stones throw from the school (I know this because local children often throw stones at me on my way home)
If the mountain won’t come to Muhammad (the name I’ve given to our class teddy bear) I may have to find other reasons for them to fire me. An enforced change around in my classroom means people can now peer through a window to see if I’m there. I feel like I’m in a monkey enclosure and this has given me the idea to ‘monkey see, monkey do’ and start throwing my shit at visitors.
Another idea emerged when one of my year group piranhas dropped by complaining of a neck ache. I thought to offer a move I’d seen in a film. What I didn’t mention was the film was a horror and had resulted in the person receiving a mild decapitation. I could at least argue at tribunal that it stopped the neck ache. Another idea was to give the worst offenders, dolls of themselves labelled ‘(In) action figures’.
We’ve been asked by the school to be ‘walking thesaurus’ and my last idea to get fired can’t fail. I just need to wait for a serious playground incident;
Me: Johnny you seem to have a disgusting, revolting gash on your forehead
Johnny: Yes it hurts
Me: Mmm it must be very troublesome and distressing
Johnny: …it hurts so much
Me: You seem to be bleeding profusely
Johnny: the pain…
Me: what do you think profusely might mean?
Johnny: I…I don’t know… (Collapses)
Me: Ooh, you now seem to have lost consciousness. What do you think consciousness means? Johnny?…these children never listen
And it shall come to pass that a baby will be found lying in a manger. It also came to pass that I found a baby lying in the middle of the staff room. On further inspection, it was the baby Jesus having been used and tossed aside post-nativity. I shoved it in a cupboard in the hope that one day a Ofsted inspector may also come to pass.
Nothing sums up Christmas in a Primary School better than the cleaner wearing a flashing ‘Santa’ hat while cleaning up puke. Equally though, it’s the wonderment and excitement that emanates from the children. It just needs a couple of adults to try to fuck it up.
As I pulled on my Father Christmas outfit for the last time this year (stress related weight loss has at least meant the trousers are fashionably ‘low slung’), I was determined to ride out the last day with a smile on my face. There were all smiles from the woman from the local council. She was hearing how well the autistic child in my class was progressing.
“That’s all very positive” she beamed, rubber stamping the idea that he will be at School for the day, increasing his current half day embargo. I’d been forewarned to keep things light, so I sat there trying to mirror her positivity while wondering just how catastrophic the effect a full day of his behaviour will have on the rest of the class.
For the moment, the rest of the class were looking…larger. Teaching Tip #1: Don’t tell your class that if they come in on the last day of term they will receive a present. You will end up with more than 30. It was heart warming to see them open their presents though. Each year I have to write in the card; Dear (Name of Child) I wish you an equal amount of Christmas merriment as your classmates, Your Teacher. This is to avoid calls of favouritism. To avoid any suggestion of favouritism among the nest of vipers that are the adults in my year group, I got them fuck all.
One child had appeared to write the ‘f’ word repeatedly on the envelopes of the cards he was giving out. He pleaded his innocence. He is from a large family of six, so I asked each of them to come in and write the ‘f’ word on my ‘Learning Wall’ in order to find the culprit. Let it never be said I’m not thorough.
The last Assembly was unintentionally entertaining. One child placed his fingers in his ears as the local reverend talked of the real reason behind Christmas. We couldn’t establish if it was a reactionary religious decision on the part of the child, or if that he, like the rest of us, found him unfathomably dull.
Some girls from the local dance club were on hand to liven things up and being dressed as Father Christmas meant I was an obvious target to copy their dance moves. I hadn’t danced sober in public…ever. At least once I’d got my breath back I could tell the School my ‘Father Christmas’ story.
I’ve told this story so many times I’m beginning to believe it myself. I relived a moment 15 years ago, looking out of a window, with my nephew on Christmas Eve. Suddenly there was a flash of light and something shot through the sky. This was all the excuse I needed to say that it was Father Christmas.
Over the years the story became embellished with the sound of bells, the sight of reindeer etc but as I told the story I could see even the more cynical, older children beginning to believe. It was truly a beautiful moment. It was. It was until one of the knitters at the guillotine from my year group, burst out laughing.
The spell was broken. I hurried to the end of the story and took my leave. I knew full well the snake in the grass wasn’t laughing intentionally. She laughed because she couldn’t stand to see me have this moment. Sadly, it’s the culture within my year group that the critical eye never fails to find a flaw.
Revenge was sweet. The autistic child pinched her arm. Her child-like reaction to it, meant I needed to go through the motions reprimanding the child, while secretly hoping he does it again. If there’s any justice it will be a double whammy delivered on the first of the month.
We finished the day sewing glove puppets. The class worked so diligently I felt inspired to open a sweat shop. All joking aside, the New Year may prove to be a time of alternative job hunting. The pupil progress meeting could be summed up by the disappointment of being told my class were not making enough progress, with the suggestion, albeit put nicely, to ‘work harder’.
My last Christmas present, an ‘After birth sensation pelvic floor stimulator’, raised the intended end-of-day smile. To be fair to the confused child, I was still wearing the fat suit.
Not even a pair of thumbs stapled together (I’m not sure how I did it either) or the sight of ‘Twins Club’ (like a nightmare you never wake up from), could take the glow from the last few days before Christmas. Being the sole male member of the school it was inevitable I would be asked to be Father Christmas for the Christmas Fayre. This, I thought, would be the perfect opportunity to gain revenge on the kids that had pissed me off this term.
The reality was very different. As soon as the children entered the grotto, all nervous and wide-eyed, my heart melted. I loved it. In fact I needed to be asked by the Head Teacher to ‘pick it up’ as the queues to visit were so long; the punters weren’t spending money on other stalls.
I made a great Father Christmas. I adopted a voice that at first I couldn’t place, before realising it was Mr Kipling. I guffawed, smiled widely, slapped my knee and generally Christmas camped it up to good effect.
The trick, I found, is to listen and pick up on their cues. I was able to create the illusion to them that I really was this omnipotent, all-seeing magical being. In fact I was so good; I intend to be Father Christmas for two months of the year and a psychic medium for the remaining ten. It’s the same process. “What do you want for Christmas?” “I want Lego” “Lego! I knew that was top of your list!” is not dissimilar to “I’m getting the name…John, is there a John in the audience?” “Now John it’s not been easy has it?”
One visiting mother told me she wanted to “swap her kids”. I was initially stunned. “For what?” I thought. The only things I had to barter with were some hastily wrapped treats from Poojah’s Sweet and Savoury. Eventually I discovered she was saying “swab her kids” for an undisclosed illness. I asked her to leave a couple of mince pies and a carrot and I’d do my best to bring her some antibiotics.
The Xmas Nativity play arrived. As I watched the excluded children pressing their faces against the glass door and watching, I envied them. Only because I happened to be sat in front of the most tone-deaf kid in my class who to her credit, sang with great monotone gusto.
We’d asked the parents to provide white sheets with holes in them. Meaning holes for their arms, not for their eyes. My class were supposed to be angels; instead it resembled a meeting of the Klan.
One child was scolded for gyrating during the Nativity scene. Now, strictly speaking, Section 5.2 of the Behaviour Policy states ‘There IS something wrong with a little Bump n Grind’ but I’ve also sat through enough school plays to know that parents love anything that breaks the monotony of the school play.
This child, to be fair, had not had the best of weeks. He’d grafittied the playground (rookie mistake number 1: don’t write your own name) and then used an ICT lesson to type up some choice words for a previous teacher (rookie mistake number 2: don’t then print it off on my printer and sign your name at the end of it). The fact that this child had raised the blood pressure of a teacher I particularly dislike made it all the more pleasing to give him ‘Star of the Week’.
The same repellent teacher had declared that she ‘loved her job’ which set my teeth on edge. Between witnessing her bullying of children, the general atmosphere in the staff room (or as I’ve renamed it ‘Dragons Den’) plus a paltry seven of us showing up for the Staff Christmas Party, the signs are clear it will soon be time to go. I made my intentions all the more drunkenly obvious by suggesting we toast to “new beginnings”.
Me: Hi, I’m Tim, I’m a 40-year-old male teacher and I’m being bullied
Teacher 1(Head of Self Help Group): Hi Tim
Teacher 2 (on verge of a nervous breakdown): Hi Tim
Teacher 3 (disillusioned by the profession): Hi Tim
Teacher 4 (just plain nuts): Hi Tim
Me: Everyone was very welcoming when I started at my new school, then I noticed that the people in my year group were making life difficult for me, in different ways. I started to be patronised, to be condescended, the butt of a few too many jokes and having my every mistake jumped on. If my blog proves anything it’s that I have a sense of humour but the joke just wasn’t funny anymore.
Teacher: So did you go to see the Head Teacher?
Me: The nature of bullying is that the perpetrators are calculating. If you saw written down the things they’d said, the things they’d done to me you’d be forgiven for thinking I was being oversensitive. But that’s the point. A bully is aware enough to do things that they can always justify it should they ever be confronted.
Teacher: So you’re planning on leaving?
Me: I don’t think I have any other choice. Ironically I know that if I had been placed in another year group with any of the other people in the school I wouldn’t be sat here. This time around I just got dealt a bad hand (shrugs)
Teacher: So are you leaving the job or the profession?
Me: I think both. The truth is some people go into teaching for the wrong reasons. They’re inherent bullies and teaching legitimizes bullying. They can destroy kids and who’s going to stop them? It’s always their word against a child’s. I think I need to step off the teaching treadmill. We’re expecting our first child in February I just want a bit of regularity for a bit, in fact this could be the most profound thing I have ever said but…
Crazed man who has stared intently: (interrupts) Wait…so this isn’t fight club?
Teacher 1: No this is a meeting of SHIT! (self-help in teaching)
Another man: I thought this was map club? (Pulls out map) oh wait I see, I’m here and I actually want to be over here…