As I alluded to in the previous post, today is a snow day. I thought I would take this snowbound opportunity to write about why my blog is called ‘Are you an Alien?’. This involves recounting my very first experiences of teaching. In May, last year, I was able to gain some teaching experience at a school in South London. It was in a very run down area and I had to cross a police line to get into the school on my first day. This might explain why I felt a little unnerved. I assume an incident had happened the night before. I heard my own trembling voice as I asked the officer “may I get through please? I’m starting a job here today”. As if being in a school for the first time in 20 years was not enough to worry about.
I had deliberately told the school that I would like to teach as much as possible. What I didn’t expect, was to be shoved unceremoniously in front of the class, within 10 minutes of being in the building. I stood there with 30 pairs of eyes burning holes in me, waiting for me to speak. This was sink or swim.
I introduced myself and talked a little about my background. My mind was skimming away for a first possible exercise I could give them, which couldn’t possibly go wrong. I asked them to write a little about their weekend, just a few lines so I could see how good their handwriting was. Immediately a hand shot up at the back and a young boy asked “does it have to be interesting?”.
It made me smile, albeit inwardly, and it also provided further evidence teaching was the vocation for me. Throughout the week I was there, with each passing day my confidence grew. I took small groups for literacy and numeracy. I also helped out with ICT, observed the autistic unit and even learnt a little sign language.
There was one child though, who seemed to have taken an instant dislike to me. His name was David. He was sharpening pencils at the back of the classroom one day and I thought I would befriend him. I looked at him sympathetically and smiled, as I assumed this was a form of punishment. He looked at me as if I’d just dropped a turd in his milk. “So” I said “you’ve got to sharpen pencils, are you in trouble for something?”, his face immediately changed. “No, I get to sharpen the pencils for being good” and smiled broadly. I realized that the stern expression was in fact his normal look.
I got to ring the lunchtime bell, for the first time, on playground duty, I also saw my first playground fight (all on my first day!). In my peripheral vision I spotted David and another boy retire to a corner of the playground and begin to fight. I thought this was at least respectful of the other children, any innocent bystanders would now be saved from a flurry of wildly aimed hooks.
I separated the two kids and it quickly became clear, they were good friends and were arguing about something trivial. David asked me how I had seen them fighting. I used the expression “I’ve got eyes in the back of my head”. I turned to leave and saw a small boy hanging on a fence in the nursery section. He stared at me for some time before asking “are you an alien?”.