Monthly Archives: March 2010

Tomorrow’s the day

In any language this would have been funny. Outside the school gates this morning, an exasperated father was standing in the rain. The object of his anger was his daughter, around 5 years old, who had deliberately locked herself in daddy’s car. The more he shouted, screamed and demanded she open the door, the more she smiled sweetly and refused. She just didn’t want to go to school today.

At school today, I was reminded of the guy who named his children ‘Winner’ and ‘Loser’, as I met ‘Basher’. When he introduced himself to me, I thought he’d said Bashir, but no – it was definitely Basher. His parents may be hoping for him to become a ‘Commanding World Leader of Men’ but thus far, with his smarmed down hair and general lack of co-ordination and awareness, it’s a part of his History the Biographers might want to skip over.

I was also reminded to be vigilant. Zak was walking round in circles in the library, throwing out questions such as “do flies have showers?” and “is it true Iran sent a rocket into space with worms, a mouse and two turtles on board?” (the latter question I found was shockingly true). Someone had left a newspaper in the library and I was flicking through the pages, when the Headteacher stepped in. Other than having my feet up on the desk and being asleep, this could not have looked any worse. She appeared sympathetic to my cause though.

My cause is made all the harder by Zak continually choosing the wrong option. His classic mental aberration today, was to run away. He hurtled down to the main hallway and straight into an amateur violin concert. I was just behind him, but managed to stop before it was too late. He was quickly ushered into the front row. I couldn’t help smiling at him as I skulked away.

Tomorrow is the last day of the Easter Term, with lots of fun activities organized, including a Teddy Bears picnic. I will be tossing the gorilla and whacking the Pinata (neither of these are euphemisms, by the way).

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Quiet on set

I was enjoying the peace. Zak and I were officially not talking. I knew this by his passing of secret notes to me. This was a little less than a covert operation as there were only two of us in the classroom. “I’m not toking to you”, read the first “I’m mutating grs” the second. I suggested immediate medical advice for this one.

Once we’d made up, he told me he wanted to be known as ‘Brian’. Playing along, I chose my moniker, something equally exotic, ‘Dave’. This change of name could have been method acting on the part of Zak. An organisation called Cine Club were joining us for the day.

They began by asking the class for their favourite films. Zak trumped everyone with ‘Saw II’, putting the likes of ‘The Care Bear Bunch’ in the shade. The group then asked for short film ideas. Two were eventually short listed. One, an elaborate Science Fiction film called ‘Dr Death versus (someone)’, involved a laser fight in space. The second, involved a kid in a school library finding a treasure map and very little else. Guess which one the filmmakers plumped for?.

Zak was quickly fired from the set and flew into a rant which would have made Christian Bale blush. This unfortunate incident led to a blatant continuity error, with Zak appearing in the opening scene, only to mysteriously disappear from the film without any explanation. The kid didn’t stay in the picture.

Later in the day as Zak lay in the medical room with backache, I experienced my second bout of calm. I idly read through the medical record book and here are some of my favourite playground incidents;

Hit by inhaler

Hit with a hoop

Hit own head on desk

Choked themselves with skipping rope

Dropped plastic box on own head

Hit in face while ringing school bell

If any of these kids grow up to be Nobel Prize Winners, I’ll eat my clapper board.

The Brothers Grimm

We were given a preview of the drama club’s production of  ‘Cinderella’ today. The play was flowing along quite nicely until a sudden explosion of violence. Cinderella took it upon herself to murder the ugly sisters, the stepmother and every other cast member. Even the Fairy Godmother took one valiantly between the shoulder blades.

I didn’t remember this turn of events in the original, but there’s nothing like a bloodbath and a lack of voice projection to leave an audience stunned and confused.

It’s no fairytale for Zak at the moment but the fine spring weather seems to have improved his temperament. I can now add SAD (Seasonal Affected Disorder) to his list of conditions. My teaching of how to pretend to listen has reduced his number of exclusions from class and he even walked away from today’s playground scuffle unscathed.

A child twice his size (flab rather than muscle), swung for him. Zak’s reflexes and my intervention caused the kid to fall flat on his face. I refused Zak’s offer to high five for “teamwork”.

While waiting for their father to pick them up, I spoke to Zak’s younger brother for the first time. He seemed positive, respectful and polite, the antithesis of Zak.  Just as I wondered if Zak had been adopted, his brother piped up with “I wonder if Dad has been killed in a car crash?”. Like brother, like brother.

Our Day Out

In the Staff Room today, there was concern for a teacher who appeared close to breaking point. “Could anyone that sees anyone from my class wondering around School…just…I don’t know…stop them…if you can…try to…and tell them to come back…please?”. Everyone nodded supportively.

The playground was no place for the faint-hearted. I had to ask two children to put a punch up they were having ‘on hold’ while I sorted out another fight. Luckily, they were agreeable lads and by the time I’d separated the other fight, they’d forgotten what they were fighting about in the first place. Kids eh?.

I was hoping Zak would show more of a Friday feeling. He was certainly accepting of his first exclusion from class, even though he was holed up next to an amateur violinist. Thankfully, we had a trip to the Royal Albert Hall to see the London Philarmonic Orchestra, to show us how it should be done.

We each had our responsibilities provided by Caroline, the Head Teacher, “…Kate, you look after (5 children), Adam you look after (5 children), Tim, just look after Zak”. It sounded simple enough and the coach journey there was very straightforward. Zak spent most of it with his fingers in his ears, it’s a common Autistic trait to find excessive noise troublesome.

Unfortunately it all kicked off during ‘The Nutcracker Suite’. “I’m going to the toilet on my own!” he suddenly raged. As instructed, I followed him down the stairs and he flipped, “I need to do a poo and I’m not going to force it back!”. What the teachers, children and assorted Royal Albert Hall staff must have thought is anyone’s guess. I’m just glad I wasn’t carrying a stick at the time.

It was fortunate Zak did go to the toilet, as the cannon fire during the ‘1812 Overture’ would have evacuated anything that might have been there. He thought we were under attack and buried himself in my arms. Speaking to the Head Teacher later, we agreed it was all too much for him.

The scatological theme continued on the way home. I was disappointed to find cussing between kids is as unimaginative as it was during my School years. I mean, “You eat poo for breakfast”?, come on…

We returned to a School in the midst of celebrating ‘National Science Week’. We sat exhausted, watching the kids chase bubbles around the playground. ‘Nessun Dorma’?, I will, as soon as I get home.

On a Sunny Day

“Hi Tim, my name is Sabeena and I am a Peer Mediator”. “Admitting you’re a Peer Mediator is the first step to recovery” I replied. Some jokes are wasted on 11 year olds. This was not the oddest exchange of the day though, that had happened during morning register ;

Teacher: Ulani?

Ulani: Here

Teacher: Uzuri?

Uzuri: Here

Teacher: Zak?

Zak: Dead

By the time Zak had answered ‘Chickens!’ to the question, what’s 9 times 7?, I knew it was time to take a break. He desperately needed to go all “Wonder Woman”. He span around in circles in a vacant office, while I tried to get a mantle on his odd behaviour. His explanations made as much sense as the recorder recital from Assembly.

Returning to class proved tricky after this. It felt like we were in the Nativity play as Joseph and Mary, with each teacher closing the door on us. “We’re doing group work and Zak doesn’t work well in groups“, “We’re already in the midst of something“, were some of the excuses we were given.

We ended up in the library helping the “woman with the tail”, as Zak calls her. I assumed this was a story she’d told Zak in confidence and will no doubt regret having done so. Zak asked whether I would walk him around the School in a headlock. This was, it would seem, something preferable to the lack of close contact he gets at home. Instead, I helped improved his walk. He thinks it’s ‘gangsta’, I think he looks like he’s about to shit himself.

Zak had at least made a friend, albeit the second most unpopular kid in the School. Together, they watched the most popular kids in a singing competition. It was a trip down the boulevard of broken dreams, as there could be only one winner. Tears inevitably flowed from the losers.

We kicked a ball around in the afternoon. He was Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo, I was Derby County’s Shaun Barker. I’m ever the supporter of the underdog.

It’s the little things

The good news is that Zak’s behaviour improved today. The bad news is, it’s driven by the fact he no longer wants to work with me. I don’t take it too personally, it’s frustrating and exhausting for us both. He must feel self-conscious in class, having me sat next to him and at playtime it’s like he’s under surveillance.

I took the cause of Zak’s first temper eruption slightly more personally. A child innocently asked him if I was his Dad. I can think of worse insults and when I was dealing with my own familial confusion too. My Doppelganger, a supply teacher, had turned up and we were both being bombarded with “Are you brothers?”.

At lunchtime, I entertained the children by chasing a pea around a plate with a fork (who needs an Xbox 360?). Afterwards, I asked them where they were from ;

Me: So where are you from?

Child 1: Lebanon

Me (with knowledge of Lebanon limited):
oh wow! and where are you from?

Child 2: Albania

Me (with knowledge of Albania even more limited):
Oh I’ve heard its lovely there, and you?

Child 3: Afghanistan

Now while my brain blurted “oh that’s been in the news!”, thankfully my mouth took its time and said something more appropriate.

To put a halo on the day, the class teacher asked me to take the children to the playground, to be collected. I asked them all to greet each parent or guardian as if they hadn’t seen them for weeks. They were to rush towards them and embrace them (with a minimum two armed hug). Thankfully, they all saw it as a worthwhile game. I just sat back and enjoyed 28 wonderful moments.

To sleep, perchance to dream

Yesterday, I lunched with three crying girls. Each struggling through the tears to tell me their own version of events, which had led to ‘blubfest’. Today, I lunched with Warren ‘the Human Calculator’. Give him a sum and watch him go. He was like Carol Vorderman “on acid”. The Human Time bomb, that is Zak, interrupted my lunch to remind me we were due to see the Speech and Language therapist this afternoon. He’d already single-handedly announced the end of International Women’s day by throwing a ball in a girl’s face during the morning PE lesson.

He didn’t endear himself to me very much either, as the day wore on. “What do you like to do most at school?” asked the therapist, “Wind Tim up” he snapped back. My teaching skills must also have been questioned as he was given his first reading exercise. “Is this English?” he asked…

I was grateful for his lack of vocabulary later though, as he failed to understand the swear words I muttered under my breath. I had seen red (well not that bad, more magenta), after he threw my coat on the floor. It was the end of the day though, so I hurtled down three flights of stairs and had recovered sufficiently by the time I hit the playground. A technique the Pope’s brother perhaps should have tried.

It’s all immaterial anyway, as I’m due to be replaced by a robot. Zak may one day have his very own little Twiki. To paraphrase Phillip K. Dick “Do Robots See Grey When They Lose Their Temper?”.