Monthly Archives: April 2010

Anyone can whistle

Zak sat down next to me and quoted a line from Scarface, “say hello to my little friend!”. This was a welcome break from the “you know the thing about the thing?”, which he begins most conversations with. An interminable day long exclusion from class saw us discuss everything from lower intestines, to sniffer dogs, to how far you can throw a seahorse and ending with an interesting chat about the Solar System (until he brought Allah into it).

It was though, a time of some good shared humour. Zak had to draw a picture of me, for the School website. For his first attempt, I looked as menacing as the child catcher from ‘Oliver!’. This, along with a Simpson‘s-like complexion, made me also appear thoroughly jaundiced. I much preferred the second effort which, despite me wearing orthopaedic shoes and a grin so crooked it barely appeared on my face, was an improvement.

The continued isolation prompted ever more bizarre conversations;

Zak: I once saw some snakes on a plane

Me: are you sure you’re not confusing this with the film “Snakes on a Plane”?

Zak: I saw them!

Me: cross your heart

Zak: no

I told him I had a pet fly called Melvyn, he told me he had been with a girl last night. We were both living in a world of ridiculous exaggeration. I did discover though why he has a long-held hatred of Greece. He once visited an airport in Greece where the following exchange allegedly took place;

Zak: where is our plane?

Greek Airport Security Officer: it’s over there prick

This was all acted out in front of me with complete conviction. He also insisted he’d been thrown off the plane. It could have been plausible had he not added ‘while it was taking off’.

He also complemented me for the first time today, “I’m proud of you” he said “is that nice?”. This may have been because he thought I’d saved his life, by removing a wasp that was buzzing around us. It was also a first for me, accidentally swearing in front of him. I dropped a container of sports equipment on my foot and said “Shit”. “You said the C word!” he abruptly shouted. “S, Zak” I muttered disappointedly “it begins with an S”.


Let Love Shine

“You’ve got the best job in the world” and “I feel sorry for you”, two separate comments made to me by teachers today. I wish we could all just reach a consensus about how good or bad my job is. This may speak volumes in the deciding vote, but a teaching assistant issued an “I bet my kid behaves worse than yours” challenge today. I’m glad I took up her offer. Zak’s four fights by 10 a.m. left them all behind. It also left him on the precipice of an exclusion from School.

He seemed to take it all in his stride. A stride which became more and more hampered by his refusal to do a ‘number two’ while at school. The reasons for this are still unclear, but at least after a lengthy discussion he’d established what number ones and twos are.

In fact, the only thing to show for a morning’s work was a door handle, which Zak had torn off in temper. Unfortunately this incident had happened before Zak received a minor electric shock from a door handle, promoting me to “official door opener”.

Following the mother of all freak outs, both restrainer and the restrained were tired. We settled while watching episodes of ‘Animal Face Off’. The show featured computer-generated fights between a shark and a crocodile, an elephant and a rhino and a walrus and a polar bear. Maybe it wasn’t the best choice of viewing, but better than Zak’s suggestion of ‘The Fast and the Furious,’ which he asserted was a “nice film with just a bit of pushing in it”.

The afternoon was an improvement. Zak told me excitedly about him getting a BMX bike. He asked me if the “A1” was the best model of bike. It’s many years since I’ve ridden a BMX, so I struggled to remember model types. “I think I remember the A3, A4 and B5” I offered, before realizing I was thinking of paper sizes.

We also lamented the fact he was unlucky in love. Zak likes a girl, who unfortunately likes someone else. “Ok, so the other kid is the most popular kid in School and top of the class” I thought “but can he tear off a door handle with his bare hands?”.

The previous day I had the pleasure of being on stage at the Royal Festival Hall for ‘Sing Inspiration’. I stood along with over a thousand children and teachers, singing for all our worth. I might be getting more sentimental by the day, but I’d defy anyone not to have been inspired and moved by the experience. “As long as you love me, I’ll never leave you lonely”. Lovely.

Flying without wings

They say ‘no man is an island’ but Zak finished the week doing a pretty good impersonation of one. He was marooned away from his fellow classmates, after a disruption in Assembly. It wasn’t the only disruption, as the School is ‘under construction’. The repetitive banging from the other side of the wall is causing some of the younger children to fear for an approaching Giant.

The Assembly today was on the subject of sharing. “After all, what’s more important” asked the Headteacher “chocolate or your relationship with your brother or sister?”. Judging by the muted response, the jury was clearly ‘out’.

In the stifling confines of the kitchen, Zak was listing the injuries he’d caused other children. I didn’t interrupt as I wanted to know how increasingly ridiculous he’d get, before admitting the truth. The Headteacher typically took this opportunity to walk past, just as Zak was in full flow. “I once took the back off a child!” he exclaimed. She simply shook her head.

The heat was getting to me too. I could have sworn I saw Zak wandering around class playing the maracas. He turned into a one-man band grabbing any instrument he could find. As I lead him from class it was a definite ‘No’ from me. Is it any surprise a list of names in the Headteachers’ office, had an exclamation mark next to his?.

I’ve started to encourage ‘holding our breath’ competitions, as it’s making him calmer. Even this could not prevent the part of the day I refer to as the ‘topper’. This is where his behaviour becomes so erratic, he can’t possibly do anything worse. He had just been demonstrating to me Iranian slapstick, when he decided to insult a passing girl. The result was her chasing him, with me chasing them both. We went from Iranian slapstick to the Keystone Cops, before Zak burst in Roisin’s office.

Consigned to the library for the rest of the day, Zak was finally silenced. He picked on the wrong kid for a “my dad’s better than your dad” debate. “My Dad is the High Commissioner of Tonga, he met the Queen on Monday” said his opponent. If it’s true that ‘children are born with wings’, Zak was shot right out of the sky.

Small fry

It was like ‘Once Upon a Time in the West’ meets ‘The Borrowers’. As a class we entered the expansive, labyrinthine corridors of a nearby Secondary School. The bigger kids eyed their prey suspiciously, they in turn maintained a hushed reverence for their ‘Secondary consumers’ (y’see I do listen in Science lessons).

We were there as part of a rehearsal for next week’s concert. As we entered the hall, they divided the children into Altos or Sopranos. There was no line for kids mesmerised by water bottles, so I stuck Zak in with the Sopranos, he likes the Mafia after all. He proved this today, by wearing a knuckle duster he’d made from sponge ;

Me: what are you wearing that for?

Zak: protection

Me: from what? bath time?

Zak looked like a victim of a ‘whacking’, during the rehearsal. He was sprawled across a chair, with his eyes closed. I had to give a passing cleaner a reassuring smile, she was ready to bag him up. She looked ready to pounce later. This time I had to explain he was dancing, as opposed to having an epileptic fit.

Earlier in the day we’d received a presentation about ‘challenging behaviour’. For a novice like me it was all worthwhile, the consensus from some of the older hands suggested the content was idealistic and naïve. “I wanted to slap her” was one of the comments.

To make the point, the same teaching assistant went on to tell me a story about a child, she’d once supported. “He would urinate and then drink from the bowl” she told me matter-of-factly. I studied her expression to see if she was taking the piss. She wasn’t, but he had been.

She received a phone call late one night to tell her the child had run away from his Children’s home. She and her husband drove around the local area to look for him. After a few hours of fruitless searching, they received a phone call from the police. “You can call off the hunt, we’ve found him” they said, much to her relief “he’s on your roof”….

One small step

It was the last day of the Easter term. Zak greeted me in the morning like he was speaking in tongues, very angrily. I noticed a quizzical look from a nearby teacher. I turned and smiled “translated that means ‘morning Tim'”. I think she understood.

Zak’s foul mood continued into the day, with him bringing new meaning to the expression ‘stage diving’. He flew into the main hall and took a long run up, ending in an attempted leap on to the stage. He misjudged it woefully. Rolling around and clutching his knee, this time he made a noise like he was supremely constipated. The children’s reaction was sublime. They watched in silence for a few seconds, then returned to class. I also ignored him, his five minutes of fame were over.

The Teddy Bears Picnic was a great success. Things only got nasty when one of the children stole my desert. I held a plastic knife to her Teddy to have it returned. I said “hand it to me or the bear gets it” and then “…don’t make me do this”, with just the right amount of conviction for her to relent.

We watched a film to round off the morning. Zak had suggested Arthur, a film he’d allegedly watched at his previous school. “Arthur?” I asked incredulously “about the drunk guy?”. It transpired he had meant King Arthur.

As we sat watching the film, even the more self-consciously cool kids cuddled their toys. It was disconcerting to think that they would soon be taking a giant leap of their own, into Secondary School. Earlier in the day, a girl told me how, during her first years at the school, she would lie on a pink cushion in the library. “I’m now too big for it” she muttered sadly. The realisation her time at Primary School was coming to an end etched on her face.

The afternoon was a pleasure. A very amateur guitarist bravely performed ‘Frère Jacques’ at the School Assembly. Just as his nerves began to get the better of him, the younger children sang along in whispered voices. This seemed to help him and he got through it, to wild applause.

On my way home, I heard a breathless voice behind me. It was Zak. He caught up with me just long enough to give me a malteser and then run off. Was this the behaviour of a child that no school had wanted?. Well, yes it was and I appreciated the gesture. Happy Easter!.