I normally tune out of staff meetings, although the phrase “I know balls are a sensitive issue”, did wake me from my reverie. It turned out the staff member was referring to the inflatable types. There was a real end of term atmosphere, quiet and languid. The Headteacher asked if there were any other comments. I wanted to say to everyone within a 2 mile radius that the eye watering smell was Zak’s aftershave, not mine.
It was an impressive day though, choice of Cologne apart. Zak’s mental arithmetic, during a test, was assured. Kate, the class teacher, was incredulous and asked if I had helped him. He was enjoying the positive feedback and quick to share other abilities “I can strangle a lion” and “I can write with both hands”. The latter boast is true, although he writes equally bad with either hand.
Isolated and under exam conditions, Zak did eventually descend into ‘exam huff’. As his frustration increased, so he began to question the questions. He declined to answer one because he refused to believe Rashma would buy packets of balloons for £5, receiving 40 pence change. “She wouldn’t do that!” he insisted, as if it were out of character. He started beatboxing instead. I rapped over his rhythm with some quickly improvised lyrics, such as “you’ve now wasted seven and a half minutes, which is time you’ll have to make up at break”. Move over Jay-Z.
Lyrical dexterity continued into the afternoon lesson. Each group had to create a rap on a random subject. Our ‘posse’ received the shortest straw, by being given ‘Veganism’. Most bands break up due to a descent into drugs and alcoholism, we fell apart due to an inability to find anything to rhyme with either ‘brown eggless pasta’ or ‘vegetable samosa’. We did manage “I’m not afraid to boast, I love a nut roast” and “I’m not going too far-gee when I say I could murder an onion bhaji’. Zak was the first to bolt from the classroom due to musical differences, expect a solo album anytime soon.
While the other teaching assistants recline in the sun and chat, I patrol the playground like a prison sentry. Such is Zak’s predisposition to losing his temper, I can’t afford to take my eye off him for a second. Today, I heard the unmistakable shrill of my name. “They called me a cheater!” shrieked Zak, pointing to the children he’d been playing with. I’d been observing the game and understood why Zak felt aggrieved. He’d been playing within the rules, so I approached the other children.
Me: I’ve watched the game and you owe Zak an apology
Child 1: all we said was that he was a cheater
Me: you’re wrong, all of you are, he was playing by the rules of the game
Child 2: we meant it nicely
Me: how can you accuse someone of being a cheater and mean it nicely?
Child 3: cos he runs fast
Me: oh…you mean cheetah, the animal, right?
A collective nod of heads.
I ended the day much as I had started it, by tuning out. It was due to the stifling heat in our old Victorian building, during Assembly. I awoke from my daydream when I heard of an after school water fight. Daydream turned to nightmare. “Oh no!” I thought “what if Zak turns out to be a Gremlin?, then I’d have to deal with eight of him!”. Happy Holidays!.