Monthly Archives: October 2010

He would have

Back in the comforting bosom of college we learnt that some of us were already feeling the burn. The course leader asked to see the people, whom she referred to as the “wobblers”, as soon as possible. We all looked among ourselves to find those with the post-war thousand yard stare, while thanking our lucky stars our School placements had been more successful.

The group of Social Worker students who wandered into our lesson by mistake would have thought we’d all had enough, as we were in the midst of a lesson on phonics. They saw an adult woman saying words e-x-t-r-e-m-e-l-y s-l-o-w-l-y to a large group of students, which we then repeated s-l-o-w-l-y back to her. At least once they’d been informed they were in the wrong place, the lecturer did not look at them sympathetically and ask “and how does that make you feel?”

There was a slightly more relaxed mood on campus, with us all having got our first assignment in. I’d handed mine in just before the deadline, asking a passerby to take a photo of me placing it in the assignment box, whilst holding a copy of the day’s newspaper (well you can’t be too careful). I was even given a little ‘Happy Birthday’ song from my fellow students, flattered as I was to receive it, at that time of the morning, ‘barbershop’ it weren’t.

We set about playing “Lecturer Bingo”. I listed the most common words the lecturers use and we crossed them off. They included the buzz words ‘holistic’ and ‘underpin’ also ‘notion’ ‘framework’ ‘cohort’pedagogy’ ‘differentiation’ and ‘plenary’. I cheated slightly by having a broader term of ‘some random boastful anecdote about one of her family members’ which our lecturer can’t seem to stop herself from recounting.

There was some learning too. For example, on a lesson on ‘E-Safety’, one lecturer told how a colleague had appeared on a social networking site, sunbathing topless. She discovered all too late that a child from her class had spotted her and surreptitiously taken a photograph. We viewed some good examples of software that encouraged children to take more care online. ‘Know it all’ featured a group of cartoon kids being targeted by mysterious emails from the ‘Evil Pirate Trojan’. Trojan is the contemporary equivalent of the seafaring paedophile from my youth, Captain Birdseye.

We watched a short film on ‘EAL (English as an Additional Language)’, in which a teacher depicted his experiences of arriving in an English School and being christened ‘Ken’, as the teacher couldn’t pronounce his real name. He mentioned a brother in a younger year group, who I hoped was not named ‘Barbie’. The teacher went on to relay a tale of his class being taught that ‘women’s brains were smaller than men’s and were less intelligent”. The guy next to me awoke suddenly “yeah I agree! I mean, look at…goldfish!” He looked around for support. Nobody dignified him with any kind of response. The lesson moved on. He returned to sleep.

The afternoon brought a surprise mental maths test, my least favourite subject. Just as the test was about to begin, a neighbouring lecturer entered to say the room had been double booked. I said with complete and utter sincerity that if this meant the test was cancelled I would now truly believe there was a God. No such luck though. It’s now half-term, thank Go…thankfully.

Advertisements

S(h)it!

In what is the single biggest mistake of my fledgling teaching career to date, I accidentally said the ‘c’ word to a bunch of 5 year olds. We were returning from Assembly when one of the children asked “When will you be returning to see us?” “Well, I’ll be back in November until Christmas…” I realized too late what I’d said. Complete and utter bedlam ensued. I’d forgotten just how nuts kids go when ‘Christmas’ is mentioned (what were you thinking I meant?)

I was definitely not in college anymore; this was the real world. To be more precise, an inner city school in which 34 languages are spoken (and not any of the 33 I happen to speak fluently). The bus ride in had involved watching kids write swear words on the bus window. My inner stickler wanted to correct their spelling of ‘shit’ (spelt ‘siht’ – I shit you not). As if to emphasise I was now in the ghetto equivalent of Lilliput, I put my back out during ‘Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’.

I was given some last-minute tips in the morning from one of the staff, including “if a child picks up a chair, you do the same”. She noticed the disconcerted look on my face “don’t question why, it just works, trust me I speak from experience”. With my continuing back spasms I hoped any child that confronted me chose something small and manageable.

My mentor was Jean, a stern woman so committed to the School I felt a tinge of sadness imagining her life post retirement. She had previously worked in a mental hospital and joked how she’d not come far. The naughtiest kid in the class was my namesake Tim and every time she bellowed his name I jumped out of my skin wondering what I’d done wrong. On the return from playtime one child reported being hit by Tim. Other children joined in until Jean asked who hadn’t been hit by Tim; only me, apparently.

With my clumsy, big feet I was definitely the elephant in the room, constantly knocking over children and chairs. I was glad to sit down for my first attempt at storytelling. I congratulated myself on keeping a straight face as I read the line ‘Sammy the squirrel felt happy to empty his nuts and little sacks’ although I was upstaged by a story I read by Tim, involving a dwarf made of gold that hit a bear with a stick.

Jean broke into a rare smile to tell me how she’d managed to get two twin selective mutes to talk. She asked them to record themselves at home, and then give her the tapes they’d made. Jean would compliment them on their intelligence, humour and grasp of English and little by little they began to speak in School.

The Head Teacher ended Assembly by giving out awards for the best behaved children. “My final award” he said “goes to a child whose behaviour has improved, who has eaten all of his packed lunch every day and worked very hard with his literacy and maths. I think he knows who he is and I’d like him to come and collect a well-earned certificate”. Two kids stood up. “Sit down Tim!” screamed Jean. I would have made Pavlov’s dog proud.

 

In what must be the single biggest mistake of my fledgling teaching career to date, I accidentally said the ‘c’ word to a bunch of 5 years old. We were returning from assembly when one of the children asked “When will you be returning to see us?” “Well, I’ll be back in November until Christmas…” I realized too late what I’d said. Complete and utter beldam ensued. I’d forgotten just how nuts kids go whenever ‘Christmas’ is mentioned (what were you thinking I meant?)

I was definitely not in college anymore; this was the real world. To be more precise, an inner city school in which 34 languages were spoken (and not any of the 33 I happen to speak fluently). The bus ride in had involved watching kids write swear words on the condensation of the bus window. My inner stickler wanted to correct their spelling of ‘shit’ (spelt ‘siht’ – I shit you not).

As if to emphasise I was now in the ghetto equivalent of Lilliput, I put my back out during ‘Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’. I was given some last minute tips in the morning from one of the staff, including “if a child picks up a chair, you do the same”. She noticed the disconcerted look on my face “don’t question why, it just works, trust me I speak from experience”. With my continuing back spasms I hoped any child that confronts me chooses something small and manageable.

My mentor was Jean, a stern, abrupt lady so committed to the School I felt a tinge of sadness imagining her life post retirement. She had previously worked in a mental hospital and joked how she had not come far. The naughtiest kid in the class was my namesake Tim and the first few times she bellowed his name I jumped out of my skin wondering what I’d done wrong. On the return from playtime one child reported being hit by Tim. Other children joined in till Jean asked who hadn’t been hit by Tim; only me, apparently.

With my clumsy, big feet I was definitely the elephant in the room, constantly knocking over children and chairs. I was glad to sit down for my first attempt at storytelling. I congratulated myself on keeping a straight face as I read the line “Sammy the squirrel felt happy to empty his nuts and little sacks’ although I was upstaged by a story I read by Tim, involving a dwarf made of gold that hit a bear with a stick.

Jean broke into a rare smile to tell me how she’d managed to get two twin selective mutes to talk. She asked them to record themselves at home, and then give her the tapes they’d made. Jean would compliment them on their intelligence, humour and grasp of English and little by little they began to speak in School.

The Head Teacher ended assembly by giving out awards for the best behaved children. “My final award” he said “goes to a child whose behaviour has improved, who has eaten all of his packed lunch every day and worked very hard with his literacy and maths. I think he knows who he is and I’d like him to come and collect a well earned certificate”. Two kids stood up. “Sit down Tim!” screamed Jean. I would have made Pavlov’s dog proud.