“This is going to be a long couple of weeks” I thought to myself as I approached the school. Jean, the class teacher, was standing by the school entrance, holding a stopwatch. I checked the time, it was three minutes to 8, and I was going to make it if I increased the length of my stride. It was only when I arrived that I realized the “stopwatch” she was holding was actually an I-pod and she was oblivious to my appearance.
She was nonetheless quick to assign me duties, the first of which was to collect the children from the playground. The school is very much a concrete jungle and yet I was still not only able to find the only small patch of grass in sight but slip on the sole piece of dog shit placed upon it. There is a difference to slipping and stepping on dog shit which I won’t go into now, but my attempts to drag my shit smeared shoe on to the small dog-shitless part of the grass, the kids mistook for a limp.
They were quick to pepper me with questions on the walk to the classroom “Do you like JLS?” “Do you shop at Tesco’s?” and “What’s that smell?” among them. Jean was being assessed, so I was thrown into the role of glamorous assistant, for her observation lesson. I went out in front of the class and pretended to roll dough, as part of showing how pizza’s are made. I didn’t let her down. I adopted my best children’s TV presenter fixed grin and pretended to roll dough for a fictional pizza better than any dough I’ve rolled for any fictional pizza before.
The responsibilities didn’t improve immediately afterwards. I showed some of the kids how to use an electric pencil sharpener, no coincidence it was to the same bunch who call me “Miss Tim” and thought Canada was a planet. I reacquainted myself with the personalities of the other children, the 5-year-old girl who brings anti-ageing cream to school, the ‘never nude’ boy who doesn’t do PE and the boy allergic to nuts, eggs, dried lentils, milk, tree nuts, jelly, peas, coconut and kidney beans who can’t summon the strength to raise his hand in class.
I also reacquainted myself with the much reviled ‘Comic Sans’ font as I prepared the visuals for the lessons I’m teaching next week. At last I’m finally going to be undertaking whole class teaching, I have a mixture of nausea and indigestion which could either be nerves or the start of smallpox.
Playground duty was odd without having to chaperone Zak. I heard from a Teacher how a child in the Nursery had earlier walked out of the playground, collected her coat and bag and asked a taller child to push the safety release button on the front door before calmly walking out of school. She was later found walking along the high street, maybe she had a plane to catch.
A boy approached me in a panicked state “do you know Habib’s sister?” he asked. “No” I replied “why?” “She keeps trying to kiss me!” he cried. “I get that all the time” I confided “my advice is just to run”, this seemed to settle his angst. I’ve changed the majority of names in this blog to protect the innocent, but I make an exception here, for the name of the girl who’d been hassling him was ‘Asbo’.
On the train home, the driver spoke over the public address system “we will be stopping here temporarily to inspect reports of an unusual smell”. This was a first for me and despite my better judgement; I still found myself inspecting the sole of my shoe. I was very thankful when we started back on the journey home.