Arriving late for assembly, I sneaked in, only for the door to slam loudly behind me. A thousand pairs of eyes turned my way. The school for my second placement is one of the largest in the country and for a small moment I felt as scrutinised as Kate Middleton’s wedding dress.
I’m an occasional ball of anxiety in a place with nowhere to hide. So it was some relief to find the school’s bungalow (yes, a school with its own bungalow) where like-minded, anti-social people come to eat their lunch, read the paper and shut up.
The library-like atmosphere of the bungalow could not be matched in the library itself, where one frustrated child told me he wanted to find “a book on killing”. We compromised instead with a book on World War Two. The same child, during a lull in a maths lesson on sequencing, asked if we could chat about the end of the world.
His joie de vivre was matched by a hero of our times, the school secretary, defying medical science to drag her slobbering cold and retching cough into the place. “Look at the size of my glands, the doctor said I shouldn’t have come in” she whined to anyone who would care to listen, followed by a great heave and body spasm. “I just didn’t want to let anyone down” she modestly revealed.
The Anti-social Bungalow Brigade Association (ABBA for short) would have allowed her entrance to its inner sanctum, after all you can’t help being unwell, it was the constant moaning that would have led to her eviction.
What she needed, as any blue-blooded member of the Royal Family will tell you, is a haircut and a spell in the bloody army. Failing that, a session with the school’s PE teacher might do the trick. I’m still not sure if he was kidding when he told our class of 8-year-old kids that he was going to “introduce them to pain” and “try and break them” over the course of the summer term.
The aftermath of the PE lesson was something I didn’t witness but I am still trying to piece together ‘Columbo-style’. From across the sports field, moving towards me, were what looked like the three wise monkeys. On closer inspection they were in fact four bawling boys, each clutching a different part of their head, on their way to the school nurse. A square dance gone horribly wrong?