There are some sentences, even when having been said in our tutor’s sing-songy voice, that reverberate when I least want them to. Upon entering the school gates, to begin my second school placement, I was trying to ignore her voice saying “children have a scent for a student teacher”, “give children too much praise and they’ll work harder at annoying you” and “you’ll be teaching 80 percent of the curriculum”.
The sentences were dislodged from my head however, the moment the music teacher said “for the last five minutes children play what you like”. I listened to thirty kids expressing their inner torment through the medium of keyboards, drums and the glockenspiel. I was grateful that this was just a small fraction of the 900 children at the school. The assembly line for assembly was like a military manoeuvre, with its conveyor belt of kids from Nursery to Year 6 resembling the ascent of man.
With me being the ‘new kid,’ I soon found myself surrounded by children, with names such as ‘Severus’, ‘Comfort’, a couple of ‘Unique’s’ and a family of four called Manjit, Manjot, Manget and Manjat! Can you imanjit that? A 7-year-old equivalent of Francis Drake proudly told me he was responsible for first bringing nits to the school, another how she could score me rat pellets from her dad’s pub, should the need ever arise.
I also met Sheila, although I was aware of her presence before our paths crossed. All items, from staples to shredders, were labelled with “this will self destruct if used by anyone other than Sheila”. Every school has a Sheila, somebody who has been there far too long. I was stunned to see a certificate awarded to her for “always having a smile”. She certainly wouldn’t win any awards for her grammar, describing one child as not being able to “use words with any comfortabilitness”.
The ‘feelings board’ of the class confirmed that the children were ‘tired’ and as the sun streamed into the class, we all wanted to fast forward a few weeks to our planned trip of a chocolate factory. Judging by the behaviour of some of the kids, I will spend much of this visit comfort eating.
On the crowded bus journey home, the driver refused to set off as some passengers were standing on the stairs. I recognised the children and forgetting I was no longer in class, heard myself shout “Musket! Manure! Off the stairs!” I apologised to the passengers I’d alarmed and the children whose names, it turned out, I only thought I knew.