Monthly Archives: June 2011

No more missss-ter

“I’ve lost my voice” I wrote on the board. The class cheered. I changed it to “I’ve nearly lost my voice” to a chorus of boos.  I’m going to miss my class. “You don’t have enough money so you’re not coming in” was one child’s honest appraisal of today’s strike, I caught another playing a game called “Whack my Ex” during an ICT lesson. They are, what some might call, “characters”.

As I stood waiting for the bus for my first teaching interview, bird shit narrowly missed my dry cleaned suit. Now most would think “I’m going to be lucky today” whereas I think “that is my one piece of good luck today it’s going to be a god-awful day now”.  A sign outside the school reminding parents that the “spitting of tobacco paan is unhygienic” and the network being down, further cemented the feeling in the pit of my gut. Then I surprised myself by turning out a semi-improvised lesson that the kids went for and got me the job.

Now I had only to help out with sports day at my current school and my time on the course was over. The PE teacher briefed the school of the day’s events. As a mothership of modesty, he also took the opportunity to ask a child whose life he saved four years ago, to recount in detail exactly how it happened.

We were eventually underway and with no assigned job I sat with the kids picked last. I couldn’t relax though. The SEN children had been given the role of litter grabbers and were wielding their claws a little too close to my genitals.

One child told me he only liked “bum wrestling”. My first instinct was this involved packs of kids attacking the homeless.  I was relieved to find out it was two kids going back to back and pushing each other out of a circle.

As the day ended I remembered the thermos flask hidden at the back of the staff room cupboard. I spied it on my first day and made a mental note that should it still be there at the end of my placement I would take it.  I shoved it into my bag before meeting up with some teachers to get some last-minute tips and advice.

Returning to the classroom I noticed the most rancid of smells. I checked the contents of my bag to discover why the flask was not in use. It leaked. It also, much to my shock, contained putrefied milk and the class were due back in ten minutes.

I chucked the thermos, chucked the bag, rushed to the kitchen, grabbed disinfectant and headed back to the classroom. I scrubbed the area as best I could and convinced myself I would get away with it. Returning from the kitchen to class, every child had their jumper pulled up over their face, some were choking, a few dry heaving. “I must have missed a bit” I said with a smile. If looks could kill.

“At least they won’t forget me in a hurry” I thought, although it did mute the presentation of my leaving card somewhat.  There was one comment I treasured above all others. It was a simple ‘thank you’ from a boy who was bullied. I had spent weeks telling him what a great kid he was and getting better each time at stopping just before the point he burst into tears.

By September I will be a teacher with my classroom, my own children and my own thermos flask. That will feel like an odd thought for some time.


Keep the faith

It’s week three in the ‘Big Brother’ B & B.  I don’t expect to be believed that I  heard a low grumbling sound coming from room 101, but the hell I did.  Dashing any hopes of a town crier job over the summer, my voice has gone.

It’s happened before and my voice became a husky Barry White drawl, this time it’s gone squeaky. It’s difficult to reprimand an 8-year-old child when you sound like a younger sibling.

It’s a shame it’s nearly over, as I was beginning to come out of my shell. I spent less time lurking around quietly in the background, like an anti-social ninja. I helped out with film club (although I can’t tell you how it went, first rule of film club, you don’t talk about film club) and the relationship with my mentor was less mental.

My conscientiousness and positive demeanour at least meant she could look me in the eye when we talked. She was particularly defensive though, when I remarked about a child’s behaviour which I felt was getting a little wayward.  I understood that this was her class and she may feel naturally protective towards them, but to suggest he was an angel was pushing it.

Right on cue, the child in question was frogmarched into the class by a lunchtime supervisor for fighting. I felt so vindicated I nearly high-fived him.

Even the lessons are becoming incrementally more successful. There is the occasional hiccup (one child added a chocolate fountain to a ‘healthy eating’ plate which suggests it’s not always sinking in) and there was nearly a mutiny when I told the class that if they kept describing everything as ‘random’ I would give them a physics lesson to prove it.

I even had my face painted at today’s summer fête. The original idea was considered inappropriate, especially as I was teaching that afternoon; it would have been on my forehead if that’s any kind of clue.

One week to go. I walk through the school now with a barely suppressed grin. I will happily walk the length of one of the largest, smelliest schools in the country when the paper runs out, to get a signed letter from the office, to give to the woman with the key to the paper storage room, who will sign it off to say she has given me the paper and then give the letter back to me to sign to say I’ve received it and return the letter to the office, without my smile cracking.

It was a different story on the previous occasion it happened, just before my last observed lesson. “They use paper like it’s going out of fashion” the woman in the office slowly explained. “Then why don’t you f******g recycle like it’s going out of fashion?” I nearly blurted out. I was under pressure you understand.

Today I slipped on a wet floor and managed to avoid breaking my neck just after hearing I had passed the course. This afternoon a Head teacher contacted me asking me to interview on Monday. Somebody up there suddenly likes me.

Nearly Over

We’re entering the last phase of the course; gritting our teeth, grinding it out and hoping for the best. I had taken to using the backs of fellow commuters on trains to complete my marking. Once I too began to fall asleep standing up, I realised my daily commute was fast burning me out.

I hit upon the idea of staying at a B & B near the school for the remaining few weeks. The closest was ironically a former school that George Orwell had once taught in. As I sat in my room, I couldn’t help wondering if Orwell had written ‘1984’ or ‘Animal Farm’ while teaching here. Judging by the fact I had just danced ‘La Cucaracha’ with a cockroach, I suspect it was inspiration for ‘Down and Out in Paris and London’. It would explain why Orwell described the area as “one of the most godforsaken places I have ever struck”.

The B & B doubles as a haven for lonely business men with their meals for one. If the internet signal ever goes down around here you know about it. I avoid eye contact mostly, as my evenings are dedicated to working. I don’t have the time to console a grown man weeping on the end of my bed. Plus, I had already comforted a fellow student teacher who said she had spent the previous evening “practicing saying the words ‘I didn’t get the job’ without crying”.

My own eroded confidence has resulted in a complete abstention from looking for work. When a child given an opportunity to leave your class whoops with delight, and your mentor spends her time texting on her phone when you are explaining lesson ideas, something is wrong.

I was surprised to hear from a Hindu Prep School inviting me for interview. “Thank Ganesh for that!” I thought initially, checking to see the number of holy days a year they celebrate. My aim for the time being though is just to get through this placement. I’m a basket case but still just about able to keep up good enough levels of hygiene and sardonic humour to be allowed around children.

The good news is I have passed all my assignments (the only assignment I just scraped through was marked by someone with the surname ‘anal’, so they were bound to be over stringent) and I am just 10 days short of completing this mixed bag of a placement.

I only hope for a few things:

1) That I can get through this with mind and body together.

2) That I can pass my final observation and get my teaching status.

3) That the bird with the high pitched mating call outside my hotel window gets laid very soon.