Monthly Archives: September 2011

Breathe

“You’ll be on your knees by half term” a teacher told me today. I’m not sure if she meant exhausted or begging to keep my job. I seem to be in constant motion, if I wore regulation male teacher clothing I’d resemble a beige blur. I’ve developed a kind of speed walk, not fast enough so I could be accused of running in the corridor and setting a bad example, but a kind of lolloping quick step powered by my long, rangy legs. I’m beginning to suspect the teacher in the opposing classroom thinks I have a daily case of the runs.

An elderly woman on the tube, spotting my bag of books to be marked, smiled and said “aaawww”. I’m not sure of the exact reason, sympathy? empathy? psychopathy? you can never be sure in London. Equally as unpredictable are the children. One child I had earmarked as gifted and talented told me how he’d coloured a tooth black to “trick the tooth fairy”. Another, previously wholesome type turned up one morning looking as if she’d embraced Satanism. “I cut my own fringe!” she beamed. “Yes you did” was all I could manage back.

All things considered the rapport between me and the class is good. Picking them up at the beginning of the day, I was suddenly locked out as the door slammed shut behind me. Without a security pass to let me in and with the teacher now too far down the corridor I was stuck. Her passing class mistook my desperate attempts at asking them to let me in, as some kind of loon out by the new guy.

“Oh well” I said, turning back to my class “we’re locked out of school, you can all go home”. The teacher’s pet interrupted the cheers “No, we can all just go the long way round!” She later told the class she refuses to eat breakfast because she fears attack by a monster (the Honey Monster maybe?). She wasn’t met with much sympathy.

I’m also not afraid to be occasional ‘bad cop’. I told off twins for fighting in the playground. It had started over a disagreement over which one of them was older by two minutes. I also had to ‘deliver the rocket’ to the class over the lack of consideration to class furniture. I didn’t mention it’s because one knock against our asbestos lined walls could result in thirty little toxic avengers.

My rocket ended with my informing them they were missing the first five minutes of their break time; although this was told to them five minutes before they were due to go. It’s handy having a class that can’t tell the time.

To celebrate World Peace Day next week we have a Ghandi impersonator visiting the school, or a ‘Ghandi-o-gram’ as I prefer to call him. Let’s hope he doesn’t get his gigs mixed up and starts stripping off his loin cloth.

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We can rebuild him

With the reassuring words from my wife (“there are way more stupider people than you who are teachers”) I set off on my first day to school. I hadn’t felt this nervous since…well, my first day at school. In my overstuffed bag was a tambourine which shook with every step I took. It created the illusion that I was wearing cowboy spurs on my shoes. I only hoped the situation I was about to face was not reminiscent of the Wild West.

The Head teacher greeted me warmly and introduced me to the staff; nothing was said of our previous conversation. I received a phone call over the summer holidays while about to head off on a rollercoaster ride. To amuse my nephews I took the call. It was her. I managed to exchange pleasantries and confirm my attendance at the staff training day before I did a full 360.

As a warm up exercise the staff had to recreate a speed dating situation, but instead of exchanging sweet nothings we had to read out a fact about the school. I was given “All staff have 1000 photocopying units and should submit something in writing to the office should more be required”. No amount of soft lighting or mood music could make that sound seductive.

I was then picked on in the opening assembly by the Head teacher to have a pretend conversation with a teaching assistant. It was to highlight the noise level children should use to converse with during lunchtime; but with it sprung upon me and in front of the watching eyes of 700 children I produced a performance so wooden it was like someone had thrown a chair into the hall.

I entered the classroom and tried to ignore the previous night’s dream in which the children grew up and rebelled in front of my eyes. I had visited the school over the summer to set up the classroom. As is the case with the ‘new kid’ I had the smallest classroom and the last of the resources. With either black or brown wall coverings for options; my classroom looked reminiscent of a teenage Emo’s bedroom. I considered as punishment that any child caught misbehaving would be made to stare into the black void of my numeracy wall.

Sat down with my class for the first time I went into a kind of altered state of alertness that I never quite broke off from until a moment ago when I laid on the floor on my kitchen, breathed out and realised I’d finished my first week of teaching.

It had been a week of relentless and hectic lesson preparation, the answering of a myriad of questions, frantic marking at lunchtime (although I’ve now promised the kids I won’t do this, after returning Science books that smelt of Monster Munch), throwing up on the classroom walls the slightest bit of work and constantly smiling at parents, teachers and kids.

I have to count my blessings. Honeymoon period or not, I think I have been given a nice class. Although one child suggested their favourite meal was ‘piss and chips’ (she might be a frequently marooned mountaineer) and another that our class hymn should contain “Please God save us from any meteorites crashing through my home”.

I could be mistaken as some of the children have rather strong accents which I tend to mishear. In fact when the parents collect at the end of the day I equally struggle to decipher which child’s name they’re requesting. I’m tempted to pick the five children whose names closest resemble what I thought I’ve heard and ask the parent to choose.

Another class teacher was given a bracelet by one of her children, my class gave me half a dozen acorns, but I appreciated the sentiment. We like one another and at the end of the week as I read a story to them which featured a sea monster with my surname and there was much laughter. Then I produced the homework.

I bumped into another NQT on my way out. She wished she could click her fingers and fast forward to a month’s time when things should be easier. That doesn’t work though…does it? I just tried it. It doesn’t.