The disappointment was palpable. I’d asked the children who they thought our famous visitor to the school might be. “Lady Gaga?” “Jessie J?” “Balloon Man(?)” “Michael Jackson?” (I didn’t have the heart to break the news). Some old bloke in a nappy was not on their hotly anticipated list. The illusion was further dampened by the fact our ‘Gandhi-o-gram’ needed written prompts just to remember his own full name.
I had my first ‘I want my mummy’ moment. I stress one of the children said it, not me. I sometimes forget how young some of them are. The reminders often come in the form of their own naiveté. In what must be a World Record for the quickest ‘Show and Tell’, one child thought it proper to pull from his pocket two shards of glass. No child so much as smirked during a lesson on adjectives when a girl suggested “the juggler has big fat balls!” Nor did anyone question the girl who proudly declared that she has no allergies because she’s a Christian.
We attended a writing course, discovering that adults have a vocabulary of 30,000 to 50, 000 words. Me learn lots. How much of a role model I am elsewhere to the kids is in question after they spied me with a school meal piled high with chips. This was just moments after I’d taught them a lesson on the importance of a balanced diet.
The previous class teacher had attended the writing course and introduced me to her newborn baby. I stared politely at her child, with a permanently fixed grin, for a good 15 minutes. She informed me about infant-related phenomena, including the need to ‘swap breasts’, before the baby puked and she had to go.
I also attended a Child Protection course, although it did not; as I’d hoped teach me anything about protecting myself from kids. This would have been mighty handy as I separated two wildly fighting children on what was supposed to be ‘World Peace Day’.
The governors were up next for a get together. Despite not knowing any of their names, I was firmly advised not refer to any of them as ‘Guv’. They were a cordial bunch though, as were the parents who arrived later and to whom I had to deliver a presentation.
All was going well, until I tried to ad-lib. On the subject of educational visits I was recommending all the usual places, the Science Museum, the Natural History Museum “and” I continued “we’ve been learning about Mary Seacole who is buried close to our school so you might want to visit her grave this weekend…” This was followed by an interruption by the secretary. “I have a list of your allergies” she breathlessly said, passing me a piece of paper. They were the children’s allergies, not my own, but I could feel the parents beginning to formulate thoughts on just who was teaching their children.
The week ended with my first year-group assembly. The chasm between the gift and talented and lower ability children was clear from the certificates being handed out. “Well done to child A for discovering this week in Science that particles can travel faster than light and to child B for not eating the Play-Doh”.
A Year 6 child was given a certificate for ‘entertaining old age pensioners’ as part of World Peace Day. Despite no formal training, he had played a piano that was there and sang to them. The teacher present, described it to me as the single, funniest thing he had ever seen. The residents had unanimously disagreed.