Monthly Archives: February 2012

Watch this space

Next week an alien spaceship will crash land in our playground. I’m not claiming to be a Nostradamus figure, nor have I been on the foam letters again. It’s actually a ruse organised by the school to encourage a writing exercise for World Book Day.

The staff will be dressed as aliens and some policemen have even agreed to attend the crash site. The first problem lay in finding a suitable costume. Most on offer were spandex and figure hugging and I didn’t want to arouse any kind of suspicion from the local constabulary. I did eventually get something suitable although it has ridiculously large shoulder pads, so rather than from outer space, I look more like I’ve arrived from the 1980’s.

I intended to complete the outfit with a scary mask, although I later discovered a child in my class passes out each time he is afraid. We visited a local church, as part of my first school visit and while the Reverend was telling us about Jesus’ final hours on the cross, I heard a thud. A boy had collapsed and was now writhing on the floor like an upturned turtle. I wasn’t sure if this was an act of God or if I was witnessing a live exorcism. One mature child managed to at least defuse any possible pandemonium by asking “Is he dead?”

The menacing mask has to go and be replaced by innocent Head-boppers. The visit to the church did at least throw up some homework gems that are added to my blooper reel:

The first thing I saw was the Lord Jesus Christ and a drum kit

The Reverend told us that they throw clowns on the fire in Hell.

there were plus signs everywhere

We looked at a picture of Jesus when he was a baby trying to die

Jesus stayed in a marvellous hotel (no room service at the inn?)

I asked the Reverend what the WC meant

Children have water put on them when they are Batmantised

I see dead people


Throw up your hands

Fresh from the package, there’s nothing quite like the smell of foam magnetic letters in the morning. Nothing else in the world smells like that. They made my head swim to the extent that, during my observed lesson, I couldn’t quite trust if a child had just asked what the “floating thing” was.

I suggested he was referring to Hector the Dolphin, our internet-safety screensaver. No. Or could it have been the shimmering effect of the sun streaming through the blinds? No way. By this stage even my observer was starting to guess. Then I spied it.

I’ve been teaching the class all week to improve their descriptive skills but the best I can muster for this was a “weird tree-like grub floating on a single strand of cobweb”. Despite it being the size of a thumbnail, the kids freaked and before I could reach it, it had performed a limbo across me and was sashaying towards a gawping front row.

I had to be careful. To dive over the throng to grab it, could involve me hitting the wall and we’ve already been warned about the ‘contained asbestos’ within them. As teachers we’ve sworn an oath that we stay in touch for at least 25 years. This is enough time to know if anyone of us has inhaled a single fibre of it and died. The resulting survivors can then sue.

Instead I remained calm and just waited for it to float towards me. It took its time, performing a mid-swing pirouette as if determined to finish with a show stopper. This wasn’t the magnetic letters, this really happened.

The whole incident thankfully escaped the attentions of the parents that evening. Most of the children were still in too catatonic a state to mention it. Instead one parent was determined to tell me just how intelligent his son was.

As we talked, the child asked if he could collect a painting he had finished that afternoon. Next to us lay three unnamed paintings, each remarkably different to the next. The child slowly studied each in order, scratching his head and deliberating carefully. After five minutes he gave up. The father just looked at his shoes.

What alleviates the stress of parent’s evening are the nickname’s you discover the children have. It’s fun watching the kids squirm in their chairs as the mother remarks “I say to him, finish your homework boo-boo!”, or a frustrated father groans “please listen to your teacher Princess Dimples!” Odd choice of name for a boy, I thought.

Even though the morning had taught me to expect the unexpected, I was still monetarily surprised when a parent asked how I was. Truth be told, I was feeling tired and sick, but not sick and tired and there is an important distinction between the two. I just need to step off the teaching treadmill and try to restore some order in the work-life balance continuum.

To close, some more authentic search terms people have used to eventually reach my ponderings (along with some of my mordant comments in red).

chocolate coloured bulldogs (get ‘em while they’re hot they’re luvly!)

can you teach an alien to use a yoyo (check first they have opposable thumbs)

primary teaching im a man (yeah you da man!)

what tone of voices should i read the three little pigs for a pgce interview? (growly for wolf, squeaky for pigs)

school teacher in custard tights story (I was young and needed the money)

I’m halfway through my first year of teaching. Happy Half!

Weather system

It was Superhero day at school. There was only one suitable choice. Having spent so many break times sitting on a cold bench counselling a timid member of my class, I was ‘Haemorrhoid Man’. Mr Bonaparte was Superman and yet I felt like I was the one being everything to everyone.

One child complained that another child was looking at him while he went to the toilet. How to explain that the accused boy has diametrically opposed pupils so it’s anyone’s guess what he’s looking at. Another child raged that our ‘Batman’ was not the real Dark Night. The bifocals were the giveaway.

My own eyesight came under question too. During a run in a park I spied what I thought was a fight taking place. It turned out it was two people doing ‘Boxercise’. I thought it looked a little too one-sided. I could have sworn a child in my class was wearing a T-Shirt that said ‘I’m high’ but as I approached, it in fact read ‘Aim high’. Having also caught myself squinting at whiteboards; it could be time for glasses.

My hearing could be wavering too. I joined a small class of children with anger management issues and thought I heard the teacher ask one of the children to collect the ‘pins’. I had visions of myself ending up pinned to the floor like Gulliver or worse like Pinhead from ‘Hellraiser’. Thankfully it was just the teacher’s Afrikaans accent and she’d merely requested ‘pens’. Nevertheless for the rest of the session I couldn’t sit comfortably, although that could have been the piles.

Our Chinese New Year assembly went well, with even the recently arrived child from India reciting her line perfectly. I had to give levels for all the class this week and a teaching assistant had dismissively suggested I accord this child the lowest level.

It’s true her English is poor but the lowest level suggests a child brought up in a cave, with their only human contact a darkly cloaked figure that fed and beat them with a stick. She could at least recognise the misspelling of the rude word created by soap on the toilet bathroom mirror.

Knowing that all of your books are going for moderation is an unnerving prospect. It was a relief then that my brightest spark took the opportunity to cover me in glory. ‘My teacher has helped me to write so well’ she wrote and I could imagine the Head Teacher approving of this. Despite the slightly nauseating tone, I read on ‘he has teached me lots of things’…not that well then.