Monthly Archives: March 2012

The privilege

The anxiety dream before the observation was classically Freudian. In the dream I sat in a small windowless room surrounded by the Head Teacher and Deputy Head. The oddest part of the dream involved me being interrogated over the contents of our current class story ‘The Last Noo Noo’.  The questions were fired at a feverous rate “What’s a Noo Noo?” “Why is there only one left?” “What did you do with the rest of them?”

I always wondered what I’d be like under interrogation. Would I crack or would I be strong in the face of relentless questioning? It turns out I caved in the moment they threatened to take away my Body Shop store card.

The observation, I felt, was fitfully appalling. The kids stared at me for long periods, reminiscent of a group of healthier than average looking zombies. As I was doing the rounds one child took the opportunity to tell me his grandfather had died. “I’m sorry to hear that” I said, aware of my observers eyes burning holes in me. “He ate too much chilli powder” explained the child. You could have heard a teaspoon drop. “Actually” he continued “he might not be dead”. Normal service resumed.

Despite all this, “learning took place” and I was awarded a ‘satisfactory’ grade. Such is my delight I intend to get a shirt made up with “I used to be inadequate but now I’m satisfactory” and on the back of it “ladiezzz……”

As an officially ‘satisfactory’ teacher I now feel qualified to give you the first of my tips to make you a better teacher:

1) Don’t get caught stabbing a voodoo effigy of a child just as his/her parents walk into your classroom on parents evening.

2) Do encourage the class to boo the naughtiest child every time they walk in or out of the classroom.

3) Don’t ask the children to act as either look outs, beards or use them as currency, even if it’s to broker peace in the Middle East.

Happy Easter!

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To face what we face

Our class assembly was my first as a teacher and a success. An experienced peer had confided in me “just make sure the audience can hear them and the kids look like they’re enjoying it”. They nailed it on both accounts.

The day, of course, could not pass without incident. One girl accidentally slapped herself in the face. Another turned up with glitter glue all over her, she looked as if stood by a wind tunnel.

There were the eleventh hour moments too. One parent informed me you can’t place a lion mask on a hijab or risk a stern ticking off from Allah. “Could my child have an acting part?” asked someone else; oblivious to the fact I’d spent weeks preparing this. I was tempted to give her daughter a protracted death scene.

We also experienced the inevitable wardrobe malfunctions. One child’s mask drifted over his eyes and he nearly fell off the stage. I had to tell another subtly that his builder’s bum was showing during some extravagant dance moves. Finally, during the class prayer a pig sound effect went off, just to rubber stamp my place in hell.

We got through it though. We group hugged, high-fived and once back in the classroom sat in an exhausted torpor. We’d ended our assembly by performing “Oh Happy Day” and this summed up the natural elation we collectively felt, in fact nothing could spoil…”we’ll be observing you first thing Monday” instructed the Deputy Head.

I’m going to need more nails.

I know it’s late…

No man ever wants to hear the word ‘inadequate’. On this occasion it was my lesson they were talking about. As I’d entered the room for feedback, the Deputy Head had checked her lottery numbers. “I didn’t win” she groaned. If only her numbers had come up.

It was ironic because as she spoke it was if the National Lottery finger was appearing through the clouds and pointing at me. The finger alas was the middle one. “How would you have done the lesson differently?” she asked. I was stuck for words, still reeling from the fact that my lesson was so far wide of the mark.

I assumed I would at least receive a compliment sandwich. The first layer contains the positives, the filler the stuff to work on and the last layer some further platitudes. Compliment sandwich? Shit sandwich more like.

The lesson was nothing if not ambitious involving icing sugar, condensed milk and different food flavourings. At one point I heard one of the observers ask a child “What lesson are you in?” I pretended not to be listening, counting the seconds until she finally responded. One of the class caught my attention, in that time I’d poured three times the amount of required icing sugar.

Despite the inevitable sugar high the kids weren’t climbing the walls (although some did resemble entrants in a gurning competition) and learning did take place. Not enough learning though, according to my detractors.

Kids are perceptive. “Why are you walking sadly?” one of my children asked. She was smiling, pleased about her use of an adverb. I felt fairly worthless and assumed my usual playground duty role, that of a useful meeting point.

My security pass bears an old passport picture of me where I look as though I’m on the run. I sometimes negate any behavioural problems by asking my class if they want the nice me, or the picture on my pass. I wanted to get back to the ‘nice me’ and after a bout of better constructive criticism I felt suitably revived.

A child in my class told me how her sister had been rushed to hospital with a suspected heart problem. We said a class prayer and later she read a story she’d written. It was about her meeting an alien. The last line told how she’d taught her new friend the word ‘moon’ so when they saw it they could remember how much they miss each other. I bit my lip. Perspective well and truly regained.

Crash and burn

The shadow of observations hung over the fun to be had as part of World Book Day. The shoulder pads on my alien outfit were so wide I found it difficult to manoeuvre. I had to turn sideways to go through doorways and gave up on any idea of going to the toilet. The green face paint proved irremovable and I attended a course in the afternoon looking like an emaciated Hulk.

There were some unusual coincidences though that day that suggested a sense of the paranormal. My PC went into overdrive, spitting out line after line of weird binary numbers. It was the perfect cue to suggest to the class alien’s were communicating with us. The child, who has been given the role of Jesus in our class assembly, fell over and received heavy cuts to both palms.

Next year I might stop washing for a few days and go as ‘Stig of the Dump’. I did at least manage to avoid being observed this week. This was a relief as the classes behaviour naturally went into overdrive as the timetable was shot into space. Excitement from the alien spaceship which crashed into our playground was at fever pitch. Surprisingly even some of the parents were completely fooled.

I regularly choose children to be my ‘ears’ as we wander through the school. Their job is to report on how many children may have talked on our way from A to B. The incentive is to get golden time. With the spiralling hysteria I had to introduce some serious measures. The idea was ‘spy ears’.

Certain children were designated to listen out for voices and yet never reveal they were the ‘ears’. It was a nice idea I’d initially thought, but soon suspicion abounded, nobody trusted anyone and I had thirty paranoid, double-crossing Gestapo-like secret police on my hands. I knew things had gotten out of hand when one of my children, a suspected transgressor of the no speaking in the corridor rule, was interrogated then taken out to the playground and shot. Still, I at least cheered up the boys with a capacity lesson that proved that ‘size doesn’t matter’.

So the dreaded observation drags into next week. I am nothing if not ambitious with a lesson involving flour, condensed milk and pastry cutters. Another teacher in my year group is to be observed earlier in the day conducting the same lesson.

I imagine hers to be delivered in a Nigella Lawson-seque swirl of perfection and charm. Mine will be a mash-up of confusion, spillages, tears and a classroom that resembles the aftermath of the Nagasaki bomb. At least if the end product is too putrid to eat we can always have a food fight.