Monthly Archives: May 2012

The game

A child bought me a present of a Hoover bag today. If it was a bribe to get better SATs results it failed. Telepathy on my part failed too. As I wandered among the desks and saw their multitude of mistakes I implored them with my mind to read the question again and have another go.

Previously, for the mock tests, I’d provided the class with a stacked atlas to avoid any cheating. Some of them merely read or looked at the pictures of the atlas and hardly answered a question. This time I wanted to use an autobiography of any reality TV star, surely nobody would read that.

In the film ‘Schindlers List’ Oscar Schindler weeps as he contemplates how much more he could have done to save people from Nazi persecution. The teaching equivalent is when the SATs results come back and you feel a sense of deflation and guilt. I could and should have done so much more.

I knew there was only so much I could do for some. The child who answered one of his test questions with ‘bats were first bosoms that grew wings’ was always a hard ask. Another child who sadly arrives some morning without having had breakfast and pulling stale bread from his pocket, may never be allowed to realise his potential. We live in hope for all of them though.

I had judged from their outward coolness that my class were generally unaffected by the exams, but the extended afternoon playtime proved otherwise. They went nuts. We had the “exploding tomato incident” which I’m still not ready to talk about, one boy’s revelation that he wears lipstick (it was my turn to remain outwardly cool and complemented his choice of shade) and another drawing pictures of the Queen being attacked by a ‘60ft ultimate ray pig’.

A mixture of exam and marking fatigue had left me listless. Despite my efforts I began to tire of their attentions and wished them away. Then something weird happened. One child asked me where I will be the next term. I told them I would either stay here in this classroom or move to the classroom next door. “Where will we be?” asked another. I started to explain that they would be somewhere else too and the words got stuck. I couldn’t meet their eyes, my voice cracked and I could only manage “remember to wave if you see me”.

One child had mulled over an earlier question about what two animals joined to make a ‘wholphin’. His suggestion of “a wolf and dolphin” and the resulting imagery of this ‘union’ was enough to distract me momentarily from the fact my class were under my skin.



It was the day of the staff photograph and as a group shot was intended to create a sense of unity, closeness and harmony. Unfortunately due to a balls up by the photographers I was cut and pasted into the middle of the photo, away from the numbers, like a quarantined leper.

A fellow teacher kindly suggested this made me the ‘centrepiece’ of the picture. I must admit if I squinted I did sort of resemble Jesus at the Last Supper, which made a certain Mr Bonapart the Judas character. I must admit to shedding fewer tears than most when he announced he was leaving. I still wished him well although secretly enjoyed regaining my most fanciable male status (there’s only two of us left).

The other male at the school is the inevitably creepy caretaker. He’s started loitering around my classroom. It began with him fixing the blinds in my classroom. I made him a cup of tea as thanks. He took that as an opportunity to go into a half hour rant about his sudden impulse to one day crash head-on into an oncoming car. This will all probably end with me being found one day in a bin liner so please take these words as evidence that the caretaker did it.

It’s SATs next week and while I’m pretty ‘hey-ho’ for most of my class, I’m ‘uh-oh’ for a minority. One child answered every question in a practice test with a long line of letters, such as to the question ‘Why was William sad when he sat down and looked at his feet?’ with (and I’m paraphrasing) “aheomflodspasakakqazi”.

One child was so determined to avoid the SATs she knocked both of her front teeth out. She sounded like Daffy Duck, but while I was devising ways for her to say “suffering succotash!” she also developed chicken pox. I wanted to give the poor thing a hug, not just out of pity but because it’s highly contagious and a week off would be very welcome. Another child had to peer assess her classmate. For someone so young she has an obnoxious streak and pompously wrote “All of your spellings are rong”. Kids in glass houses…

To paraphrase again, this time from ‘Trainspotting’, “Choose Teaching. Choose No Life”. I always remind myself though that it’s a privilege to work with children and it should be better next year. Oh, and if this is being read by the caretaker I’m kidding. I Choose Life. Please…


Like an offer for the Greek Gods, one child brought me a dead bird in the playground. It was at the very least in keeping with the theme of ‘Olympic day’ and I adopted a discus stance as I threw it in a bush (the bird, not the child).

The coach trip to the Olympic centre involved endless renditions of ‘I’m a real spring chicken’ and one case of vomiting. When we arrived at the centre we were greeted by Athenia, Apollo and Hermes or when they forgot and broke out of character, Sheila, Malcolm and Dave. Hermes, or Herpes as one child kept calling him, was our guide.

The rain arrived as promptly as the moaning started. Some had good reason to. One child had arrived with no coat and wearing sandals. The same child that had showered me with the dead bird then flipped it (showed me his middle finger). “Mohamed did this” he whined. “You don’t need to do that” I explained “you can just say he stuck his middle finger up at me”. “It hurts though, look” he pointed to a cut the size of a rabbit’s nostril on his finger.  A mistake anyone could have made.

To ease their dampened spirits I turned everything into an adventure. Wheelbarrow racing became chariot racing, welly boot throwing was the javelins of doom, tree stumps were transformed into seats of truth and the tarpaulin covered skip where lunch took place was the Kingdom of Zeus.

The sunshine arrived and the closing ceremony was a thing of great beauty. Children from my class climbed the winner’s podium and beamed while holding their medals. Olympic heroes don’t often wear Mickey Mouse hats with black ear flaps and face the wrong way, but I felt proud.  That child interrupted our moment. “It hurts when I clap” he griped. “Don’t clap then” I snarled in a voice I didn’t even recognise.

The sign of a good day out is a coach load of mostly slumbering kids. This was a relief as it meant only a handful heard me misread a story with “Mr Kranky wailed” as Mr Wanky.