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.