Monthly Archives: June 2012

Inside

Vandals had run amok through the school. I had to console one child who was due to present her clay Olympic athlete to the school. “There was nothing we could have been done” I explained “by the time I got to the scene he’d lost a lot of clay”.

The last observations were in full flow and the sense of dread hung heavily in the air. I tried to think about anything else. I was grateful for any distraction whether it be overheard staff room conversation “if I put night cream on my face during the day will my skin be confused?” to stories from the delicate soul that gives me an occasional lift home. She’s being propelled into a forced marriage. The last time she suggested marrying anything less than 100% Persian her father cried and feigned a heart attack and her mother screamed. “Took it well did they?” I couldn’t resist.

The random acts of violence aren’t the only thing spreading through school, so is the pox. Its latest victim was in my class. After she’d been to the school nurse she returned to class to collect her belongings. Her friends, naturally pleased to see her, rushed to give her a hug. “Stop!” I shouted, creating a weird human barrier in front of them. She didn’t know she had it, they didn’t know she had it. I didn’t want to create any alarm. “Just give her some space” I asked nicely “maybe lots of space”.

To prepare for the observation I used the children as unwitting soundboards.  “Yeah I’ll get your ball down from the tree, and what’s that you say? What exactly are we doing in Literacy this afternoon?” I told every child within earshot of the breakdown of every lesson, even the new kid. In exchange she told me jokes. Listening to someone with little understanding of English read out jokes (stopping every other word to ask how to pronounce something) was actually funny in my delirious state. Who said comedy is all about timing?

We’re actually becoming something of a comedy double act. Every morning the following exchange takes place:

New girl: I’ve learnt a new word

Me: Lovely, what’s the word?

New girl: (word for that day)

Me: Well done, do you know what it means?

New girl: No (walks off)

It was the Head teacher observing me for the first time. I felt a sense of unease as she walked in but everything was organised. The kids, bless them, were firing with good ideas. “Let’s list some of them” I suggested. As I reached for the interactive whiteboard pen I discovered that the nib had been ripped from its socket. The vandals had struck again.

Thankfully I “rocked it old skool” by completing the lesson using a good old-fashioned pen and board. The Head teacher had previously hugged another colleague following an observation and while I didn’t even get a high-five I was grateful to get through it with enough positivity. Just got to keep on keeping on.

Be silent

I always suspected that working in a mostly female dominated workplace that I might get picked up sooner or later. What I didn’t expect was to be literally picked up off the floor by someone. As I entered the staff room I thought that a female member of staff was given a male member of staff the Heimlich manoeuvre. In fact she was lifting him up after someone had suggested she couldn’t.

Just for the fact I’d entered the room at the wrong time made it my turn next. She lifted me with some ease and as teachers always like a challenge, she’s promised next to put us both under each arm and run across the playground to the tune of ‘You raise me up’ by Westlife. This could catch on.

I needed a pick me up after the slog of report writing. I deliberately left the child that’s irritated me the most till last, as by then I was so relieved to finish I gave him a glowing report. Next year I suggest letting the kids write their own, although I can already foresee a problem “Umm little Johnny I don’t remember saying you were a genius and Master of the Universe?”

Report writing requires care and thought. With children names such as ‘Supreme’ and ‘Miracle’ (not sisters) you are aware of the parents’ delicate egos at stake. They tell you that nothing in the report should surprise a parent. Well the ‘space cadet’ in my class received the only report that might make a child cry but it was justified. He timed it perfectly by shaving one eyebrow off just as the reports were due. At least he will only look half as surprised at its content.

Everything needs to be carefully worded. I was going to compliment one child on her ‘infectiousness’ but this could be interpreted as her being poisonous or toxic (the parent once mistook me saying ‘low ability’ as ‘a liability’). The chasm between the abilities becomes clear too as you work your way through it. The next step targets for the children range from ‘splitting the atom’ to ‘showing a reflex response to a loud bang’. A mixed ability match made in heaven?

The onus is on avoiding mistakes too. A proof read showed up that I’d missed the full stop from the sentence ‘must avoid careless errors through a lack of attention (such as forgetting a full stop)’. Criticism will be inevitable though, especially from the more driven parents. “I noticed you’ve said my daughter “cannot yet create and control a rhythmic pattern with a strong sense of pulse in her music class”. Why not? What are you teaching her? Is this pulse available to buy?”

These are the same parents whose children had already completed the SATs exams at home, thus negating any opportunity to use it to show a level. I spent the week trying to work out who the SATs papers-dealer outside school was. I looked for a dark, shadowy figure lurking around parents muttering “what do you need? what do you need? I got 2007 Reading Comprehension, 2009 Mental Maths, Year 4 optional stats…I can sort you out”

Thanks to social networking sites you can gauge how other teachers are getting on. If they’ve reached “Level 16 in the Candy Crush Saga” or “raised a chicken on Farmsville” you can guess they’re finding it as tedious as you are.

We finished the week attempting to make Olympic athletes from clay. Most ended up looking like a starfish that’s been run over by a mountain bike. Others lost limbs along the way. I saved their childhood tears by assuring them they could still enter the Paralympics.

Take the long way home

Sweating like Tony Blair under scrutiny over weapons of mass destruction, I headed to the school’s Diamond Jubilee party. One of my class bounded over to me like a puppy that hadn’t seen its owner in weeks. “Guess who my favourite teacher is?” he said, beaming from ear to ear. “Well” I suggested immodestly “is it me?” “No! it’s Miss Francesca!” he said emphatically, almost hurt by the suggestion. As an afterthought he added “you’re second”.

Grateful to have been in the top two, we forged on to the sunny playground to see off a week that had overstayed its welcome. A shadow was soon to be cast over it though. One child had spent the previous few days accidentally throwing other children’s balls over neighbouring fences. Health concerns were raised; here was a sporty child who now seemed incapable of throwing a ball properly.

“I’m moving to a new house” he told me matter-of-factly as we entered the playground. “Oh really?” I responded, “Yeah, over there” he said and pointed. We both stopped in our tracks. “When you move into your nice new home you’re going to throw back every ball that’s in your garden” I said through gritted teeth. Let’s see how much this improves his aim.

It’s surprising how children, so young, can be so devious. I use personalised “lolly sticks of fate” to decide which children should answer questions during some of my more interminable lessons. I caught one child about to remove the lolly stick with his name on it. This is the same child I’ve been advised to “catch doing the right thing”. I have tried and now resort to lying to compliment his behaviour.

While the teachers of older children could rightfully kick back and let their class wander around the party, I was desperately trying to be vigilant for thirty kids who were rightfully going nuts. Suddenly I felt like the victim of every tabloid hack who tries to convince you there’s a paedophile on every street corner.

There could be  only one result. I shouted and hollered to the point where my voice said “screw (cough) this” and deserted me. Half term has arrived and after a few days of recuperation and with renewed vigour I will spend it writing reports for the little wonders in my class who have entertained, invigorated, surprised, educated and humoured me.