There is a scene during ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ in which Freddy Krueger rips open his sweater and the sound of a thousand children’s souls are heard. It was a noise similar to the sound my class made when I told them sports day was cancelled. Then I dropped the real bombshell that some nice people from the local bank were coming instead to talk to them about finance.
They kept the children occupied with money exercises, puzzles and word searches, albeit with an obligatory financial slant. It’s not every day you hear a child say “I’ve just found ‘loan shark’!” I somehow ended up with £10 blue tacked to my backside like a stripper. By the end of the lesson I had £20 stuck there. Still, that’s inflation for you.
One of the class told me that a girl was crying. “No” I replied confidently “she’s just bored to tears”. She was actually on the verge of being sick. I helped the girl to the nurse before she projectile vomited across the knees of some already miserable looking children. “Thanks” sneered the school nurse. “I told her to wait till she got to you” I joked.
I’d already travelled into work with toothpaste smeared around my mouth so my expectations of the day were low. A Year 6 teacher told me that now the SATs were over, his children’s behaviour was spiralling out of control. “It’s like the films over, the lights have gone up and I’m force-feeding them popcorn just to keep them in their seats”.
My own class have pushed the boundaries of late and on my ‘no more than 70% energy’ days they claim the odd victory. During a writing exercise I watched the space cadet in my class waxing his leg with a sticker. Another child excitedly told me he was born on his birthday. On neither occasion could I muster enough to do the right thing.
Children can be unexpectedly thoughtless and cruel too. One child told me he had not learnt much this year, another how she wished a TA, rather than I, would have taken them on a trip to the local library (you can’t even ‘playfully cuff’ them anymore).
‘Pirate Day’ was a welcome relief. I wore a hook which more than anything reminds you of how often during the day you pick your nose. I gave an eye patch to the classes ‘Word Bird’ and mistakenly allowed one of my children to apply face paint to me. I wanted to look like Blackbeard instead I resembled the Joker from Batman.
I finished the day meeting the teacher of the class I will inherit. She told me in some detail about them as I glanced at their cheery faces in a school photo. I spent so long sat on the far-too-small-for-me chair that as I straightened and left the room I said to myself “oh my arse is numb”. The janitor appeared at this point and shot me a look as if he’d stumbled upon a secret cult.
The reports have been sent to the parents. The last homework marked. The spellings set. The levels completed. I have two weeks left to complete my first year of teaching. As I arrived home I looked in the mirror determined to remind myself of just how much I’d achieved. All I saw staring back though was a man who’d forgotten to take off his face paint.