Monthly Archives: January 2013

Chatting to the supply teacher about death

One toilet cubicle. Four male staff members. All as regular as clockwork.

It sounds like a film trailer but it’s actually my life. This is how the toilet gauntlet begins…

8:25 having set everything up for the day I bound down the stairs taking three at a time. This is the five-minute window between now and the hatch doors opening at 8:30. Timing is crucial.

8:26 The Year 6 teacher will be in at half past the hour I can discount him as a potential threat for at least four minutes. Unless he arrives early. I survey the Year 6 area. No sign of him. I now have to shimmy past my manager’s office to avoid being stopped. Just the briefest of chats could let the music teacher in…

8:27 He always stops off to put something in the kitchen at this time. A rookie error. If I can bolt into the trap while he’s in the kitchen I’m on the home stretch. I check the corridor. He’s ahead of me but just as expected is carrying a carton of oxtail soup.

8:28 but that’s when Bonaparte (PE teacher) bounds in. Oh no! It’s going to have to retreat, but wait! Hallelujah! He’s carrying four basketballs, two under each arm! There’s no way he can possibly do that and defecate at the same time (although it’s a party trick some might like to see).

8:29 I slip into the toilet, test the door, its vacant! This is the best part as between now and 8:35 I will hear the door open three times. And every time I will hear a deep, disappointed exhalation as they slope off to briefing. I am not only smug but two pounds lighter.

For every high there is the inevitable low.

There was a general mood of negativity today. The woman, who used to only communicate to me through the medium of her baby, used me this time as a shoulder to cry on. I even had the wet shoulder to prove it. A father berated his son, telling him he would lock him up until he learns how to double and half. There’s a future Marvin Gaye scenario if ever I saw one.

Some of the prevailing despondency was caused by issues so painful I can only mention them in passing. One child was taken away from his parents by social services. Another, this time from my class, told me “daddy beats up mummy”.

This was not a time to use the “ask your mother” line and I’m pleased to say she’s safe. Watching her build a snowman made me feel kneed in the heart nuts though. Especially as earlier that morning I’d nearly kicked the head off a gormless looking snowman while in the midst of my own snow rage.

Despite the heating having broken and the snow outside, our school (a.k.a. The Terminator) remained open. This did enable me to watch a child have their first experience of snow but led to a minor faux pas, duly seized upon.

The devil child remarked that he liked to stick his tongue out and eat snow, another chimed in that he too liked to eat snow. “That’s all well and good” I offered “but never eat yellow snow”. “What’s yellow snow?”…I looked at thirty inquisitive faces. “The snow we have on amber alert” I replied. “What’s amber alert?” The distraction complete I could now switch back to my internal green alert.

‘Groovy group’ may morph into ‘Grumpy group’ if this air of desperation doesn’t lift. I was imagining what a group for people who hate everything would be like.

“Excuse me is this the meeting place for Grumpy group?”

“Yeah f**k off!”

I also chatted to a supply teacher about death. Thankfully I found buried at the bottom of my cupboard a box of chocolates I’d been given at Christmas. For every low there is the inevitable high.

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Doesn’t matter

Interviewer: So what would you say was your lowest point?

Tim: (tugs nervously at sleeve, desperately fighting back the tears) well it would probably be the moment I found myself on my knees clearing up a child’s pool of piss

Interviewer: what was going through your mind?

Tim: For this I went to college

Interviewer: There was no cleaner or janitor around to help?

Tim: uh no, the cleaner starts after school…there was piss everywhere Oprah…

Interviewer: and the janitor?

Tim: have you met our janitor?

Interviewer: No

Tim: (shakes his head as if this is enough to answer the question and continues) So yeah I just started mopping…

Interviewer: (interrupting)...and this was your lowest moment?

Tim: oh no! No that was when I realised I’d knelt in a rotten banana while I cleaned the piss up

This is how it goes in my head anyway. The interview they’ve all been waiting for. Once I decide to publish my tales.

I just need to get through ‘moderation’ first.

I’m still not entirely sure what’s involved in being moderated. I know a team of moderators from the ‘outside world’ will be coming in to check on us. It could involve tests, medical examinations or x-rays; it could be surveillance or a Gestapo-like interview with good moderator/bad moderator.

Good moderator: “It’s OK, we know and understand why you didn’t move this child up to a level 2B in his reading, it’s because he wasn’t able to blend and segment long vowels right?”

Bad moderator: (slams hand on desk) “just admit it! You didn’t understand half of what the reading criteria meant and just kept ticking boxes hoping no-one would ever find out…well guess what asshole? (Moves face threateningly close to suspect) we have…

Either way, it’s made me relieved that some of the children either write in tongues or can only manage a single sentence (including a delightful Christmas recount about receiving a toilet cistern as a present?). It doesn’t help though when some try to forge my marking and use words like ‘ejim’ and ‘amazny’. And I normally appreciate homework early, but one child tried to hand in a diary about her Christmas holidays before the term had even ended.

I just have to be shark-like and keep moving. I’ve learnt that when I’ve been momentarily stopped in the corridor and the person is doing that ‘clicky-finger thing’ to help them remember what it is they want me to do, that’s the time to accelerate.

We’ve had enough meetings with our superiors now, where we’re compared unfavourably with other Year Groups, that I’m tempted to get a T-shirt made that says “What would any other Year Group do?”

“They don’t have my class” I think to myself. Some of them have variously been described as either ‘characters’ or ‘head cases’. I describe the worst child in my class as the ‘human shield’ for reasons I can’t quite readily admit to myself yet. Others continue to mystify “I got chicken pox when my cousin kissed my back” or are predictably predictable. This discourse from a brief lesson called ‘Collective Worship’:

Me: does anyone else have anything else to say?

Autistic child: Yes!

Me: it has to be about a visit to a recent church or temple, is it about a recent visit to a church or temple?

Autistic child: Yes!

Me: are you sure it’s about a recent visit to a church or temple?

Autistic child: Yes!

Me: off you go

Autistic child: who likes Peppa Pig?

Apparently they heard the forehead slap from the classroom next door.