Monthly Archives: July 2013

We will leave them now…

To the kid who only ever wore shoes that were two sizes too big, I did my best.

To the kid who just wanted his dad to come home, I did my best.

To the teacher of 30 years crestfallen after being moved to a lesser role, I did my best.

To the neglected child who flinched as I gave her face paint, I did my best.

I did my best, I hope, for all of you.

I now need to stop for a while to do my best all over again.

To all teachers, teaching assistants and readers of the blog, make the most of your holidays x


Time to blow

“For when the One Great Scorer comes
to write against your name,
He marks – not that you won or lost –
But how you played the Game.”

An admirable sentiment but it means nothing to the average 7-year-old. They may be undernourished (I’ve nicknamed my class ‘Rickets United’) but winning is everything to them, even if it means pushing kids off the podium or telling the fat kid to feign an injury.

One child had kindly bought me a tie as an end of term present and I’d promise to wear it, forgetting half of the day would be spent in the searing heat. I looked like an idiot but a smart idiot which I guess is an oxymoron. Speaking of morons, the sun hats we’d made for the class to counteract the heat looked like dunce caps.

Eventually I tied it round my head and resembled an emaciated Rambo. The class also dispensed with their dunce caps and it all ended in a water fight and when the water ran out, a fight.

Our School policy dictates men cannot wear sandals, too much ‘foot’age perhaps? Sandals with socks are, of course, career suicide so I was left with two options, either;

1)      Claim to have webbed feet and wear flippers.
2)      Pretend to have two left feet and slip on some flip flips.

The curriculum has to take a back seat in weather like this (although remember to leave the curriculum in the shade with a good supply of water) and I was grateful to take any opportunity to get them outside. Despite my teaching them how to both suppress and cover a yawn, I was getting sick of the sight of their tonsils.

It wasn’t just the heat though that was causing their random acts of vapidity, one child wrote a lovely letter telling me how great I was but prefaced it with “I was so bored on Sunday I thought of you…”

Compliments slide off you when you’re a teacher. Children are terrible judges of character. They adore Mr Bonaparte (who accidentally let slip twice to me that his last lesson was considered “outstanding”) and built a shrine out of egg cartons and toilet rolls for the volunteer who worked with us this week, just because she’d bought them all ice cream.

The parents are equally prone to misunderstanding. One child piped up with “my parents said my report was good!” “Your parents clearly didn’t understand it” I thought, regretting not having chosen simpler words than ‘petulant’ and ‘idle’.

The slightest of welcome breezes blew our wow word post-it stickers into the neighbouring builder’s yard. They kindly returned them but felt both “apoplectic” and “disgruntled”.

“We are giving you a very challenging class, but feel they need a man”. Sometimes I resent having testes and translated this means your new class are mental. As if to prove it, upon being introduced to them, one asked “Am I male, female or both?”

It’s already an unsettling experience meeting the new class but I had a teaching assistant scurrying around me attaching a microphone to my shirt. “Are we going live?” I asked, expecting it to be a reality TV show (‘I’ve got the shitty end of the stick, get me out of here’?). In fact, it was to help the deaf child sat at the front.

I have to be mindful of turning the thing off between lessons as he can hear every word. I’m already imagining the following scene:

Me: Mrs Smith I know your son says he thought he heard me swearing but actually I was just practicing my Prussian

Another child is only spending an hour a day at the school. His crime? Punching the Head in the head. So with my guard up and working behind a solid jab I read with him. He misunderstood ‘the blue tit has light yellow underparts’ and asked if “tits are found in light yellow underpants?”. “Only if you’re elderly” I explained. He also corrected the spelling of ‘but’. Unfortunately in this particular context it was correct and only my impromptu performance of “I like big butts” by Sir Mix-A-Lot, could prove this.

I have three days left to teach, or as we now call it ‘babysit’, before the end of term. I’m looking forward to hearing the final bell.

Raw Materials

Paul Weller once sang “I first felt a fist”.  The child, who sits closest to me, first felt my foot. It was an accident but I still felt awful. “I hope that was just the side of his head” I thought in the split seconds that followed. “Nope, bridge of the nose” as the tears confirmed otherwise. The child is specifically sat there due to his meandering concentration. If some good came of this, it’s that he’s now a lot more alert.

He’s not quite a Ninja yet and neither is the woman in the Burqa, despite the autistic child’s insistent she was. I was hoping she would at least hop into character and break a whiteboard in two with her bare hands.

I haven’t yet told my class I am leaving at the end of term; there are enough examples of erratic and emotional behaviour to suggest this is the right choice. Whoever taught my class “pinch, punch first of the month” needs a slap and a kick. Five days into the month and there’s no sign of a let up.

A paper tie I proudly wore, met its maker after a sudden stiff breeze. The original maker, a girl in my class, was so bereft she locked herself in the toilet. I was sent to negotiate. I ended up climbing on to the toilet next door. It was at this point I noticed she hadn’t flushed. Her English is limited I ended up having to use mime. Thankfully, the sign language for ‘pull the chain!’ is the same as ‘you need to take a serious look at your diet’.

A while later and now on playground duty, one of my class was bent double. “You need to deal with this” assured another teacher “it’s a man thing”. It appeared he’d been hurt ‘where it hurts a fella’. Again, the child had scant English.  Mime once again proved to be enough. I was concerned I might have to draw a diagram.

A lesson of still life drawing was interrupted by the cries of a child who’d decided that the sun kept still enough to draw. This was the same child that used a torch to interrogate others in a Science lesson so I put it down to karmic retribution.

A new child arrived just two weeks shy of the finish line. Oddly enough she claimed to be a year older than she should be. I also discovered her name sounded like Cootchie-Coo. If a name can dictate your personality I imagine her one day using words like ‘oodles’. Let’s hope names are not determining factors, especially for the child in the year below us called Dipshit.

The end to the day was life affirming. The autistic child whose hand I hold in our walks through school, gave it a squeeze, looked up at me and smiled. This was a major breakthrough. Not even the child that whispered the most depressing thing ever, as we buried our contribution to the School’s time capsule, could disrupt my mood.

Two weeks left to the end of term and there is refreshingly bright sunlight at the end of the tunnel. Next week’s list given to me by school management includes:

  • Change the children’s levels (the usual bullshit exercise to meet targets)
  • Correct the grammar of a colleague’s end of term reports who is not so good with the bad English (and is a teacher?)
  • Climb inside your own makeshift den and eat dairylea for the rest of the term (okay, they didn’t say this, but to quote Jessie Jackson ‘nobody has the right to limit your dreams’)