"My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together." “When I hear people say politics and religion don't mix, I wonder what Bible they are reading.” (Archbishop Desmond Tutu)
"Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things." Philippians 4.19
"Work out your salvation with fear and trembling." Philippians 2.12
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
A Day at the Chalk Face
I appear to have woken up with a headache.
Did I drink last night?
Not so as you’d notice.
It must be singing Handel’s Messiah and Haydn’s Creation as a Second Tenor when in your heart of hearts you know that you are a Baritone.
The morning can only get better. I stumble into the bathroom at the crack of dawn on a cold November morning. Outside it is dark and rainy. Inside it is cold.
“Don’t forget the shower.” My beloved is still hunkered down under the duvet. The warm duvet.
Ah yes, the shower. I perk up. Until Yesterday it had been dripping and then round came Gavin and put in a new part. Today it doesn’t drip which is good.
It also doesn’t do hot anymore which isn’t good.
It’s a long time since I’ve done a strip wash at the sink, shivering and out of sorts. I am a creature of habit. Any change to my routine throws me out.
Buttoned up against the cold I get the car out, say hello to the Russian boys from Latvia (“dobroye utro” - see another of my many skills you didn’t know about) as they huddle around their clothing collection vans – National Kindney Federation (sic) - smoking and looking more miserable than I feel, and set out for the Knowledge College.
(And yes, Dear Reader, we've all had that suspicion.)
Local radio informs me that there are traffic problems in the direction I am heading. I don’t know why ‘m surprised. There are always traffic problems where I am heading. I intend to resign my membership of the M62 Supporters club.
Because of my change in routine I am about 10 minutes earlier than usual.
Ten minutes earlier and badly shaved.
I arrive at 7.00am. Schools are great places any time until 8.30am and so my sense of equilibrium is restored. Two of the cleaners serenade me as I mooch through the staffroom. It is not until sometime later that this strikes me as odd. I write up a set of minutes for a departmental meeting I didn’t attend – not my department.
“But you are better at the written word than me and I don’t want to come over as confrontational.”
What? And my writing style is always measured and temperate? Oh well, it’s all about perception, I suppose.
Talking about my writing style, I track down the local paper to see how my “Christian Thought” looks. (250 words on anything you like as long as it’s topical and not offensive.) I note that they’ve spelt my name wrong again and don’t bother to read further. The day doesn’t seem to be improving.
Back in my overwarm classroom out here in Frontier Land, on the edge of the school’s perimeter, I listen to Classic F.M. drink tea, eat my breakfast and watch the sun come up. Not for the first time it occurs to me that for a few minutes, when the school is silhouetted against the rising sun, it bears a striking resemblance to Dracula’s castle.
My colleagues arrive and we share the usual morning rituals: complaining about the world, the universe and the meaning of life, the weather, our classes and the motorway, and wondering who the milk in the princess packaging in our fridge belongs to.
I look at today’s timetable. When I have dried my tears I start to gather their books and see how far we have got in the various schemes of work. I am amazed: the marking fairy seems to have visited in the night and I am up to date. Where are the smelling salts? I may need a little sit down. This is an historic occasion.
The buses begin to arrive, disgorging the hormonal hoards. Every child is hitting every other child. The 11 and 12 year olds skip happily into the building, playing tag and complicated games of childish imagination. The 13 – 16 yr olds, aware of their superior status, skulk about aimlessly expressing their corporate individuality trying to look both cool and threatening at the same time. A very big girl is arguing loudly with a very small boy. I admire his tenacity but feel his days may be numbered.
Later that morning I am assaulted by a pupil.
This needs some clarification, not the least because I fail to notice.
I have a Yr 7 class and today Troy appears for possibly only the second time. Troy is a pain and sets out to be a nuisance from the outset. Fortunately I have the redoubtable Mrs. Cole working with me in this class. Mrs. Cole is a local grandmother. There’s not much she hasn’t seen and she moves to sit beside Troy, clearly determined that in any battle of wills she will triumph.
It is an uphill battle. He has no pen and no workbook and is in no hurry to admit this on the basis that were he to be provided with equipment he might be expected to do some work. He is perpetually off task and is lippy with Mrs. Cole. He just glowers at me whenever I intervene. It is clear that he wants to be sent out and, much as it irritates me to grant his wish, it soon becomes clear that this will be our only option.
I pop along to Derrinder’s room where she is being supported by Universal Auntie Viv. A quick negotiation later and I have returned, given Troy his instruction to follow me – which he takes his time about, obviously, and we set off.
Turn Left. I say as we reach my classroom door.
This is clearly not the direction Troy was expecting: he has his own idea of where he wants to go and so he turns right. I nip in front of him and block his way. He tries to dodge past and so I hold his shoulder bag by the strap. There is a bit of tussling and Troy makes another bid for freedom. I block him again but he’s small and quick and before Mrs. Cole can get to the door he is gone, leaving me holding his bag. A quick phone call to Patrol later and the lesson continues.
At break I ring around to see whether Troy has been rounded up and corralled somewhere.
“Yes I’ve got him.” Jenny is clearly used to dealing with Troy. “I’m just debriefing him. How are you?”
How nice. This concern for my welfare strikes me as odd under the circumstances but it is thoughtful.
Fine. Just a bit put out really.
The short silence at the other end suggests that this isn’t the response she expected.
I now have a top set Yr 11 and we have a good working atmosphere going when Derrinder appears in my doorway like a galleon in full sail, which is impressive considering what a slight young woman she is.
“Could I have some help please?”
I go to the door to discover behind her three of the usual suspects, a lout of boys, and remember that this is Derrinder’s nightmare class. Just looking at them irritates me: two of them are sporting that stupid current fashion in haircuts and one is bleached.
“Jake has just eaten his work.”
I look at bleached-blond boy and notice he has a large wad of unchewed (unchewable?) green paper in his mouth.
Get in there. I instruct, gesturing to my room. And don’t speak to a soul.
“But Sir …” Silly Haircut boy begins.
Don’t start. You’ve been brought here by your subject teacher, my colleague. I don’t need to hear the story. It’s enough that you’re here now. There’ll be plenty of time for a post-mortem later and you are wasting two classes worth of teaching and learning time. You – downstairs to Mr Wildman and you – along the corridor to Miss Fields.
A word from me and they do as they please. They have no intention of complying and they start to complain about Derrinder’s perceived unfair treatment of them.
Derrinder is set to explode. “So when I told you to put the chair down, I was being unreasonable?”
“He moved his head near my chair. How was it my fault?”
Miss Field appears. “I’ve rung for patrol.”
You hear that. Now you’ve a clear choice: do as you’re told or we’ll all go back to our classes and leave you to your own devices and patrol.
“I want to complain about Mrs. Singh.”
Good luck with that then. What’s your decision?
“I’m not going.”
“Neither am I”
Fine. We’re going back to our rooms.
They look confused. The door shuts. They stay put unsure what to do.
A little later Mrs. George appears. It is now lunchtime and I am debriefed over the incident with Troy.
…. So, really he was just awkward and determined. I conclude.
“And his language?” Mrs. George frowns.
No, he wasn’t sweary or shouty. The frown deepens.
“And at what point did he start pushing and shoving you?”
He didn’t. Mrs. George sighs.
“Let me read to you his statement.” Troy has been brutally honest about his own behaviour, confessing to things neither Mrs. Cole nor I noticed in addition to all the stuff we did.
“…and then I told him I’d break his fucking nose and I hit him.”
I sit and reflect. I’m a tall bloke and he’s a small lad. Is it possible that I didn’t notice?
In the end the best I can come up with is, Well he may have, but if he did, it passed me by.
Troy is given a two day exclusion and will not return to my lessons before January.
As I drive home I ponder this less than typical day.
Well, no one can say it’s a dull job.
No child was harmed in the writing of this blog.