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2004-11-03 - 10:48 p.m.

A chaotic day today. The school was having photographs taken of all the children, so they were taking them out of the classes in little groups and putting them back again ten minutes later. This should have been simple enough, but there were a few problems: 1) the list for photos was arranged in order of forms, but the children weren’t in their forms. They were in their literacy sets. 2) Children with a sibling at the school were photographed with that sibling when the older sibling was being photographed. These were all done first. If the parents also wanted individual photographs, those were done in the original order of year groups, so children with siblings left the class twice. This resulted in a lot of pairs and threes of small children, variously aged, wandering around the school persistently claiming to be about to have their photograph taken. 3) All the children assumed that the teachers not only knew what was going on, but also that they knew the individual wishes of the parents of every child, resulting in questions like “Miss, I’m not sure if my mum wants me and Tracy to have separate photos as well, so when I go with her shall I stay or come back, and should I wear my sweater or not?”
On top of all this, the lady visiting to do assembly got stuck in a traffic jam and phoned to say that she wouldn’t be able to make it for the assembly slot. We duly postponed assembly and began literacy, and the lady proceeded to disentangle herself from the traffic jam and turn up ten minutes later, at which the bell was rung for assembly. This meant organising the children to go into a belated assembly (in their wrong groups again, as they normally sit with forms, not literacy sets, in the hall, so they all shuffled themselves and sat in each others’ places) and then come back and pick up a truncated lesson after twenty minutes of something completely different.
Into this close resemblance of a Caucus race I stepped, and attempted to teach my very first full lesson in a primary school. It was really a literacy lesson, but to add to the madness I was teaching it in the hall and calling it drama. Or maybe it was really a drama lesson and I was calling it literacy (technically I’m not allowed to teach drama yet, because it’s not a core subject). Whatever it was, it went extremely well and didn’t feel at all different to teaching a Sunday school, despite there being twice as many of them including a rotating group of six being photographed and a pair of twins. I got them throwing a smile, a playing Poor Little Pussycat to warm up, and they almost all kept wonderfully straight faces. The main activity consisted of preparing a sketch with the scenario that someone has found a slug in their school dinner. Each group had a different adverb on a piece of paper that the others had to guess. They loved this, and showed some real acting talent, especially considering the fact that I only allowed them to say “flibble” and “wibble” or similar. One group even had somebody acting the slug.
Slugs surfaced again in the music lesson I observed later in the day. They stand for crotchets, apparently. Spiders are quavers, and caterpillars are semiquavers. You learn a new thing every day, even when you’re a teacher: a fact that would be lost on the girl I was talking to today, about contact lenses, of all things. Her friend expressed disbelief in something I had said, and the girl retorted “Duh – she’s at university! Of COURSE she’s right!”
Nice to be believed in. If only it were true…

 

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